Restaurant Etiquette, Part I by Kevin Hilditch

Restaurant Etiquette, Part I
The truth about how wait staff view the clientele and some tips on proper behaviour.

by Kevin Hilditch

August 2, 1999

This is an original Podium article.

TIPS – To Insure Proper Service

The accepted standard of gratuities is 15 %. In Canada, most servers are paid less than minimum wage because tips are a substantial part of their income. Therefore, they rely heavily on the kindness of their customers. Service, as a gauge for gratuity, should centre around this amount.

Poor service is not always a reflection upon the server. Other extenuating circumstances to take into account are the efficiency of the kitchen staff (how fast you get your order depends on how fast they can get the food ready ), how busy the restaurant is at a given time, whether the menu is poorly designed (length of preparation time required by selected foods or drinks), and how many tables (customers) a server may have to deal with at one time.

For these reasons, unless the service is terrible, 10% should be the absolute minimum tip. If the service is exceptional, then that extra effort should be reflected in the tip. As a rule, if you cant afford to tip then you cant afford to go out.


The Unfortunate Truth About Tips

Sadly, there are quite a few stereotypes in every establishment, albeit some justified, that are prejudgments of culture, age, dress, and sex. The second you walk through the door you may have already been assessed as to how you will tip, thus you may see the service lacking as a result of this pre-assessment.


    • Business People (Suits ) – can tip well but are demanding.
    • Children and Teenagers – do not know how to tip (yet?)
    • Women – do not generally tip well and are demanding.
    • Suburban or Rural Customers (Hicks or Skids) – not as intelligent. Therefore, they either do not know how to tip and /or may tip poorly.
    • Asian (usually considered to be Chinese) – probably no tip.
    • African Canadian (Jamaican, Trinidadian, etc.) – demanding, poor tips can be expected.
    • British / German – no tip.
    • Mixed Race Couples – low tips.
    • Americans (Especially with an accent) – rude, demanding and do not tip well (even with the favourable exchange rate)


………………………………. and the list goes on and on.

The Establishment

The expectations of the clientele should reflect the nature of the restaurant / bar. General Rule: You get what you pay for. Upper scale establishments should kiss your ass. Large family restaurants are generally one step up from Fast Food (East Side Marios, Mr. Greenjeans, Red Lobster, etc.) Fast food joints are at the bottom of the list.

With this in mind, quick service does not mean 30 seconds. If you cannot stand to wait longer than this, then restaurants that would cater to your needs are most likely Taco Bell or Mcdonalds. Food has to cook first before being served.


The Food

Waiters and waitresses do not generally spit or urinate on your food if you piss them off. But it has happened. Other sources of contamination include: food being served after being dropped on the floor; hands not being washed after cooks or servers finish their “business”; bugs and hair, as well as other foreign objects (even glass), being found in food; post-due date food or food that has sat out a little too long; dirty glasses and dishes; undercooked, overcooked; the-soup-from-the-day-before, and on and on and on. The best way to avoid these hazards is to treat the employees nicely or stay home.


Sitting at a Dirty Table

Dont do it! Wait until the server has cleared and set the table first or simply ask. This may affect your service and especially the time you wait until you are served. This is called a penalty. The time allotted to a penalty can last for as long as twenty minutes. (A penalty can also be called for bad behaviour.)



No matter how cute they are they should not be running around the restaurant. The staff are not baby-sitters and it is seen as bad parenting.



Guess who has to pay the tab for people that run out on a bill. The restaurant or bar? No. The server has to foot the bill and tip the buser, bartender and house on the non-existent money. This is the absolute worst offense. Think twice before executing this move. Bouncers, security and the wait staff will be happy to hunt you down.



Servers are not sub-servient. They are not there to wait on you hand-and-foot. Not for $5.95 an hour. Unless of course, the tips reflect the work.

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Kevin Hilditch is a bartender in a downtown Toronto bar/restaurant. He is also a registered Shiatsu massage therapist and a dead ringer for Paul Reiser.