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Endy'

Tipping the Kitchen

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I think there's only so much one can expect of individual customers. If a majority in a given jurisdiction believes in more equitable pay, they can choose more equitable ways to distribute that pay, as well. I recall that in Alaska, every resident got (still gets?) a payment from the state government that was not called "welfare," but their personal share of the oil profits, for example. But as you can see, this kind of discussion goes way beyond food-related topics and gets into more general questions of socio-political economic views and policies. So getting back to the topic, I don't think that if most customers knew about the disparity in pay between their waiters and the cooks on the line, they'd want to pay more in order to tip the kitchen, nor do I think it would improve things if waiters were thereby tipped a lower percentage in order for customers to tip the kitchen. Do you honestly believe that customers want to pay more to dine out? Isn't that like arguing that Americans would rather pay more to "buy American" (Canadians would rather "buy Canadian," etc.) instead of buying things made cheaply in sweatshops in China, Mexico, and so forth? How well has that turned out?

(For the record, I don't think that it's workers' "fault" when they are badly paid, but neither is it customers' fault.)


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I don't think that if most customers knew about the disparity in pay between their waiters and the cooks on the line, they'd want to pay more in order to tip the kitchen, nor do I think it would improve things if waiters were thereby tipped a lower percentage in order for customers to tip the kitchen. Do you honestly believe that customers want to pay more to dine out?
Nope. But I think your 2nd idea - changing how tips are proportioned - would be good. At least one person has remarked above that when they've tipped in restaurants, they've thought that the money is somehow divided and not just pocketed by the waiter. We've seen it really depends on the restaurant, however, so how is a diner to know? Maybe all you can do is to give a tip and tell the waiter - 'this is for you,' or 'please give half of this to the kitchen' depending on the quality of service and service you experience. If the food has been great but the service has been of the 'leave a nickel' variety, then I would try and tip the kitchen through the manager or something. If both are bad, just leave a nickel.

When it comes down to it, waiters make too much relative to the kitchen. When I was a cook there was little I could do to change this, and it upset me enough that I quit.

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Two things I wanted to comment on. If you intended to tip the kitchen, I'd give it directly to the manager or even better yet, ask the chef to come out. Unless it's an open kitchen or the chef makes a point of going to the dining room, it can appear to be a very thankless job. I like the personal contact, thanking them directly anyway. Also, I'd never give money to a server that was intended for anyone else. Theft runs rampant in the restaurant biz and while there are honest folks out there, in no way would I ever expect cash to travel back to the kitchen.

Another point is that I've had several occasions as a server, where the kitchen royally screwed up an order (overcooked steaks & seafood are frequent complaints). When the guest gives me a "nickle", it wasn't my fault the kitchen screwed up. And yet to send a message to the restaurant, it impacts me directly. Walkouts or people who "forget" to sign the credit card slip, or people to take both copies...those also impact me as a server. I had one night where one table was the bulk of my sales for the evening. They had a terrible issue with the food and in the end, they stiffed me on a $600 check. I'd had a few tables before they came in, luckily. So this table stiffs me...I still have to tip out all the usual people per my total sales. I left with $6 for the night. While this is not a typical experience, it does happen.

I agree that there is a significant imbalance between front of the house and back of the house. Even though I love to cook and would enjoy working on the line, I know it's too much of a pay cut to take that step. It's a difficult job for sure. Even worse? The dishwasher. Those guys work so hard...often under awful conditions.


Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

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Another point is that I've had several occasions as a server, where the kitchen royally screwed up an order... When the guest gives me a "nickle", it wasn't my fault the kitchen screwed up. And yet to send a message to the restaurant, it impacts me directly. Walkouts or people who "forget" to sign the credit card slip, or people to take both copies...those also impact me as a server.
These are good points. A diner might not be able to figure out what went wrong and you get blamed and, for whatever reason, you lose money because of it.

