According to an informal poll of local restaurant servers, Austin dinners are about average (20%) to somewhat below average on the tipping front. The poll was in no way scientific, but did bring up some interesting points.
First, some of Austin’s best known and wealthiest business moguls are apparently basically crappy tippers. Again, this is from the servers’ perspective. Perhaps when somebody’s got all those zeroes in their net worth, people expect more from them than 15% or 20%. However, a few, according to those who have allegedly waited on them, tip around 10% on average. Hmmm.
Secondly, apparently many Austin dinners tip only on food, and not on wine. Many also do not tip on the total bill (tax et al). My take on this? If you can afford a 2003 Caymus Special Selection Cab, you can afford to tip on it as well. We always tip on food and wine. And many of my fellow foodies with whom we’ve dined do so as well.
Thirdly, Austin diners grow quite impatient (and justifiably so) when the front of the house does not communicate with the back of the house causing slow turnaround from the kitchen and late check delivery. Tips are more likely to be reduced when this occurs rather than when a dish has to be sent back, or when it’s not quite to the customer’s liking. Even though this issue is very rarely the waiters fault, they are held accountable nonetheless. And that’s too bad.
Another thing that customers don’t always realize is that we are not a city of career waiters. The majority are students or involved in some other primary activity. Still waiters should be expected to know their menu inside and out (so they can honestly respond to a request for a recommendation), be able to pronounce the names of the dishes, and know when or when not to approach a table.
By and large however, waiters told us that if they make a genuine effort to respect the patrons at their table, perform their duties in a timely and hospitable manner, and do what they can to heighten the enjoyment of the dining experience, that commitment will often be reciprocated with a tip of at least 20% or more.
And as the staggering number of high end restaurants opening in Austin increases, look for owners to hire seasoned waiters from larger food cities. And look for better local training programs for new waiters to ramp up.
Will Austin ever be a town of above average or even extraordinary tippers? Difficult to say, but the almost uniformly hard-working men and women who perform this sometimes thankless job in Austin certainly deserve our support. That is, of course, when they’ve upheld their end of the bargain.