Friday, August 15, 2008

Restaurant Tips

I wrote a few weeks ago about the difficulty of finding a restaurant that does not have prices on the menu. Yet though I perhaps came from a more extreme angle, taking a famine-based twist to asking for more, I nevertheless believed that many others would share my opinion there, surely it is simply better to go for a meal if you know the complete price up front. Yet sadly not a single suggestion.

But though I expected to share common opinion on food prices, I think my opinion might be more individual on waiter tips. I mention it now because both Marginal Revolution and Freakonomics have raised the subject just in the few days since my note. One obvious idea is that the price of the meal should explicitly include service and the waiting staff should earn decent wages without relying on the whims of fickle customers. The same as shop sales staff. That's a common suggestion anyway. Many restaurants routinely add 15% to the bill as standard. But that is not the best way to relate how much value was added by the waiter.

As a slightly more original idea, I suggest that you could tip a standard hourly figure, for example minimum wage rate, or some fraction of it per customer. If the waiter is supplying x tables, then she will get at least x times minimum wage. Plus any basic salary. It reflects the time that she actually spent "working for you", the current practice of food bill plus 15 percent means that she is compensated less for delivering many bargain courses than for delivering a single overpriced bottle. Perhaps more importantly, the new suggestion means that a waiter in a cheap-food restaurant does not get paid less than a waiter in an expensive-food restaurant for exactly the same level of service.

I'm not saying that's what I do, I'm only suggesting that's what we could do.


Faisal said...

I really like the idea of a one complete price model.

Agree with the tipping suggestions, too, mostly, but I don't follow the logic of x amount per customer. If a waiter serves 4 per hour, it means they split the time 4 ways, not that they spent 4 times as much time "working for you". Time is a constant. The only thing that the waiter can vary is effort, efficiency, and quality of service. Somewhere in there, or at least in your perception of it, appearance and personality come into play as well.

What we need is a consistent industry standard weighted averaging mechanism for ranking the waiter. Then, you put in the correction factor for your perception of the service rendered. And that's the tip they get. Of course, your perception is clouded by your mood, time constraints, hunger and patience levels, what you failed to see, cultural bias, etc., etc.

A standard "per person per hour times amount of hassle times degree of over and beyond the call of duty" tip rate might work, within a high and low limit to account for establishment type.

When all else fails, how big were the boobs?

R N B said...

Yep, there must be more of a market for fixed price restaurants, just I don't know where.

As for tips, I know the time-based approach needs refining, but there must be a better way than the standard markup that bears no relation to the value added by the waiting.

Re your last question, there are surely places that pay that way ...

Adam said...
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