Letter from Charles Victor – August 14, 1999


Restaurant Stereotypes Unfounded

A letter from J. Charles Victor
August 14, 1999

This letter is in response to the article titled Restaurant Etiquette -Part 1 (Aug. 2).

Although I am not normally one to promote the use of stereotypes, Mr. Hilditch has opened the proverbial can of worms, and used them for bait. Well… I will bite.

I disagree with many of the pejorative impressions Mr. Hilditch has created regarding his clients and their tipping habits. I spent four years as both a server and wine steward. Although this clearly does not make me an expert on the hospitality industry, I do agree that there exist “tipping stereotypes”. However, these stereotypes, in my experience, are not as ‘unfortunate’ as Mr. Hilditch would have one believe. Of the stereotypes presented, three stand out as particularly unfounded.

Women: Although it is true that women may not be willing to part with their hard-earned money as easily as men, the key words are “as easily”. I have found that, provided the server actually demonstrates concern for their dining experience, women are quite generous.

British/German/Asians: You may also include the French (both European and Canadian). Again this stereotype may be true for the server that does not know how to deal with the situation. In most European establishments the gratuity is included in the bill. It has been my experience (of which I have a lot – I worked in a HOTEL restaurant) that if the client is told in a non-offensive manner, such as a discrete reminder on the bill in their language, Europeans too are generous tippers. On many occasions I have even been thanked for informing them of our customs, and have never had a upset client because of this. As for French-Canadians, provide them with separate bills without asking – this is often how it is done in Qubec and they expect it to be done everywhere, no matter how long they have been ‘expatriated’. (I know, I am married to one).

Americans: Mr. Hilditch is way off the mark. The Americans, accent or not, are by far the most generous tippers – anywhere from 20 to 200 % after tax. Often they will leave a small amount on the credit card slip, and a large amount with a handshake as they leave. They often believe that we will be taxed on anything traceable. Again, I must stress, the server must adjust to his/her client – Americans love to have fun, so be just as boisterous as they are (I can’t count the number of photographs I have had taken of me by a pleased group of American diners).

In short, Mr. Hilditch should learn a little about his clients – a “hello” in each of their languages, and certainly how to say “the tip is not included”. Most of all, care for their well-being and have fun with them no matter how busy you are and you will be rich. Finally, laugh and don’t complain about the occasional stiff. If left to its own devices, aggravation will only hinder your serving abilities. Remember: servers/bartenders make very good “coin”, hundreds of tax free money each evening, complaining about stereotypes not only makes you sound prejudicial, but also spoiled.

J. Charles Victor
Oakville, Ontario