Jun 5, 201410:01 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Tipping and You

Where do you stand on tipping?

The Guide Michelin is pretty much the standard for dining guides worldwide. There are a lot of chefs who see getting a Michelin star as the apex of their careers. As yet the Guide has not seen fit to grant a star to any restaurant in New Orleans, so I don’t pay a lot of attention to it, but I did find a recent press release the company put out to be interesting. 
 
It’s a survey of American habits where tipping is concerned, and the results are shocking! 
 
Actually, no, the results are not shocking. The average tip for good service is 18 percent. Older folks tip better than younger folks, and men tend to tip more lavishly than women at the top end of the scale. That’s not ground-breaking stuff. It was a nationwide survey, and they only spoke to around 2,000 people, so it’s not like you can take the results as gospel. 
 
What prompted me to write about it was the hope it might prompt a discussion here that would give us some local context. Because we keep opening restaurants in New Orleans and that means we’re stretching the pool of folks who wait tables pretty thin. 
 
I hear a few complaints about service pretty often; usually they run along these lines: “the food was good, but our waiter/waitress ignored us/was rude to us/tried to pick up my date/was clearly on heroin.” 
 
I should admit that I have a blind spot where it comes to bad service. I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed with a waiter or waitress. I’m not saying the folks bringing me food have been perfect; only that my standard for what constitutes “good service” may be slightly more generous than the norm. 
 
But while I am, if I do say so myself, the soul of generosity where it comes to patience with the servile class, it appears I may not be among the best tippers. I tip 20 percent, rounding up. If the service was really outstanding, I’ll go to 25 percent, but that’s about it. 
 
Perhaps I’m miserly; I don’t know. The only time I really notice other peoples’ tipping habits is when I’m dining with someone who doesn’t tip. Then I notice. 
 
There is a legitimate argument in favor of abolishing tips in restaurants. The idea is that everyone, regardless of occupation, should be paid a living wage that doesn’t depend on the vagaries of customer generosity. 
 
And that’s fine, but a lot of the places that have done away with tipping substitute adding the gratuity to your bill. Maybe that’s the solution; maybe the way to avoid obsequious service from people trying to curry your tipping favor is to simply ensure that regardless of their performance they’ll receive some cream off the top of your check? 
 
I honestly don’t know about that; here is something I do know: until we change the system, if you don’t tip at restaurants, you’re sort of a jerk. You’re not sending a message to any one apart from the message you’ve sent to the restaurant staff that you’re sort of a jerk. You are not going Galt; you are not a snowflake, and you should probably grow up a little. 
 
I am at least curious, though. If you don’t tip; why? If you do, what’s your standard? Am I hypocritical for criticizing non-tippers while only tipping 20 percent myself? Should I get a haircut? Do these jeans make me look fat? Why do fools fall in love, and why doesn’t the world spin faster if there’s so much love? 
 
Your responses, in the comments below, are appreciated.  
 

 

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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