I guess what you've said is therefore another justification for having a service charge or 'gratuities' automatic on the bill to be shared amongst the staff, as at Per Se (discussed at length on another thread here), or as in France. Of course management could remove the charge to appease customers when things are botched.

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I'm more interested in this:  I think if more diners knew about the pay disparity between cooks and servers, they might want to channel some of their tip money in a different direction.

This thread came to mind the other night, as I watched a Katrina evacuee on the news. She was speaking out about being "removed" from the hotel where she and others had been living for a few months. She was outraged that they were expected to get jobs, when the only jobs they were being offered was as "Cooks! How insulting is that!" She went on to say that lots of these people were college-educated and to offer them such demeaning work was reprehensible. It reminded me that the attitude most people have about the restaurant business hasn't changed a lot.

You know: cooks are either the fancy, four-star types who are artistes and either don't need money or prefer to starve for their art ... or that they've got a funny shade of green card, and send all their money back to the village in Mexico that they came from. Or, worst of all, that they can't do anything else.

Do you really think that with this belief, anyone would send even more money to the BOH cooks?


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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At every restaurant I have every worked in the past 6 years the kitchen has been tipped 15% of the total take of tips, busser 10%, host 15%, waiters split the rest.


" You soo tall, but you so skinny. I like you, you come home with me, I feed you!"- random japanese food worker.

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to briefly take this thread back into the Toronto direction from whence it came -- I stopped in at Starfish last week and when I asked, my server said that they do split the tip pool with the kitchen, but he didn't have the impression that it was common in Toronto at all.


Edited by Endy' (log)

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ooooh man this has been pet peeve of mine for years! i've been a professional cook (in that i get paid to cook) for nigh on 6 years now, and never have i worked at a restaurant where the kitchen crew got a cut of the tips. i'm lucky; i truly love what i do, and it's really not about the money for me. but watching a server breeze in at 4, polish a couple of glasses, yak to a few tables, and then walk out with three or four hundred dollars while i've been there since noon or earlier, sweating, hustling, cutting myself, etc. and then walking out with not a penny more in my pocket other than my wage (which was closer to four hundred for the week, if i was working overtime)--well, that's just frustrating.

i've worked at every level of foodservice, as well, from quick casuals and bar and grills up to fine dining; and i've never seen this addressed. the cooks usually get a beer or two after their shift (at smaller, independant, non fine dining joints) but thats it.

now, i've been given the opportunity to experience the front of the house, working as a server on rotation from the kitchen, and it's different than i expected. harder, yes. i have a little more respect for servers (at this restaurant anyway :cool: ). and still not making all those tips cuz we recently revamped the wage system :raz:

bottom line: cooks work hard and are rarely compensated appropriately. at the upper end of the dining scale, things are occasionally a little more even, with tip pools, tip share, etc. at the lower end, however, the kitchen staff is usually made up of hispanic immigrants (at least in chicago it is) and unfortunately it's possible to pay them less. :unsure:

once as a cook i was tipped by a private party; they bought out the restaurant, we served a hell of a meal, and the host--drunk, yes--wandered into the kitchen after the party was over and handed out twenties to everyone, even the dishwasher. that was cool. thats it though. as a diner i've bought beers for crews in the past, but can never be sure they arrived. i know that i've only ever been told once that someone wanted to buy the kitchen a round, and those were servers from another restaurant for whom we opened the kitchen after hours. :wub:

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... a Katrina evacuee on the news... was outraged that they were expected to get jobs ... as "Cooks! How insulting is that!" She went on to say that lots of these people were college-educated and to offer them such demeaning work was reprehensible.
I guess dimwits are always dimwits, despite a 'college education.' I mean, some people don't have a clue, do they?

