It’s done so smoothly on screen. The maitre d’ of a fine-dining establishment acknowledges a last-minute, important customer and provides the perfect table for him and his guests. A subtle, brief hand shake is exchanged. The maitre d’ nods once more toward his guest and wishes everyone a nice evening–with a 20-spot or higher in his palm.
Here’s how that scenario usually plays out: The restaurant is slammed, the back-pocket table I try to have–just in case–is still a ten-minute wait away. One customer says to another, blatantly loud enough so I can hear, “Maybe she’d have a table if you gave her ten bucks.” Then we all laugh when I turn to them and say, “If only I had that ten-dollar table for you. I am so sorry you have to wait.” Then I go back to grinding my teeth as I hand out pagers and the aforementioned customers lurk at my elbow.
Now and then, however, a customer truly appreciates a host’s efforts to do right by them.
Hostess Jo asks:
When is accepting a gratuity bad form? I am a hostess at a small country inn. Occasionally, I will get a tip, usually when its super busy and I dont have time to be embarrassed. Unfortunately, when I get some of these tips, it’s because I have had to pick up to cover one of my servers who may or may not be in the weeds. Once in a while I feel like I may be taking part of my servers tip from them. So when is it bad form?
Hostess Jo, if you are actually waiting on the table for most of the customer’s meal, that server owes you at least a portion of the tip. If the customer tips you separately for stepping in and providing much of the service, accepting it is not cheating the server at all. Now, if all you did was pour water and put bread on the table (something I routinely do every day for my weeds-laden servers), that’s helpful and wonderful, but I would never expect the server to tip out to me for that.
When a customer wants to tip you for being a good host, I think it feels more awkward, because tipping hosts is not a standard part of our country’s tipping culture. I weigh the situation. If I sense the customer sincerely wants to thank me after the fact, but is fumbling with a dollar or such, I always say thank you and add, “That’s not necessary, but I appreciate the thought.” The customer is usually relieved.
But on occasion, I have experienced the smooth handshake exchange of a 20. I have also received a tip a day later from a tourist getting ready to leave town. You can just sense that accepting that tip is the right thing to do, with a genuine thank you.