UnderCover Waitress: May 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How Not To Carry A Tray

Quite a while back I answered a serious and important question: How do you carry a tray? To the uninitiated, it must seem like magic. We must have invisible wires holding up those huge, incredibly heavy trays full of dishes piled high, or drinks full to brim. Spill the drink, say goodbye to your tip.

Those of us who are "initiated' and well-versed in manuevering full trays around the dining room with the grace of ballet dancers would sincerely prefer to have a system of pulleys, wires, anything to make our jobs easier.

This video is a lot of fun; it shows customer reactions just before getting spilled on. I would love to get to play this waiter.

Customers may wonder what tricks we have up our sleeves; we have none. However, I recently found this picture on Friki.net. The site seems to have a number of creative inventions. Not sure if this would make carrying drink trays any easier, but it is still an interesting idea.


You may have already seen some of the following short collection on YouTube, but really, you just can't see them enough. We may be professionals, but nobody should be trying this anywhere.



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Some Sarcasm For Tuesday Laughs

Went browsing on Pinterest for "some e cards" that seemed relevant to my years on the floor as a waitress.

I took a couple of sabbaticals, and even though I returned to the same restaurant after each one this was truly me. Hey, just being honest.

Seriously, it didn't take me long to get back on track and know what I was doing. Shifts may be going great, money is coming in, and then it hits me: 

The notorious bad tipper seems like a nice guy. He and his group are always very pleasant to wait on, but they leave ten percent. Every time. Yeah, I remember him. 
Tourist season brings in vacationers who act as if everybody exists to entertain them. I don't mind people being excited to be on vacation -- actually, it's nice. And I am always happy to answer questions about the area to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, many tourists lack appropriate boundaries. My personal life and personal history are not menu items. 
We had a night when the kitchen seemingly blew up and all hot food came out ridiculously late. People literally waited over an hour for their meals. A woman who was ready to bite my head off while waiting really did apologize after she got some protein into her body. I remember her warmly, because she had the grace to approach me to say she was sorry. 

Then, there are the tables I look at and think this. 
Everybody wants something for free. Nobody wants to have a "stupid waitress" be right when they  are wrong. The hair you discovered halfway through your salad matches your own, and there are no blondes working in the kitchen. You ordered the fish, that's why I brought you fish. (She was expecting eggs.) Yes, I did tell you the craft beer was a double size. (He lowered my tip to punish me.) And so forth. I also made the mistake once of correcting a patron's pronunciation of a menu item. Yup, you guessed it: lower tip.  
That is when this starts: 

People tip better when they see you as their friend. Waitressing is emotionally exhausting, too. 

It is unfortunate that alcoholism is rampant in the restaurant industry. It is not, however, surprising. This was me getting ready to eat my own dinner after the restaurant was empty. 

It's never a good idea to do this. 

In restaurants, we have our language. "86" is the least of it. 
And last but not least, this is for all servers on the floor who live in states with a tip credit, i.e., they make less than minimum wage: 

Happy Tuesday! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tip Sharing Arrangement Seems Unfair

Ask the Waitress! This plea for help comes from Wisconsin:
I work as a server at a mongolian grill style restaurant. Patrons are greeted, seated by a host (sometimes, during the week there often is not hostess.) Servers take orders of drinks, expo stuff like salads and rice, and also use the deep fryer for appetizers and deserts. 
The patron walks up to a food line with raw ingredients and choose what they like. They give it to our cooks which our company refers to as "Grill Warriors", they cook the meal then give it back to the customer, and the customer returns to their table with their meal. By then, the server has everything else on their tables. The server also refills drinks and does bussing and pre-bus work, as well as side work duties for the shift. 
I have already alerted our local department of labor standards today and took a complaint form with me, but I still did not get a definitive answer as to whether or not the following is legal: Servers make 2.33 an hour and are customarily tipped employees. The cooks, or "Grill Warriors", which are considered back the house employees, are paid an average well below minimum wage, about 3.15 an hour. The cooks have a gratuity bucket at their grill, and also perform visual entertainment to customers to encourage them to tip the cooks but are not required to do so. Our company manual states "2.5% of servers' sales (excluding retail, gift card, or employee meal sales) is collected by the company for the purpose of tip pooling." "The tip-pool will be shared with other employees who customarily receive tips (bartenders and grill warriors)."   
The cooks do not tip-pool the tips they receive at the grill from their bucket. That cash is split up amongst the cooks by the end of their shifts. As I understand, they do report those tips for tax keeping. However, the money from the servers' tip-pools goes to the cooks, and the cooks aren't tip-sharing to the servers. 
Also, our managers are able to go into the system and change the numbers of the tip amounts people report when clocking out and I don't know if that is concern to coincide with this issue. Thank you very much. 

Thank you for writing. First, I understand your frustration because the situation does not sound fair. Also, kudos to you for approaching your Department of Labor.

Tipped Employees

By under-paying "grill warriors" and setting it up so they customarily receive tips, the restaurant at which you work has turned them into tipped employees.
  • They customarily receive tips;
  • The employer takes a tip credit;
  • They make at least $30 in tips per month. 
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association makes this much information available to non-members on their website. To see more, you have to joing their site -- I'll pass. 

Tip Pools

Another source I like to check is the Nolo Press. On Wisconsin Laws for Tipped Employees, they state: 
According to the federal Department of Labor, only employees who regularly receive tips can be part of the pool. Employees must receive notice of the tip pool. Employees can't be required to share their tips with employees who don't usually receive their own tips... And no employers are allowed in the pool: Tips from a tip pool can't go to the employer or, in some states, managers or supervisors.
Remember, "Grill Warriors" counts as tipped employees in your restaurant. You received notice of the tip pool. The problem with the tip pool is that it is unfair. Both cooks and servers are receiving tips; you have to share with the cooks and they do not have to share with you. Nolo also states:
Many states allow employers to require tip pooling or “tipping out.” All employees subject to the pool have to chip in a portion of their tips, which are then divided among a group of employees. 
To interpret this in favor of the restaurant, we would have to define "employees subject to the tip pool" as those who must pay in only. To interpret in favor of servers, we would define "employees subject to the tip pool" as everybody involved, in and out. Unfortunately, "divided among a group of employees" is not just the group of employees who chipped in. When servers tip out bussers and bartenders, the bussers and bartenders do not chip in any tips. Bussers seldom make tips, and while bartenders do most restaraurants (I believe) do not require the bartender to chip into the pool. It is a one-way street.

I think the situation in your restaurant is favoring the cooks over the servers, and it doesn't feel right.  If servers have to pitch in 2.5 percent of sales, perhaps cooks could pitch in 25 percent of the tip jar to be spread out among all tipped employees. Or just stop the tip sharing all together. But as far as I can tell, it seems legal. As you know, I am not a lawyer nor do I give legal advice. All I do is read around, ask my friends and ask you if you want fries with that. ;-)

Claiming Taxes

Each and every employee is responsible for claiming his or her income for tax purposes. If you claim your tips appropriately, and another employee does not, it should not be any skin off your back, so to speak. If the restaurant gets audited and you are honest, it should not cause you any more than an inconvenience.

I am disturbed by the fact that managers may change your tip reporting. This is an issue you may wish to alert the IRS. If you ever get audited and the numbers were changed, you had better be able to prove it.

Thanks again for writing and I hope this is helpful in some way. If anybody has different information or thinks I am wrong, please write in. (Hey, I'm just a stupid waitress! ;-))