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Restaurant gripe

To the Editor:

I would like to respond on behalf of those who work at restaurants, to the senior citizen who complained in a letter to the editor ("Restaurants strike out," May 16 issue, Grosse Pointe News) that his group was treated like "second-class customers" at a recent luncheon.

I am a hostess at a 300-seat restaurant and was upset by the comments made. First of all, the "lunch rush" at most restaurants is not over until at least 2:30 p.m. All large groups that I have dealt with generally stay for a much longer time than a smaller group, talking, sometimes up to four hours.

This means that during a restaurant's busy time of 11 a.m. through 2:30 p.m., a waitress would only get this one group, instead of many small groups that would only stay for an hour in the same spot.

Unfortunately, many people do not understand how restaurants are run. It is common practice to include a gratuity anywhere from 15-20 percent for groups of five or more on the check. This is because groups take up a large amount of the server's time and require extra attention. Large groups also tend to stay and talk much longer than small groups or couples. So the waiter has to depend on one large table for perhaps their only tip that shift.

Because of this, restaurants include a gratuity on the check. Too many times I have seen waiters get stingy tips from large groups, for no reason or because the waiter was unable to work fast enough. Customers must keep in mind that the tip is part of the waiter's salary. Even at upscale restaurants, the typical wage is $2.65 an hour. Not only that, but tips are generally divided between the waiter, food runners, busers and hostess. This means that a low tip hurts everyone.

If you have a problem with your service, it makes a lot more impact to let the manager know, than to give a bad tip. A waiter can get dozens of bad tips, but never know what was wrong. But if the manager gets several complaints about a waitress, she will either fire the server or help them correct their actions.

To answer their question yes, it is harder to serve seven tables of two than a group of 14. As a hostess, it is my job to make sure that servers don't get more than one or two tables at a time because it would make it too hard for the server to give each table efficient service, so seven tables all at once would be ridiculous.

I would hardly consider dividing up a check "demeaning" or "embarrassing." Imagine the enormous amount of time a waiter would have to spend making sure that each time someone orders a refill or changes their order, it was put on the correct bill out of 14 bills. I can hardly see how this would be demeaning if you just bring a calculator along and a few extra quarters.

A restaurant is a business, not your kitchen, so no, you cannot be the boss and decide the rules. In order to be successful, restaurants need to be fast, efficient, have good service and good food. Sometimes this means they simply cannot meet every request.

By the tone of the letter, I bet the restaurant was happy to be rid of them.

Evann O'Donnell

Grosse Pointe Park

Evann O'Donnell
May 30, 2002

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