OPINION- The no tipping controversy is ruining the sit-down restaurant business.

OPINION- The no tipping controversy is ruining the sit-down restaurant business.

All the talk of no tipping (let’s hope not quite all the way, yet) is ruining the Restaurant Business.

Thousand of restaurants (more than normal) are closing. Most of us in the business agree that the health care laws and the minimum wage battle has caused some of it, sure.

Not so long ago a customer/guest would go out to a sit down restaurant not just to eat, but to experience the subtle high-touches that make a restaurant worthy of coming back to.

It’s still the case. So what happened?

The celebrity chef and the accentuating of the back-of-the-house to new lofty heights of appreciation (TV chef shows) have left the front-of-the-house being portrayed as after thoughts.

Hold on a minute while the lords of high-touch and service are rolling around in their straight-jackets.

This story I’m about to tell, says it all:

As a Steak & Ale manager in the 80’s (after my manager training), the first store I was sent to was in Maitland, Fl. as an assistant manager. I met a waiter there named Tom Hardy.

Tom was a regular guy in a quiet town working his station. During the week, especially at nights our store was very, very quiet. But when Tom worked no matter the day he was full throughout the night with call parties. Customers would come in and demand to sit with Tom and Tom only, his call parties. If not, they would not eat in our restaurant.

WHY?

Steak & Ale was not known for their high end food. What Tom offered was special, personal service. What Horst Schultze (of Hyatt at the time taught to me in my 20’s , then went on to Ritz Carlton) it’s what’s known as “High Touch.” 

Tom did what he could to make sure the drinks and the food were absolutely perfect for his guests. He bent over backwards hustling, demanding that the BOH produced the perfect plates for his customers. Tom consistently earned 30% tips- double the standard.

Tom was what was/is known as a professional waiter. They’re still out there-plenty of them, but no TV shows seem to highlight them. So you have to ask yourself, why would Tom work in a restaurant with no tipping? His call parties would evaporate and Tom would slow down his efforts to a mediocre level. Why share with the newbie or the less inclined professional (whether in the front or back of the house)?

Fast forward to today’s times and you would think that service was of no consequence at all. To a person, the chefs and industry pros who were NOT EVER professional waiters or servers simply don’t see it. Even the big shots on TV don’t.

So please, I implore the universe at large to get back to basics and understand that the reason folks go out is for the experience that is delivered by the server and the serving team.  Fire breathing dishes, great tasting food and fancy food names just ain’t enough and they never were.

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