A friend and I went to a local diner, not upscale, not fancy, but the food is good, the prices reasonable, and the service is generally very good. Tonight we got our beverages quickly, and then things slowed down. The server took quite a while to come take our orders, it took a long time for the food to show up, probably 20 minutes, and when it did arrive it had cooled off quite a bit. As we both had fries, that was kind of a problem. For the first time ever there our water glasses were allowed to get empty and my ice tea was pretty close. On the upside, our server did apologize for the slow service, and - when asked - admitted that they only had 3 people working the dining room (when they would usually have 4 or 5.) And of course as fate would have it, it was a particularly busy night, with all tables occupied and people waiting (a good thing to see in this economy.) It even took an unusually long time to get our check and payment taken care of.
So how to tip? On one hand the server was still responsible to see that our food was delivered at the correct temperature, even if it was slow. The server was still responsible to see that we had beverages, and to get us out promptly so that they could turn the table. On the other hand, he was working hard, never saw him pause, he was polite and apologetic, and never used the 'sorry we are short staffed tonight' as an excuse.
I believe he really was doing his best under difficult circumstances, and that there was little he could have done to mitigate things beyond being pleasant, so I tipped as I usually would. I'm not going to get into a discussion as to what percentage that was, suffice to say it was on the liberal side of the normal range for this particular restaurant, but not excessive. Any feedback? Might I have been a little less generous? Should i have tipped higher in recognition of his extra effort? Or was figuring that it more or less evened out the most reasonable course, which is what I did.