Dining while Black

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by frizbee, Apr 20, 2004.

  1. frizbee

    frizbee

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    ...and just to stir things up a bit.....
    Let me say this first,
    I am of mixed racial background. I am brown in skin tone but most people assume I am of some Hispanic origin. I am not; my background is Black, Italian and Lebanese. (Not too PC these days…LOL)
    Last year in Restaurants and Institutions mag (August 1st 2003, Patricia Dailey) I read an editorial that talked about the issues of Dining while Black. (That is the title)
    It talked about the much debated practice of black diners consistently tipping less then persons of other ethnic backgrounds.
    Now as a long time person in this industry I have noticed it myself personally. The article brought up the question of…Do blacks tip less because they expect less, just haven’t been told or shown different; receive lesser service because of their race or the stereotype of tipping less it carries in the F&B industry?
    This is what I have done for years. As a black person I have understood intimately the issue of being black and dining out. When I have had the opportunity to serve blacks I have personally gone out of my way to treat them like a VIP going way above and beyond to ensure excellence in service. On rare and I mean rare occasion I have received 20%. More often then not, no matter the level of service I have received closer to the 10-12% tip. I spoke to my fellow servers in the same town and whenever I have had the opportunity to travel I have pulled a black server aside (out of comfort) and asked, do black guests tip the same, better or worse then everyone else? Without exception they have said less, overall. This is from family style, to casual dining to fine dining, although I must confess more often then not in less then fine dining establishments. Fine dining I think is more consistently 18-20% at least where I currently work.
    I have had conversations with my black friends in the F&B and hotel industry. We have pondered, that when we go to a place we have never been before, they do not know that as members of this industry the server will generally receive not just a good tip but a great one, like 20-25% if not more. They only see our black skins, and how does that affect our level of service? It’s a bit of which came first? The less then service or the less then tip.
    Personally what I do is let it happen however it is going to happen without making a fuss. If my service is less then ( and I mead blatantly less then) I expect to receive then I will leave about 10% for the server and speak to the mgr before I leave explaining what transpired and how the server worked them selves out of a great tip, and that I am in the industry...blah blah. It is the only way I can see to handle it.
    So my questions are these:
    1) Do you see a difference in your restaurants between the ethnic backgrounds in tipping?
    2) Is there anything you think we as an industry can do to educate the black population?

    My own mother and some of my friends were guilty of this practice until I found out and freaked on them. They now call me from most restaurants and relay a blow by blow, (she forgot my lemons or didn’t bring this when I asked…LOL… I am not even kidding here) how much should I tip? I properly guide them taking in as much of the situation as I can and propsed when in doubt leave 15-20%.
    I think that having these conversations with our families, friends and co worker educates the population one by one. What do you think?
    sorry its so long guys!
     
  2. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Such a loaded question. There's almost no way to answer this politely.

    Anyway, I don't know. I'm not black and I've never noticed much difference between the way blacks were served. Now that you mention it, I'll be more aware.

    It may not be that a certain race doesn't tip well. I know for a fact that people from rural parts of the nation tend to not believe in tipping. I remember when we had a farm convention in our hotel and the bar ran out of bud lite. I forget what the revenues were that night at the bar but I know the whole bar staff made less than $3 in tips. Same thing the next morning at the breakfast buffet.

    Kuan
     
  3. regularjoe

    regularjoe

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    This is slightly off-topic, but IMHO gratuities and tips are antiquated and should be abolished. It is appalling that in this age, we still rely on a totally random and arbitrary system to compensate employees.

    It is obvious that the industry has a problem with tipping. It is the source of constant debate and opinion. So why not fix it, i.e. get rid of it. Why is there such resistance to setting fair prices for goods and services? In most other industries, we consumers do not have to assume the guilt because employees are not paid a fair wage.

    When expected, I do tip appropriately, between 15-20%, but I certainly don't like it. Given a choice, I would rather eat at a restaurant that does not require tipping--that tells me that management has taken it upon itself to remedy this ridiculous custom.

    But wait, there's more. A gratuity is defined as "something given voluntarily or beyond obligation", so why is it automatically added at some restaurants and in some situations? A mandatory gratuity?

    End of rant.
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I think Regular Joe has made a very important point.

    More importantly, it seems that the hospitality industry is using tips as pay. When a caterer or other party adds it in, that's not a tip, that's a bill as it is no longer voluntary. As RJ pointed out.

