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30 November 2012


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I worked in a restaurant seasonally for five years. I don't think the flinch is necessarily related to the absolute number of children, but that there are more than two. The problem with more than two is that most of the tables are set for four people and generally speaking people with kids don't tip that well and there are lots of misbehaved children.

So you have the expectation that this family is going to take up one of the limited, larger tables, the server is going to get his legs run off by sometimes quite demanding children, the possibility of the table (and floor) being left a disaster area is high, and the tip will likely be in the ballpark of your average two-top. Not every family is like this, of course, but it happens often enough to make the employees wary.

It is similar to the Sunday-after-church crowd. Lord save us from the Sunday diners in their Sunday finest leaving loose change as tips. Not everyone, of course, but enough that there won't be many converts won while they work in restaurants.

The antidote is definitely to be pleasant, do not let your children engage in wonton destruction, and tip well.


Speaking as a former server, Jenny, what do you think about the twenty percent minimum? Is that enough to make up for the fact that half my table is probably ordering a kid's meal?


I think a 20% minimum is good.

I worked in the restaurant over ten years ago so things may have changed, but it wasn't unusual for families to leave around 10%. It wasn't at all unusual for a big Sunday party of 8-10 people to leave $2 on the table.

For us, (the employees) it wasn't so much that the tip was less because the food was cheaper--although a table full of water with lemon generated angst--but the extra work that children entailed. The pile of crunched Cheerios all over the table and floor or the endless running to the kitchen for the "I changed my minds" or "I'm inhaling my drink/food/app/salad like I'm never eating again" that made the servers antsy. It would just pour salt in the wound to have all that work to do with the bill in the $40 range and only get a $3-$4 tip.

The mantra was, "If you can't afford the tip, you can't afford the restaurant."


Oh, man, when we were in the US this past summer with our 8-month-old in the throw-everything-on-the-floor stage I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We were driving all over the place and eating at all kinds of restaurants, she ate off our plates so they weren't even getting a kid's meal ordered, and usually there was more food on the floor than on the table by the end. Part of it is because it is way, way cheaper to eat out in the US than in Denmark, but I think there were a few places where I was tipping close to 50%. (Usually involving broken crockery.)

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