“You two really make my night. It’s so much fun having you here.” – actual quote from a server at one of our regular haunts.
There’s quite a bit of research that shows that the amount of tip is not tied to the quality of service. I’ll have to admit that the research holds true with me. My thinking is that service is a combination of many factors, many of which is beyond the server’s control. So I do the ol’ 20 percent and be done with it. Luckily, I’ve had amazing service at my favorite restaurants. So if it’s not the increase in tips, why would a server treat me with care? Here’s the “incentives” that I give a restaurant to give me the love:
1. The obvious – my repeat visits. J and I are creatures of habit. If someplace strikes our fancy we will visit again and again. For some reason, we are more likely to go out to dinner on a weeknight than a weekend (probably because I have more time to cook on a weekend). Therefore, we often bolster a night where they may not have as much business.
2. My patience. If there’s a place that gives me the love and great service, I have a ton of patience for a night where the service can get weird. In fact, knowing that we get so much love on a regular basis we will often say “don’t worry about us. Feel free to attend to other folks.” It gives the restaurant a bit more flexibility to give their attention to higher maintenance customers or customers who are coming for the first time. In fact, J and I can be inordinately happy that a restaurant has a long wait because we know business is good and they will stay in business. We think of it as spreading the love.
3. My understanding. This is connected to my patience. We can be pretty good about forgiving mistakes for places that regularly show us the love. Missed orders, slow orders, are forgiven when we know it’s an anomaly and we hear that they are training new staff. Also, it means that when we see that there’s a ton of people waiting for a table, we don’t just linger over drinks for another half an hour.
4. My friendliness. I’ve heard time and time again that friendly customers are the difference between a night where you are counting the seconds until you leave and one where time flies.
Not to diss on DC too hard but there is a customer service ethos in the Bay Area that has a much more intensely personal touch. On New Year’s Eve, we had a great conversation with our server about his long distance relationship with his boyfriend in Kuwait. We’ve talked about our respective Siberian Huskies with the owners of Aunt Mary’s. And we regularly play with the twin girls of the owners of Commonwealth Pub. It ends up being a great relationship between us and the restaurant, regardless of the money they make from us.