Saturday, February 23, 2013

Some things you should know before getting food from a restaurant "to go"

Yes, the rhyme in the title was intended.  Now I'm not talking about pizza places, sandwich shops, or anywhere with a counter that is meant for takeout food sales (although feel free to apply the same principals in those situations).  I mean actual sit down restaurants that are not designed for "to go" service; basically any establishments where if you call ahead and order food you have to go in and get it from the bar.  The key thing to keep in mind here is that when you pick up your nicely packaged dinner, the person handing it to you is in fact a bartender.  And whether you think it is appropriate to tip on this transaction or not, they are expecting you to.

This is someone who gets paid $2.63 an hour and lives off of tips.  They intend to be tipped at a certain rate (oh yeah, it's 20% by the way.  If a drink costs $12, one dollar is a bad tip, even $2 isn't very good.  But that's another blog for another day).   Often selling you that salmon fillet and and ceasar salad with no croutons and dressing on the side all boxed up and bagged is just as much work as making a few drinks, or serving you that identical dinner at the bar.  Because of this the bartender believes he/she should be tipped in the same manner.  If you don't they are going to curse you out and call you names to their coworkers as soon as you leave, regardless of how friendly you are, or how many times you say "thank you."  It's just the way it is.  Please act accordingly.

P.S.  Most decent restaurants have a position called "food runner" who gets paid by earning a portion of the tips that the waiters/waitresses and bartenders make.  Often the amount is determined by a percentage of the total "food sales," not a percentage of the actual tips made.  In those cases, if you increase their food sales without tipping the bartender is actually losing money in order to have the privilege of doing business with you.

For lots of other commentary on restaurant and bar behavior, click here.  Or on the tab labelled "bar stuff" in the topics on the right.

2/24 Update: If you have an opinion on this I definitely recommend reading the comments below.



  1. 20%? So your suggestion that because a bartender bags and rings up our meal he should get an equal percentage as a waitress or waiter who has to put up with our shit for an hour? You know when they suggest things for us to eat, answer a million questions about the menu, refill our glasses every five minutes and ask us how they can help us at any turn. You equate that full dining service experience to the one that is a little more complicated than a Barnes and Noble cashier's job and significantly less strenuous than a Supermarket cashier's and takes MAYBE 2 minutes to pull off? Really both are worth 20%? Come on now.

    I'm not saying this to be rude or to try and offend you, but the 20% is a number bartenders and service personnel tell themselves is what should be appropriate not what anybody else think is. The fact is most people getting take-out are cheapskates getting take out to save on the whole dinning experience ie they just want the food but don't want to pay for the service. Your issue is with the restaurant not with the customers if the system is flawed it's their flaw.

    The tip, as you point out often feeds more than just the bartender, and unfortunately for bartenders it's often determined by other people at the restaurant. The terrible answering system just to place an order, the idiot hostess on the phone, or anybody else who can screw up your bottom line. Also far more often than not, showing up and it never being ready despite being given a 15 minute pick up time or it sitting there getting cold while the overworked bartender is busy doing his real job. Yeah, usually those two happen most often in restaurants ill equipped for take out. So, because our two minute interaction, usually because of poor management foresight and fellow employee ineptitude, is generally a bad one when getting take out, we should still tip as much as we tip our waiter, who after even a bad hour, has usually tried to service and accommodate us. No way. that's delusional.

    Continue to offer great service and your repeat customers will reward you for it. Cuss out your customers and complain about their cheapness behind their backs and on a blog?

  2. First off I would like to say that this is a spectacular comment. You make a number of very good points. In particular the part about struggling on the phone with the hostess, and "any number of people" who are involved in the process. That actually goes along with what I'm saying. Restaurants that are not intended for "to go" service may not be very well equipped to handle it. It places people in roles that they are not accustomed to. In order to sell food to go the staff has to put in effort outside of the ordinary. For example, if the bartender has a busy bar full of guests, but then must stop what they are doing and ignore their guests while handling a takeout order, it can be very frustrating not to be tipped for it.


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