Received a long letter from a reader that began:
My question comes in the form of a story, but our bar is in desperate need of help.This is no exaggeration. Here is the story:
Our owner opened the bar as a second job and we have been open for almost a year. Business is booming and the bar is doing well. I have been working there for about six months. For the first few months of my employment, we had three bartenders, but for the last few months, there have only been two of us. We feel married to the bar and practically run it ourselves (with kind guidance, of course).
Our boss has employed his two daughters as waitresses for this whole time.. which has been nice. We've had no problems and life has been easy going. His daughters have become tired with working at the bar because they have day jobs and have only been working to help out their dad. Their whole family is exhausted, so he outsourced for help. He hired an experienced bar manager, who then hired a waitress (with whom he has a thick history). With new management as well as employees, naturally, the dynamics of the bar and rules have changed.
To shed a little light on the changes, I'll explain how things worked before, then explain how they are beginning to work now.Before:
The owner's daughters used to come behind the bar and to get their own beers and work the register. They were trusted, and there was no issue with them doing all these things for themselves. The other bartender and I made all their cocktails and did the cleaning/dishes/stocking/etc. They did not tip us out because they did the majority of their own leg work and we received enough business behind the bar to keep us all afloat. Sometimes things would get a little crowded, but we were enough of a team to make it work.Now:
The new manager brings in his ex-girlfriend as our new waitress. He also institutes rules that make our bar consistent with other bars (i.e. waitress orders drinks and pays the bartender for those drinks). So now, we are doing everything. All the things we were doing before (cleaning, stocking, dishes, inventory, closing the register) as well as making all her waters, sodas, opening beers (everything a bartender normally does for a waitress). She is a real go getter, which is great. The customers are getting good service most of the time.
She does nothing to help with the upkeep of the bar. She comes in, makes money and leaves. Everything is our job.
The new bar manager is quick to jump to her side and will only allow us to receive 3% of the tips she claims to make. She had to help me bar tend one night and I caught her hiding tips that we were supposed to share 50/50 in a drawer. There is no way to determine how much she makes and when we bring up that incident, he is quick to dance around the subject and come to her defense.
She intercepts customers on their way to the bar and as a result, our income has been cut in half. If someone starts a tab at the bar, and orders ONE drink from her, we are forced to give her the tab and miss out on everything but still do 80 percent of the job because she is merely relaying a message. We have been having great busy nights where we don't make any money behind the bar, and her tip out is less than five dollars.
HELP! should tip out be determined from her sales or tips? and what is the proper percentage? What should we do about the favoritism and blatant theft that is being ignored? we love this bar and our owner, but every time we bring any of this up, we just look like we are complaining and being greedy.Wow. I'm curious to know how many readers are out there, nodding their heads and thinking, "Been there, done that." I wish these types of problems were less common. There are a lot of issues and questions in this letter; I will do my best to break them down into "bite-size" portions. ;-)
The dishonesty and downright theft described above is the very reason why many restaurant owners and managers have a policy that wait staff pay a percentage of sales to bartenders and bussers. When you allow servers to tip out based upon claimed tips, you open the door to dishonesty. Know anybody who cheats on their taxes? It's similar.
Waiters and waitresses who tip out less than they should sometimes rationalize their behavior. I've known many an entitled waitress who would complain "the host/busser/bartender/whoever didn't do very much for me tonight" and use this as a reason to skim off the top of the tip out. The problems with this attitude are fodder for many a blog post, but the short answer is to nip it in the bud and require tip outs based upon sales, not tips received. Which begs the question: what percentage of sales should be paid?
Percentage of Sales
If my math seems off, please feel free to correct me. If I am thinking and calculating clearly, this should make sense:
Let's say that the waitress is told to tip out 10% of her tips.
She received 20% of her sales in tips from customers.
SO: She sold $1,000 worth of food and beverages.
She made 20%, or $200.
10% of $200 = $20.
2% of $1,000 = $20.
The waitress is told to tip out 2% of her sales.
The problem here is that servers don't always make a full 20% on each table. But this is what you get for lying about your tips.
Each restaurant will have it's own set of numbers. I have worked as a bartender and received 4% of drink sales as my tip out. I also took diners at the bar. Being stuck behind the bar, I did not help with anything other than bar duties: glasses, restocking, cleaning. And I would need a little help clearing my "tables," so I felt the tip out was fair. If I wasn't busy, I would pour sodas and such for the waitresses, but if I was swamped they were able to get those themselves.
There is a lack of regulation governing how much waitresses must tip out; I personally would advise anybody paying out more than 20-25% of their tips per shift to keep their eyes open for other opportunities.
There is a lot more here that I will cover in the next posts. We need to talk about:
* blatant favoritism
* how and to whom to complain
* lack of regulation.
In the meantime, I hope that helps some.