First of all, that's pretty spoiled. Hurricaine tragedy or not, in my opinion. Second, ... well... what more can you say? I guess the notion of 'a good honest, hard day's work' is certainly out of vogue in N.America, if it ever was in vogue in the first place. And third? Well, maybe someone else can suggest a third! :angry:

Do you really think that with this belief, anyone would send even more money to the BOH cooks?
Nope, and someone else asked the same. I've said I like having service included in the bill and then paid out to all the staff by the restaurant. Let's just trust them to be professional and be paid fairly without having to pander for, what are in effect, handouts. If you get a bill for $100, why not just leave it at that? I don't tip salespeople when I buy a pair of shoes, nor the shoemaker.

But if not then I'd say consider how much you normally pay in tips. Waiters tell me here in Toronto the avg is 13%, so let's go with that. If the food was bad and the service fantastic then the full percentage goes to the server(s). With fantastic great food and lousy service, the reverse. If both are fine but nothing special, then split it - 6% or 7% to each. If both are great then tip both more. Something like that. Or feel free to make up your own combination depending on the situation. At least stop reinforcing the status quo if the status quo is cr@p.

The only thing would be if the restaurant already splits tips somehow - which you can ask about, I guess. In that case, things will be even more complex - but blame tipping culture, not me!


Edited by KevV (log)

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to briefly take this thread back into the Toronto direction from whence it came -- I stopped in at Starfish last week and when I asked, my server said that they do split the tip pool with the kitchen, but he didn't have the impression that it was common in Toronto at all.

Good of you to ask! Did he say how the tips were split, though? Someone here wrote that in Seattle 15% would go to the back. But I've heard that in TO, the most the back will get is 5%, which is probably nothing more than a conscience-saving measure on the part of the FOH.
Edited by KevV (log)

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... but watching a server breeze in at 4, polish a couple of glasses, yak to a few tables, and then walk out with three or four hundred dollars while i've been there since noon or earlier, sweating, hustling, cutting myself, etc. and then walking out with not a penny more in my pocket other than my wage (which was closer to four hundred for the week, if i was working overtime)--well, that's just frustrating...
'Frustrating' probably isn't strong enough for that!

(... Pause while KevV curses at memories of a few similar servers... :angry: )

Ok, you admitted servers can work hard. :wacko: Let's even imagine a restaurant where servers and kitchen staff work equally hard. (Certainly not the case in most.) Still, there can be no justification for the disparity in pay.


Edited by KevV (log)

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i agree. this makes me stop and think about the concept of tipping as a whole. when we purchase things like shoes, clothes, tools, etc. the price is usually set; and generally salespeople make their living off of comission. when we eat out, the price is set, but we are expected to tip the server based upon his or her performance; this then augments the pitifully low wage the restaurant pays the server (usually in the neighborhood of 3-4 bucks an hour). this doesn't make a lot of sense, when you think about it; it's just the old carrot-and-stick method of management, combined with an economic man sensibility. why not build the cost of the server's labor into the price of the meal, as the cooks' wages are? in some respects this makes sense; this way the restaurant can keep prices just that much lower, and the server's wage comes directly from the guest's pocket--which is additional motivation for the server to be attentive and provide prompt service. the only problem is that they make SO MUCH MORE! tip pools make a certain amount of sense, but what was unfair at first becomes rather insignificant when divided too many ways.

the concept of adding a service charge to the bill and then using that to pay an equitable wage to both front and back of the house has arisen here; and honestly this makes a lot of sense. an 18% service charge is what i have seen recently; this makes sense to me, as long as the money gets to where it is supposed to go--that is, as long as the restaurant is honest about apportioning the service charge fairly among its staff.

i don't think there really is an answer here; the idea of tipsharing is a good one, but i understand it to be illegal in some states to forcibly divide tips between both front and back of the house. i guess its up to us as members of the industry to take it upon ourselves to provide equity where and when we can.

