I've worked as a waitress/bartender for 4 years straight now and I've wanted to share this post for awhile but wasn't sure it was related to travel enough. However, I think it's important for foreigner and non-foreigners alike to know how the restaurant business works considering on your travels (if your a foodie and spirit lover like me) you'll be dining out at least a few times. I've worked in corporate restaurants, dive bars, fine dining, resort restaurants, banquet service, and a bar that literally serves drinks at $30 per drink, so I'm certainly used to a variety of customers. One thing that doesn't change is the way the service industry works.
Tip, tip, tip, the magic word here is tip. Tip your servers and tip your bartenders. If you don't tip your server, s/he is screwed because they already gave you good service the entire dinner, however if you ever plan on coming back, word gets around, they will likely remember you AND tell all the other servers too. When you go to the bar, you’re likely going to be ordering several drinks throughout the evening. The first inkling your bartender gets that you’re not going to tip is the beginning of you not getting good service. For instance, at the current bar I work at, they charge $20 for a specific type of refill/drink. If you are holding a $20 bill and nothing else, this is a bad sign already. To be fair, the first drink is always made to correct recipe (with the proper amount of liquor). But I'm going to promise you that the next six won't be unless you pull out a few extra bills from your pocket along with that $20. This is just a small introduction into the world of the service industry. So for the first time ever, a bartender is going to give YOU a tip. This post is for the people who have never bartended or served, because they just don't get some things. Most of my tips are related to drinks/bar because it's where I see the most error as far as customers know and I literally just want to give you some advice on how to have a better dining experience.
A lot of these tips are very blunt. Not all bartenders will work this same way, but working in the industry, I have heard a lot of these tips through my fellow workers. In general, as a customer service worker, I try to always give my best impression no matter the circumstances. I smile and I do my job, but that doesn't always go the same for every server/bartender you meet. There are some skeezy bars and bartenders out there. I knew a bartender who used to save empty bottles, put water in them, and literally give guests who didn't tip water and their choice mixer. So, customers were literally receiving water mixed with coke while paying for rum and coke. I've also heard many of rumors concerning bars that water down their liquor to make it go further, GROSS! So, take some of these tips with a grain of salt because not all bartenders will work the same; however, a lot do work using the following guidelines.
Tips for tipping your bartender/server and general rules for going out:
-Different bars will have different regulations. If you're looking for a strong drink for a low price, go to a dive bar. Do not go to corporate chain restaurants, their drinks are delicious, although very weak. Also, some of my rules below will not apply to all restaurants/bars. I'll explain this in further detail below.
-Percentage for good tips. In the U.S.A., if you order food or a drink, a good, acceptable tip is 20% of your order price. Standard tip percentages are 15% for poor service, 18% for okay service, and 20% for good/great service. If you are looking to receive exceptional service for the rest of the evening, I would suggest tipping 25-50% on your first order or giving your bartender/server a big tip upfront.
-Negative stereotypes. There are stereotypes that go along with tipping. I won't go out of my way to point fingers, but bartenders/servers can usually gauge whether they will get a good tip or not. Oftentimes, it can be as simple as the customer isn't used to tipping because they don't tip in their country. Well, you are in the U.S.A. now, so tip us!:)
-Tip upfront; throw the bartender a $20 bill right off the first drink if you plan on being there all night, you will likely receive good service the rest of the night because the bartender is now aware that you are a good tipper and we are grateful. You will likely be the first person that we help even when there are 20 people who came before you because we already know that you tip well compared to these random people who may or may not tip us $0. Even if you only tip a few dollars for each drink after that, we will still keep coming to you first because you have given us more than anybody else has! It’s relatively selfish and pretty simple to get.
