Surviving on 10 percent tips and $2.13 an hour wage is difficult for most students working as servers in the Utah County area.
Whether the food is low budget or fine dining, the tip average in Provo County remains between 10-12 percent; however, the country’s standard is a minimum tip of 15 percent if the service was good, and higher for excellent service. With discounts, one still tips on the total bill, not the discounted price. Buffet meals are tipped the same amount as an entree ordered off menu.
The valley is well known for tipping low. This epidemic roots from ignorance, some people don’t know how much to tip. Also, customers bring enough money for the the cost of the meal, they don’t account for tax and tip. Lastly, the L.D.S. mentality is to save and be frugal, this carries over into tipping.
A server who would like to remain anonymous said, “Our restaurant adds a 15 percent gratuity to parties 5 or more. I had a customer yell at me because I added gratuity to his bill which was a party of 11. He said “why would I give you 15 percent when I only pay the Lord 10″, I was floored. He doesn’t realize we don’t add gratuity to his income, just his bill. Tithing and tipping are completely different.”
“Most customers don’t realize that we make only $2.13 an hour, this only covers taxes, we usually never see a penny of that”, Mike Hench said, a server at Outback Steak House, also a Senior majoring in Family Science. “Weekends we are on our feet for 8 hours with no breaks, no time to eat.”
A server’s job is physically demanding. Most night shifts at restaurants can last up to 8 hours, especially weekends. During these shifts the waiters carry on trays a variety of foods and drinks weighing up to 40-50 lbs. A server, is always in a rush trying to get the next table sat, ordered, and their food out on time. Making sure the glasses are filled and all the guests are content is another constant worry.
“Timing is crucial, this makes or breaks a server’s tip, people want their food as soon as possible,” said Sarah Smith, a waitress at China Lily. Sarah is also a senior, graduating in April, and majoring in Art History. “Most people expect their food within seconds of ordering; however, if a person is going to a restaurant they are going to have to wait, unless they order an appetizer. Unfortunately, the longer the wait the lower the tip is. Waiting is part of going out to eat, we’re not a fast food franchise.”
What constitutes excellent service? According to a recent poll taken on campus, the following define excellent service: if your drinks are always filled, your food is prompt, the server is polite and has good manners, the server continues to check on the table making sure all the needs are met, and the bill is timely.
“If I don’t have to wait for my check, my bank account is more giving. I hate having to sit around for 20 minutes waiting for the server to bring the bill,” Heath Brown said, a senior, majoring in public relations.
Although 10-12 percent tipping is the norm in Provo, there are a few exceptions. Magelby’s restaurant a family owned business since 1981 feels like they reach the 15 percent tipping percentage.
Kendall Wimmer, General Manager at Magleby’s Restaurant, said “I realize that the tipping in Provo valley is low; however, that generalization doesn’t seem to effect our staff. According to our daily server tip records, our servers are tipped between 15-17 percent. However, our service begins right when the customer walks in the door. We provide breadsticks and drinks while they wait, and make sure a manager is there to greet them and take care of their needs. Customer satisfaction is our first and most important priority.”
“We also have the world’s greatest clientele, our customers are like family, we know 50 percent of the customers who walk in the door by face and or name”.
After interviewing a few Magleby’s servers they all seemed to be very content with their jobs. Most of the serving staff is students as is the norm with most restaurants in Provo. “We hire friendly happy people who enjoy interacting with customers, they also have to have excellent serving skills,” said Kendall Wimmer.
Servers need to remember to provide excellent service. Be polite to the customers and smile, no customer likes a cranky server. As well, if something goes wrong like forgetting to ring in a ticket or the food order gets messed up, be honest with your customers and let them know there will be a delay in their food order; customers are more understanding when they know what is going on. Check in with your table periodically, make sure all of their needs are met.
And customers, remember to tip 15 percent or more. Serving is a difficult job; so, if you receive excellent service dig a little deeper in your wallet for more tip, the server will greatly appreciate it.