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when we eat out, the price is set, but we are expected to tip the server based upon his or her performance...
Yes. I think that is how people think of it, but I don't know if it's true. From what I gather, some people will often tip beyond the expected amount, including for conventional service. (Feelings of guilt? - "These waiters make a pittance!") Meanwhile, when service is substandard many people will still tip within the expected range.
it's just the old carrot-and-stick method of management, combined with an economic man sensibility. why not build the cost of the server's labor into the price of the meal, as the cooks' wages are?
Personally, one thing I like about the idea of having service charges fixed into the bill is that, then, when you are served well, you know it is simply because your server is professional and takes pride in his/her work. That's worthy of respect, and more so if it's not tainted with the feeling that someone is grovelling for tips.

I also don't like the sycophancy tipping encourages: you enter the restaurant, big smiles all around, "Hello! How're you sir!?" as though you beloved best friend - and then as soon as you pass, smiles vanish, and the hushed conversation about that nasty customer from last night who just left a dollar at table six (moi!) resumes.

Which brings me to another point - along with speed of delivery, people in N.America seem to equate good service with exuberant friendliness. Hope I am allowed to do this - let me quote from a user's review written up on the Toronto board:

...I was blown away. We arrived for our reservation at 8:15; the hostess was stunningly friendly and energetic, and we were quickly seated along the banquette...
Wow. Kinda makes you wonder what one does to be described as 'stunningly' friendly. :huh: ... But anyway, many people would say this is great. My preference, though, is just to be greeted and seated and for servers not to pretend they are lifelong chums.

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Good of you to ask!  Did he say how the tips were split, though?  Someone here wrote that in Seattle 15% would go to the back.  But I've heard that in TO, the most the back will get is 5%, which is probably nothing more than a conscience-saving measure on the part of the FOH.

nah, he didn't volunteer it and I didn't think it was my place to inquire further. My gut agrees with you that it's very little, really a gesture, but I don't have anything to back that up. In any case maybe I'll make that one of my standard questions, but I don't think I'd ask someone I'd just met that night...

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I don't think that if most customers knew about the disparity in pay between their waiters and the cooks on the line, they'd want to pay more in order to tip the kitchen, nor do I think it would improve things if waiters were thereby tipped a lower percentage in order for customers to tip the kitchen. Do you honestly believe that customers want to pay more to dine out?
Nope. But I think your 2nd idea - changing how tips are proportioned - would be good. At least one person has remarked above that when they've tipped in restaurants, they've thought that the money is somehow divided and not just pocketed by the waiter. We've seen it really depends on the restaurant, however, so how is a diner to know? Maybe all you can do is to give a tip and tell the waiter - 'this is for you,' or 'please give half of this to the kitchen' depending on the quality of service and service you experience. If the food has been great but the service has been of the 'leave a nickel' variety, then I would try and tip the kitchen through the manager or something. If both are bad, just leave a nickel.

When it comes down to it, waiters make too much relative to the kitchen. When I was a cook there was little I could do to change this, and it upset me enough that I quit.

Isn't the simple solution and moraly the right solution to pay people a decent wage where ever they may work front or back, sure the price of food & drink will increase but then there is no dilema regarding tips, you won't need to leave one!

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A word of appreciation for dishwashers, too.  They tend to make even less than chefs/cooks, they work pretty hard, but get abused by everyone, including the cooks.  No tips for them!  At my place all they could do is slam things around in complaint as they simply wouldn't have the language skills to resolve things verbally and, like the cooks, would normally be too busy anyway.

That's unfortunate. Where I've worked (especially when I'm in charge), the dishwashers get treated like gold. They get nice staff meals (whereas the cooks get leftovers), and we make sure no one abuses them :cool: We always make sure if a round comes to the kitchen that the dishwasher shares as well.

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Y'know the old adage that the shoemaker's kids go barefoot.

I was taking some brownies that I made and picking up some carry out at a favorite spot on my way to a little luncheon. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and took an extra box of brownies to the restaurant for the staff. I was semi-awkward inside about it. But I did it anyway. They loved them it was so cool!!!

