UnderCover Waitress: Managers Taking Tables

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Managers Taking Tables

Ask the Waitress!
I work at a small restaurant in Connecticut. We don't usually get very busy so I'm almost always the only server on the floor. Recently, we've been getting busier but management has not hired anyone new or filled the schedule so sometimes my manager will take tables. She expects to be tipped accordingly. I have heard her talking badly about another server who did not tip her out. Is her expectation of tips warranted/appropriate?
First, happy for you that you are getting busier. I assume that, in general, that is a good thing.

Based upon what you wrote, I am also assuming that the manager plays hostess, and that servers tip her out each shift for her hostess duties. If she takes a table, she also keeps the tip from that table. Correct?

Expectation of Tip Out

I understand your frustration in having to share your tips while she gets to keep all of her tips AND your tip out. However, look at it from her viewpoint: she is playing hostess whether she has to take a table or not. Her tip out is part of her compensation for that role.

If you get so busy you can not reasonably take all of the tables, then she takes a table. That is extra work for her, so she keeps the tip on her table. From her perspective, it is not fair for her to work harder and have to give up her tip out.

So, my answer to your question is, Yes, it is warranted and appropriate that the hostess/manager expect to receive her tip out regardless of whether she has to take a table.

Talking Badly

It is grossly inappropriate that a manager "talk badly" about an employee working underneath her. An appropriate way to handle transgressions is to meet one-on-one with the employee to discuss the situation. The manager may present the rules, the employee may ask questions, and the bottom line will be the employee will comply with the rules or cease working there. But bad-mouthing an employee behind his or her back is unprofessional and unbecoming in a manager.

Getting Busier

I also understand what I perceive to be your frustration (unless I misinterpreted?) at working in a restaurant that is getting busier but additional people are not being hired, or waitresses are not getting more shifts as the restaurant gets busier.

Sometimes that is a hard call for management. If they hire new people, and the restaurant gets slower, then they have a bunch of hungry wait staff vying for shifts. If they schedule more waitresses on a shift and the restaurant is slow, somebody may get sent home. Personally, I would rather not come in than get sent home.

If you are getting busier because summer is coming, and this is a predictable situation, then perhaps management should hire seasonal employees. If you are getting busier because people are discovering your wonderful restaurant, then eventually management will need to hire. This is not a bad thing!

The manager being willing to take tables at this time may even be a good thing for you. If you are taking as many tables as you can, and the manager just takes the extra, then you are working hard and making money. Splitting the restaurant with another waitress may not be as desirable, but that is a matter of opinion.

In the end, the situation you described above sounds appropriate to me.

Thanks for Asking the Waitress!


  1. I can't imagine management taking tables and accepting the tips, but it doesn't surprise me. A manager is getting a salary to do a job, which is to run that establishment efficiently.

    So, when it gets busy because the manager isn't scheduling properly based on analysis and trends in basic operations, then it appears to be a perfect opportunity for the manager to take up the slack and give herself a bump.

    I'm not saying that's what's going on, but I wouldn't rule it out either. There is so much potential for abuse of power in small businesses. If you hire shady managers, you're going to get a morale problem. When you have a morale problem, you're likely to go out of business.

    I wish small businesses would just hire from the ground up, train people how to do what's expected in your company, and then reward those who show progress. How hard is that?

    1. Your point is extremely well-taken. After reading your comment, I took time to think about it again. I was operating under the assumption, and I could be wrong, that the manager was working as a hostess, and that the circumstances in which she would take a table were not common.

      In a few states it would be illegal for a person in management to receive any tips for any reason, either directly from a table or in the form of tip outs. That is the exception, not the rule. I do agree with you that there is a ton of room for abuse of power in the majority of states.

      It also goes back to whether or not the waitress has a legal complaint. When no law is being broken, then the employee must ask herself whether she wishes to stay or quit. And as you said, low morale is very bad for business.

      Thanks for the comment. I think this is fodder for more blog posts and discussion.

  2. I feel the only way it would be acceptable for a manager to accept tips is if they are taking complete care of the table, as in, you're too busy to help that table at all, so they do all of the work, and they're not just assisting you. Even then, in my experience, most managers that have had to take a table or 2 have enough class to ring it under the server's number, and give them the tip from it ( and I work for a small business, btw). I have had servers try to tip me out when I've been managing ( as a supervisor, with a slightly higher hourly pay, not salary)and had to jump in and help out, and I refuse them on principal. I was friends with a girl who was a salaried manager at a local counter/sit down restaurant. She always partook in the tips the counter girls were making because she helped out during the lunch rush. I questioned her on that because I thought it was unfair, and her response was "well, I helped, why shouldn't I get tipped?". My response was "because you're a salaried manager, and making sure things run smoothly is part of your job." Not to mention that as they were counter tips, we're talking about maybe 40-50 dollars being divided up between 2 counter girls, and a manager. Seriously, you need that extra 15 bucks so badly? More than the 2 girls making minimum? I lost a lot of respect for hr after that, and always wondered how the other girls there must have felt about her dipping into the pot like that.

    1. Taking the table, ringing it under the server's number and giving her/him the tip does show professionalism and class.

  3. I think the notion of a manager giving the tip over to the server, who's making less than they are... would show class. The question, of course, is how many managers would do that.

  4. Is it legal for a salary paid manager to send employees home to have the floor to her self for more than a hour? She just took over our store 2 weeks ago and has cut everyone's hours and send the 2 mid shift employees home early to have the floor for a hour or 2 until the night servers come in. Walking into mid shift we share the floor with 10 other servers for at least 3 hours before they are sent home and work maybe a hour with just the 2 of us on the floor before we are sent home. I think it's completely unfair. Please give me some insight on my situation.


Please share your thoughts.