-If you want strong drinks, tip upfront. Why? Because why would we help you out if your not trying to help us out? If you walk in ordering a drink and give us a $10 saying “for you,” you have helped me out and I, being the considerate person that I am, will help you out, too. If you tip after the drink is already made, we can't really remake your drink. We can make your 2nd drink stronger, but why would you want to wait on that?;)
-Why a bartender can't always hook you up. As much as I talk about ‘tipping upfront’ in order to get a strong drink, keep in mind that in some establishments, the bartender cannot give you more liquor (without you paying extra for it) because of the possibility of getting fired. How can we get fired by splashing a little extra liquor in your drink you may ask? Well some bars hold a very strict inventory. When I ring in 10 shots of vodka, and there's 11 shots missing, management is going to want to know where that 11th shot went. On a bigger scale, when 20-30 people ask me every day to “hook them up,” and I give out 20-30 free shots, who do you think management will be taking that out on? Would you risk your job in order to help some random person you've never met get a little more drunk? Probably not. So, you may be wondering, how do I know which bars/restaurants do this? It's usually pretty easy, stay away from chains. Most dive bars or family owned are a little more lenient on things like inventory. No discouragement though as far as tipping goes because oftentimes your bartender will find other ways to “hook you up.” One example: sometimes we have mistake drinks, where a customer changed their minds or the server rang it up incorrectly, who do you think we will give that drink to? There's plenty of times its happened to me and the first people I look to give the free drink away to is the people who tipped me good. In an establishment like this, the bartender will find others ways that they can help you out and give you the best possible service!
-"Hook me up." We will not make you a stronger drink when you say ‘hook me up’ with a cheesy wink to end it all. I've actually come to a completely estimated ratio that 9 out of 10 people who say “hook me up and I'll hook you up” will in fact NOT HOOK ME UP. Anyone cheesy enough to say this is usually a cheap ass. Money talks people, money talks. Show me that you're going to ‘hook me up’ by tipping upfront, otherwise, I don't trust you, you haven't given me any reason to. Just one example, a real smart ass (hilarious) bartender I work with has a customer, the customer uses the classic line “make my drink strong and I'll give you a big tip” so the bartender says “show me the big tip first and then I'll make your drink,” then the customer proceeds to pull out exact change for the drink looking like a damn fool. Now, most bartenders will not straight up say this to a customer, but we do already know how this one plays out.
-The staff does talk. We will tell our fellow workers whether you are an exceptional tipper or a non-tipper, so you will either be receiving good service all night or rotten service all night no matter which bartender you go to.
-Make it a double. If you want strong drinks, order a double. A lot of people just don't know that this exists, which is why I included this tip. A bartender will either make a single or a double drink, our usual go-to assumption is that you want a single, but a good bartender will make sure to ask. At the majority of bars, a single will be less but you'll get more for your money if you order a double. For instance, at my current bar, vodka is $7 for a single and $10 for a double. When people hear this price tag difference, they almost always choose the double.
-We remember. A server/bartender remembers bad tippers and they remember exceptional tippers, we appreciate you average tippers too but your face won't be ingrained in our memories for a lifetime. But I'm not kidding, we will remember you if you tip us $0.
-Light ice. Asking for “light ice” will not make your drink stronger. I know this may work in your favor at the drive thru when you get pop, but it does not work the same when you are ordering alcoholic beverages. Let's just say you didn't tip me upfront, so I'm just going to make your drink exactly to recipe. The recipe calls for 1 shot of vodka and 4 oz of orange juice. If you ask for light ice, 1 of 2 things will happen. 1. I will stay to recipe and your drink will come up short in your cup because ice is basically a filler to make the cup look full. OR 2. I will decide that I want your cup to look full so I'll do 1 shot of vodka and 8 oz of orange juice. So, you'll either get a short drink or a drink where you can't even taste the alcohol because you have way too much mix. Why do people think I'll magically add more alcohol because they asked for light ice? The ONLY time this will not be the case is if the drinks are pre-made. For example, at a bar I used to work at, we would pre-mix our long island teas in one container and just pour it over the ice. Technically, if you had light ice, this would result in more liquor. However, it's not that common to find pre-mixed cocktails and if you really want to know you can always just ask your bartender whether the drink is pre-made or hand made to order. In my opinion, you shouldn't be ordering pre-made drinks, anyway, because they are usually the cheapest, most crappy liquors. Hangovers in a bottle!
-"You were great, but I can't tip because I have no money." There will be no pity on you if ‘you're broke,’ me too! If you can't afford to tip, then you can't afford to be eating/drinking out. If you can't even give me $1, then you should not be ordering a $30 drink.
