By Marie Beachdale
Sunday, July 1, 2012, Surfside Beach - It’s your first day as a waiter or waitress; you’ve had a busy night, and you are walking out the restaurant door with a huge wad of cash in your hand, but not so fast-- tipping out other employees is a sometimes dreaded, but very necessary, part of working in the service industry.
Hosts, bussers and bartenders can all qualify for tip-outs from servers. Though all of these positions make more than the standard $2.13 an hour server wage in South Carolina, some restaurants require that servers tip them out for their assistance.
The restaurant where I work does not require hosts or bussers to be tipped out, but does require servers to tip out the bartender after their shift. Because of this, I have been on both sides of the tip-out issue.
When I first started waitressing, I always dreaded tipping out the bartender. It is standard at my restaurant to tip the bartender 5% of your total alcohol sales for the night, and although that usually never amounted to more than $10, I didn’t think the rule was fair.
It seemed the bartender made just as much, if not more, in tips than I did as a server, and it appeared a bartender only did half the work. It seemed as though I could probably make my own drinks faster than a bartender could, anyway, so why did I have to tip them out to do something I could be doing myself?
I would hesitantly place my $5-$10 tip-out on the bar before walking out. It wasn’t until I started working behind the bar myself that I realized how important, and appreciated, a bartender tip-out really is.
I’ve mentioned before how surprisingly challenging it is for me to be the only person behind the bar. Not only do I have to grab beers and make drinks for a long line of diners while they wait for tables, I also have to take and package to-go orders, answer the phone, and most importantly, make drinks for the wait staff’s tables.
It’s a lot for one person to handle, and I’m still shocked on the nights when I only end up making 50-75% of what I would make in tips on the floor. Because of this, I really look forward to and depend upon tip-outs from my coworkers at the end of the night.
The tip-outs from servers can, on some nights, mean an extra $60 a night, which can be a lifesaver if I’ve had a particularly slow evening behind the bar. Furthermore, there have been nights when I have been extremely surprised (and grateful) when my coworkers acknowledge that I’ve had a slow night and actually tip me out double what they are required.
However, because I’ve been the server tipping out a bartender, I never, under any circumstances, hound the wait staff for money at the end of the night. I have to put myself in their shoes, and remember that servers can have bad nights, too, and might not be able to spare the 5% of alcohol sales.
I have also learned how to use tip-outs to my advantage. Although we are not required to tip out the hostesses at my restaurant, I’ve realized that slipping them a few dollars at the end of the day is a great way to keep them on track and go the extra mile for servers.
I noticed quickly that after tipping out the hostesses for a few days, they were voluntarily running food, refilling beverages, and generally being team players without complaint when they had the spare time to do so. I now make it a habit to consistently tip them out for their hard work.
The unfortunate side of tip-outs is that some restaurants use them to take advantage of their wait staff.
For example, I recently spoke with a local server who told me her restaurant was taking 3% of every server’s total sales at the end of the night (anywhere from 30-$45 nightly). When she said this, I assumed they might have been collecting this money to cover credit card charges that, at most restaurants, are automatically deducted, but she told me management informed the wait staff that these tip-outs went into a “special account” to pay the hosts, bussers, and dishwashers their hourly wage. Sounded pretty strange to me.
The bottom line is, although required tip-outs may seem like a hassle, they are a necessary evil in the service industry. Just make sure you know exactly where your money is going. Usually, tip-outs are handed directly from the server into the hands of the employee who is receiving them.
Take it from me… if there ever comes a time in your service industry career where you rely on tip-outs, you will know exactly how important they are.
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