Tipping, restaurant etiquette affects servers, dining guests significantly

By Samantha Adams, Assistant Life Editor

After a meal at a sit-down restaurant, college students may be tempted to economize on the tip they leave their server in order to save money.

Students now employed at nearby restaurants have a new perspective on tipping and restaurant etiquette.

Cassie Welborn Robbers, sophomore art major, works at Red Robin in Jackson and has been a server at several different restaurants since she was 16. Robbers said she has been “stiffed so many times” by college students.

Dr. Martha Robinson, professor of management at the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus, teaches etiquette as part of a business communication class.

Robinson said it is customary to tip 15 to 20 percent of the pre-tax bill.

When a large group eats, servers often automatically add a 15 to 20 percent tip, known as gratuity, to each bill.

“If the server adds gratuity, I would say leave (your tip) at that unless you have an excellent server,” Robbers said. “If gratuity is not added when you are in a big group and one person is paying, everyone else should throw in for the tip. If everyone is paying separately, then everyone should tip 20 percent each.”

Trey Weise, junior philosophy major, said since he began working at Ruby Tuesday in Jackson he more fully understands the extra work a large group makes for a server.

In addition to meeting his customers’ needs during the meal, he often has to split the checks, receive their payments via credit card or cash and return receipts and change to the table.

Weise said he tends to tip more than 15 percent when he eats dinner with a large group of people. For a $15 meal, that means tipping $3 instead of $2, he said.

“(Leaving a slightly higher tip) is not that big of a difference to you, but it makes a huge difference to the server,” Weise said. “Giving an extra $1 is not a lot of difference for you, but if everyone in your group does that, the server will end up with $10 more at the end of the night than he would have otherwise. That’s the difference between making minimum wage and making higher than minimum wage.”

Tipping well is not the only aspect of being polite to servers, Weise said.

“There are two things that make me happy with a table,” Weise said. “One of them is the tip, but the other is having friendly people who are willing to engage in friendly conversation.”

Weise said being polite to a server does not mean being afraid to ask for something.

Also, it is acceptable to leave a reasonable mess at the table, because people are paying for their meals and tipping the server, both Weise and Robbers said.

“If you start practicing (restaurant etiquette) while you’re in college, it will become a natural part of who you are so you are not nervous or uncomfortable in a business setting,” Robbers said.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.