-Weak drinks for weak tippers. When there's a customer who is consistently not tipping, they will consistently be receiving drinks with half the liquor in them because well f*#@ them, when there's a customer whose tipping exceptionally well, guess who's receiving that unused liquor that the cheap ass paid for, thinking it was in their own drink. Non-tippers are not only receiving bad service but they will also be receiving crap drinks. Good tippers will receive good service and good drinks. Exceptional tippers will receive exceptional service and exceptional drinks.
-Rotten Service. If you're receiving rotten service, look to yourself for the reason why. Did you snap your fingers at me? Did you say “EXCUSE ME!” while I have 30 other people waiting for drinks, too? Did you tip $0 on your order? If not, it could very well just be your bartender/server having a bad day, but keep in mind that I've worked 12 hour shifts straight without eating because there's simply not time, and this isn't an uncommon thing. Have you ever been hangry??
-Busy nights. Even on a busy night, we still watch our tips. You may think we don't pay attention because “we are too busy,” you are wrong. When you get your paycheck, do you look at how much you made? Well we do too, 100 times a night, after every customer walks away. So, even if we are slammed, a good tip will still get noticed and a good tip will pay off for you in the long run if its a really busy evening.
-Our hourly wage. We only make $4 an hour, tips are how we make our money, so if we have 2 customers, 1 that always tips $5 on every drink and 1 that tips $0, why would we ever want to take care of the person who tips $0, its a selfish thing but think about it for yourself if you had bills to be paid. Would about if we had 20 customers and 19 of them tipped $5 and 1 that tipped $0, well that 1 person will probably be getting ignored the entire night because why would we waste our time on you. Nobody would ever work a position where they make $0 an hour, would they? So why would we want to literally work for you and make $0?
-Drinking wait times. When you've been waiting 15 minutes for a drink already because we have 100 people screaming at us in every direction, I will not hesitate to make you wait another 15 minutes if you haven't decided on a drink by the time I do get to you. If I get to you and say “what are we having” and you open the menu for the first time and say “uhhh,” well, let's just say I'll already be gone.
-Be patient and respectful. I got to a busy bar late one night, coming in for just a beer, and all the other customers were already drunk, waving their money at the bartenders, and tapping their fingers. I just sat there, patiently waiting because I understand how it feels. When the bartender did get to me, he apologized and thanked me for being patient. I said no worries and ordered my beer. He came back and told me it was on the house for being so patient. Bartenders notice things even on a busy night.
-Bar knowledge. Servers oftentimes do not know their alcoholic drinks. If you go out to eat and want a delicious, hand crafted cocktail, don't count on the server to be able to help you out. Some of them aren't even old enough to drink so how will they know which wine pairs well with the salmon. Should this probably be part of their job? Yes, maybe, or maybe not. THEY ARE PAID $4 AN HOUR!! What can you expect? If you're really looking for advice, go talk to the bartender. They pour the drinks, they know the drinks, they know what the bar has and doesn't have, and they will likely be able to help you out.
-Slow wait times. Servers (at most places I’ve ever worked) do not make the drinks or food that you’re ordering. When you order a drink/food and it’s taking an extremely long amount of time, the reason is 1 of 3 reasons (or a combo of them all). Your server will ring all the items in and as soon as the kitchen/bar gets that order ticket, they are to make it. So, if a server forgets to ring something in or just doesn’t have a spare minute to do it, yet; this is the first possibility for slow food. 2. The bartender is slammed at the bar and does not have a spare minute to make your drink. If you peek over at the bar, you can usually figure out which one has occurred busy server vs. busy bartender. 3. Lastly, the kitchen may be backed up and this is why your food has still not arrived. You can usually tell this if there’s a wait at the door and every table is filled. Any of these options still hinders a server and I’m sure they are trying their best so I hope you guys don’t take it out on them. The only exception is if there’s literally nobody else in the restaurant and your server still sucks, and in this case I’m sorry for your luck.
Well this concludes my tips for you. There are probably some that I have forgotten, but I’m sure if you read it to the end, you’ll know the most important tip of all: TIP YOUR SERVERS AND BARTENDERS. It's a win-win! Good luck in your dining experiences.