Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The tipping point

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 12:57 PM

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Flickr: Agnieszka Mazus

As a former waiter, I've always been opposed to tip-pooling on general principal. Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for teamwork in the front of the house -- but an excellent veteran server with a lot of regular clients shouldn't be penalized by receiving the exact same tip-out as the lousiest waiter in the restaurant. That's one of the reasons that tip-pooling has never really caught on in Kamsas City. When New York-based restaurateur Lidia Bastianich opened her namesake restaurant in Kansas City's Crossroads, the policy was for servers to pool their tips. It didn't last too long.

A recent court decision in California was a victory for the pro-pooling faction -- in this case, the Dave & Buster's chain. A waiter filed suit opposing the practice of bartenders being included in the tip pool. At most restaurants, servers voluntarily give their bar staff a percentage of their tips. I've been on both sides of that deal and it's typically pretty fair. A Los Angeles Court of Appeals ruled against the waiter.

Even worse than tip-pooling is the stingy restaurant owner -- you know who you are -- who demands that the servers tip out to practically everyone in the restaurant. I worked for a cheapskate who insisted the servers tip out to the bartender and busboy and the dishwasher. One night the dishwasher walked out of the joint with more money than I did! 

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