Consumers who frequent restaurants on a regular basis may be familiar with the “waiter sigh.” Or the “waitress frown.”
They tend to appear when an order is taken and everyone at the table decides they would like water to drink instead of a soft drink. Or heaven forbid if the couple, neither of whom eat very much, decide they'll split an entree.
Are we imagining it, or is it a thing? Apparently, it's a thing.
According to “BitchyWaiter,” who edits a blog for waiters, the wait staff really does hate it when you order water instead of a beverage, even though everyone realizes water is healthy and we probably should drink more of it.
“The thing is though, a glass of tap water doesn’t add to our check average, which means it does not increase our tip, and the bottom line is that servers want to do things that are going to make them more money,” BitchyWaiter explains.
When the average beverage cost is around $2, and eight people at a table opt for water, that's $16 off the bill.
Do you want fries with that?
Restaurant management, of course, also likes a large bill and may put pressure on staff to recommend appetizers and specials. That's where the McDonald's upsell question, “do you want fries with that,” came from.
But the poor server is on the front line, dependent on tips, which is usually based on a percentage of the check. A smaller check means a smaller tip.
On the blog Manners Matter, a poster using the handle Out To Dinner writes that consumers have an obligation to spend freely when they visit restaurants, especially if it is a nice restaurant.
“My thought is that the nicer restaurants aren't trying to whisk me in and out, and set up portion sizes and reservation times based on people staying and enjoying their meal,” she wrote. “It also seems cheap to me to go to a nice restaurant and not order a decent amount of food. If you don't feel like spending money, don't go to a nice restaurant.”
More prevalent outside the U.S.
It seems this way of thinking is more prevalent outside the U.S. Posting a review on Trip Advisor, a consumer complained that his party was discriminated against at a Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam because he and his wife didn't order enough food.
“We were told straight up by the guy taking orders that we were not ordering enough to justify us staying for a sit-down dinner,” the reviewer wrote. “He said it was very busy and they would rather give our seats to someone else who would order more. We ended up having to order a 11 euro meal just so we could stay and eat.”
Apparently this rule is taken very seriously at some restaurants in China. The website First To Know posted pictures last month showing customers allegedly beaten by a restaurant owner for their miserly order.
It's a shame some accommodation can't be reached between restaurants and increasingly health and weight conscious consumers who enjoy a night out but really don't want to eat and drink very much.
A first step may have been taken by Joe's Crab Shack, the first major restaurant chain to do away with tipping, at least on a trial basis. Instead, all servers will get raises.