    Using tips to keep your prices down through low wages below the minimum wage strikes me, an outsider, as unethical. Even though I think the minimum wage is wrong too, the abuse in this case makes the point about service wages and the expectation of the tip.

    I enjoy tipping good service. I'm not ready to see it go away. I am ready to see it mean something again.

    Phil
     
  5. regularjoe

    regularjoe

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    Exactly! Thanks for saying it better than I did. Perhaps I was a little over-the-top with the idea to abolish tipping. I would like to see it abolished in its current form, but, like Phil, I love tipping a person or team who goes above and beyond. However, the current system of making customers feel they are depriving the wait staff of a living wage if they don't leave xx% benefits no-one.
     
  6. frizbee

    frizbee

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    "Such a loaded question. There's almost no way to answer this politely."
    I agree Kuan, it is a tough question and that is precisely why I asked it. I am not an easily offended person let alone an easily offended black person, so I figured why not?
    I agree companies do use tipping as part of pay. Their claim is that paying servers less then minimum wage ($2.13 per hr) is justified by the tips they should expect to receive. Big Business banks on it. I am not sure if many of you, not in fast casual corporate enviroments know this or not, but about a year ago they (at least the one I worked for) went to dropping the HOSTESS'S base salary and made that a tipped position too! The hostess pay in my neck of the woods was $8.00 per hr. Last spring (03) they dropped them (or fired the ones who wouldn't tolerate it-oh the joys of a right to work state) and began paying only $3.50 per hr. Do you know who picks up the tab for the balance of their pay? SERVERS DO with the tips their expected to make. They are now required, (Not an option) to pay out a percentage of their net sales, to the hostesses. I think it was 2% of our server sales. (Also the bartenders were exempt from that.) To justify and balance that out, they did away with the bussers and occasional food runner, stating that the servers only now had to pay out to the hostesses and no one else, (exception: bartenders in the service bar), and when I questioned why the hostesses were getting the two percent…I was told well if they didn’t seat your tables you wouldn’t make any money. I said they were doing that before and YOU were paying them, not me. I was told nothing could be done that was policy and I could accept or leave. Also some establishments have also made it mandatory that you tip out the bartender weather or not they make one drink for you the whole shift. Personally these are the reason's I left fast casual family style dining as well as my goal of school. It’s appalling.
    Oh the hostess now, in addition to dealing with impatient patrons also are required to leave their posts and help with bussing tables, and running food in addition to seating guests. How is that physically possible with 2 hostesses on a busy weekend night on an hour wait?
    When I first started working at a place named after a rolling stone song, the one thing I was happiest about was the focus on the team. In their mission statement was being a fun place to work. Over the 4+yers I spent their a lot changed namely the mission statement. The first statement was being our guest’s first choice. I question anyone who is concerned about their shareholders (also in the mission statement) when service and food quality I feel should be number one. If you do that better then the rest of your competition your shareholders will see the return. I thought it was funny how the focus had shifted and then the money followed.
    Anyway tipping has historically been worse with blacks then other ethnic groups, and there are many articles written about it. I am simply conveying my personal experiences on both sides of the table, and was wondering if any of you had similar experiences. Big cities and small, the outcome was always the same, only exception was fine dining.
    Oh btw sometimes, they auto-grat large parties to make it easier for the guests. Frequently large parties like to have checks separated, and it makes the math easier for everyone. I have yet to hear a party complain that gratuity was added with the only exception being in the event of poor service.
    Frizbee
     
  7. regularjoe

    regularjoe

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    I know that is what they tell us, but I'm now buying it. Typically that arbitrary number for auto-grat is 8. So is it really that much easier for 7 people splitting a check. My guess, and yes I am a cynic, is that when the numbers get big, the check gets big. When 15% of a $500 check is $75, all of sudden it casts new light on the value of the service, especially when large groups often do not receive the same level of service as small groups.
     
  8. frizbee

    frizbee

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    well actually the standard rule of thumb is 8+ guests 2 servers, 16+ 3 and so on. It has always been that way most places i have worked to ensure the level of service dosen't change.
    in some instances though i know this isn't always the case b/c most servers rather then concerning themselves with the level of service only see $$ signs. personally i take the help because even though i am good, i am not superwoman.
     