So I guess I really should do it again. They were all served up in muffin papers all easy to serve so they could just grab one. Later I was told there was some fighting going on over 'em. :raz: Cool!!

But as far as going into the kitchen, I just think they are wisely off limits for so many reasons. Beyond the brownies, and this thread, I'd never thought to tip the boh, even though my kid is a chef. I think because it wouldn't amount to much at all. A well turned brownie made more impact than dividing my piddly percentage would amongst the staff y'know?

Unless we could start doing 10% foh 10% boh. That'd be cool. Otherwise send in the shoeleather er ahh brownies. :biggrin:

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Ooh, this issue really burns me up! I really think the cooks should get a cut of the tips, and they don't where I work. All the FOH folks make more than the kitchen staff (excluding chef, sous chefs, managers). The other day one of the women who works in the pastry kitchen (and this is in a really nice restaurant) told me what she makes, and I was appalled. Her hourly wage is well below the poverty level in my state.


"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

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I would much rather go to a restaurant that ran on a "printed price" policy -- the price on the menu includes tax and gratuity (for both FOH and BOH, and no tips will be permitted).

If the entree is $25, and you have $25 exactly, you can buy and enjoy it without stiffing anyone.

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Her hourly wage is well below the poverty level in my state.

I'd bet her total paycheck is well below the poverty level in every state.

Some older chef's I've spoken to relish and remember with fondness the indentured servant/pay your dues culture of the industry but I don't think it gets remarkably better with time and tenure.

I am constantly amazed the industry gets away with this, especially considering the kind of money the high end places are making.

mike


-Mike & Andrea

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Just to give the topic an international angle I am currently working as a chef in a restaurant in Amsterdam,the Netherlands and everyone including the kitchen porters gets an equal share of the tips, which are giiven weekly and with a breakdown of the total amount of tips per day.

Having worked in Ireland,England and Austrailia this is the first time I have experienced such an equitable system and it makes for a pleaseant working enviroment with respect all round. Some restaurants I have worked make me angry to think how badly the back of house can be treated and eseentialy exploited.

If front of house and back of house get equal shares it must be better for the whole dining public.

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A few weeks ago at the restaurant I cook at, a guy came into the kitchen asked who made his duck, and then gave the cook a $100. It was insane, and we were all left gapping. Never seen that before, and probably won't for quite some time.

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A few weeks ago at the restaurant I cook at, a guy came into the kitchen asked who made his duck, and then gave the cook a $100. It was insane, and we were all left gapping. Never seen that before, and probably won't for quite some time.

What an awesome idea! :cool:


-Mike & Andrea

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Just to add my experience -

At the last restaurant I worked at, we had a large group of high-rollers who came in every month or so for about six months, usually right at closing, who were seated promptly, treated like royalty (which come to think of it, I think they were...) and for whom we kept the kitchen open several extra hours while they ordered things not on the menu. At the end of the night, each time they would tip out the front of the house literally thousands of dollars - the line cooks each got $20 each time this happened. I don't beleive the dishwashers got anything. This is the only time I have ever received a tip working as a line cook.

Where I am currently working, I got a $20 tip that was left when a to-go catering order was picked up that I had mostly made. I was pleasantly surprised that I actually received it - especially since it was my first week on the job!

But as others have said, servers rely on their tips as their income. Unless policy requires them to share, they aren't generally going to open their wallets to their co-workers in the back. Personally, I think most of the servers I've worked with respected the kitchen and what we do, and would pass on tips if diners asked them to.

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A few weeks ago at the restaurant I cook at, a guy came into the kitchen asked who made his duck, and then gave the cook a $100. It was insane, and we were all left gapping. Never seen that before, and probably won't for quite some time.

Three nights ago, I had a meal with lousy service and great food. I asked the manager to convey THIS ($1.00) to my snotty waiter and THAT (five $10 bills) to the cooks who worked so hard to get my yummy food out.

I'll be eating peanut butter and jelly till payday but DAMN it was worth it.


This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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