  9. ritafajita

    ritafajita

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    Okay, I'm gonna get in on this because I remember the article in R&I back in August. Every one of my employees read it, which wasn't all that difficult since their were only 10 or so of us at the time. The thing is, I ran a delivery business on a college campus at the time, and most of my employees were seasoned delivery drivers in that area. There was a long standing stereotype among them that black people didn't tip. I had some great drivers. They would engage a customer in polite conversation whether they got a tip or not. So, service wasn't the problem. There just seemed to be a culture among blacks of not tipping (African Americans don't have the corner on this, BTW. My father is a white lawyer :( I have to remind him constantly about tipping).

    Then I started delivering some myself for my business. Most of my customers were college students, employees of the university, or employees of the teaching hospital associated with the university.

    In the end, I found the worst tippers to be white freshmen females who seemed to not even know where they were, much less what they ordered. Yeah, I didn't always get tipped by black people, either. But it seemed like many times I made an assumption about my impending tip (or lack there of) when I saw a black person approaching. Sometimes I was wrong, and I got a great tip. Sometimes I was right, too.

    I wish I had an answer to all this. I'ts complicated. I can't honestly find a consistent pattern in my area - from my own experience.

    I don't in any way deny the original posters point, though.

    RF

    I
     
  10. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

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    Very touchy subject my friends! How does any race tip and why? Shouldnt you be able to get what you pay for without a feeling of guilt about compensating the establishments employees when you leave. Does any body know what started this trend in our industry from a historical standpoint as I would be interested in knowing?
    Now to the initial question all I can say is as a restaurant chef in some of the big hotel casinos here that the servers complained about there black customers far more than anybody else as far as tips were concerned ( and yes you know how the wait staff love to talk about tips ). So what I saw was that the Host or hostess would try to seat the black customers in sections that were handled by the black staff. I realy dont know how that always worked out but I do know I comped more meals to these patrons than others.Oh yes and Rita , my father in law had plenty of bucks , was way white and could not part with a dime as far as tips were concerned. I always had to make sure he left the table before I left the tip or he would pick it up!So I can say it has more to do with people I think than it does with race. Peace all , Doug..................
     
  11. chefjason

    chefjason

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    To answer your loaded question... Yes, the stereotype typicaly is true. If you think about it most stereotypes are stemmed from the truth. I come from a larger city where the term "minority" is an oxy-moron. I work in a full service hotel that caters to all races, classes, religions, etc. From my experience I can judge how a party is going to run by using these stereotypes. Am I a racist because of it? I don't think so! In fact I use the stereotypes to try and give the best service possible. For example (and since the topic is dining while black, I'll use black stereotypes) If I am cooking for a black banquet, I portion rolls for the party at 2 per person as apposed to 1.5 per person because black parties tend to go through more rolls. Did I do anything wrong by making that assumption. No I proactively anticipated the fact that we will need more rolls which increased customer satisfaction by having extras on hand so they would not have to wait. Another one is that black parties are natorious for not starting on time and running late. With this knowledge I give myself an adjustable window of time for cooking the food and keep in close communication with the banquet manager to time things just right to give the customers the best quality of food possible. (not plates that have been done and sitting in a hotbox for the past 45 min.) Yet another is that black people typically prefer there meats, i.e. steaks, more done. We anticipate this and point out that the contract states that all steaks are prepared medium, PRIOR to the event so that if they choose to they can have them prepared to their liking. That way we don't have 75 out of 100 guests trying to send back their steaks to be cooked longer.

    O.K. So those stereotypes weren't that negative. How do we handle the more negative but just as much true stereotypes such as blacks are bad tippers or trying to get something for nothing by throwing the race card at you. ("How much for a Henesey? Your just charging me that because I'm black!") Sad but these are facts that one must deal with. I guess the best way to deal with it is to not fall into their stereotype of you. That you are going to give them bad service because they are black. Give them the great service you should strive to give everyone. Use the stereotypes to give them better service. Have an extra basket of rolls ready. When they ask for iced tea, check to see if they want it sweetened. That's the best advice I can give, and hopefully you don't fall into their stereotype, and they won't fall into yours. They still might but at least you know that it's not because of the service.

    P.S. I know this sounded like I was picking on blacks, but hey I hate PC Bullcrap. I have stereotypes for everyone. I can't dance, I can't jump, and I have a small package. :rolleyes: