I just got off the phone with a girlfriend who is a waitress at a restaurant. Tonight it was her turn to work to go orders, and for some reason the restaurant was unusually busy. Due to an unexpected surge in the volume of customers, orders started to back up. The cooks worked as quickly as possible to fill orders but, let's face it, sometimes you just can't speed up the time it takes to prepare a dish properly.
My girlfriend worked her butt off all night dealing with about twice the usual volume of business. She served more than $1,200 worth of orders, but when she added up her tips at the end of the evening, she had less than $60. That's less than 5 percent. However, our good ol' US Govt. is going to tax her as if she was tipped 15 percent of those receipts. Seems that the customers were irate about having to wait a little longer than usual, so many of them decided to stiff her. She acknowledges the fact that people don't tip as much for takeout (she thinks that 10 percent is okay), but less than 5 percent on $1,200 worth of receipts is an insult.
The result of this: she worked twice as hard as usual but came home with less money in her pocket from her hard work, and she now owes the government taxes on "income" she didn't make. Has our society become so friggin' selfish and instant-gratification oriented that we can't acknowledge someone's hard work with a few extra dollars? What should a restaurant do in a situation like this? Risk pissing off customers by telling people that they can't serve them because they're too busy? Part of the problem was that the seating area was extremely busy and "overflow" customers decided to get take-out orders instead - that alleviates some of the stress on the servers in the dining room but the kitchen is still stressed.
Last night I was talking with another girlfriend who used to work as a waitress at an upscale restaurant in the Bay Area, and she said that customers often treated her cruelly and with disrespect. She happens to be one of the sweetest people I know, which makes this so hard to believe. Sometimes she was subjected to insults that would make a truck driver's behavior in a strip bar seem genteel in comparison.
I guess my point is that we should all make some effort to respect the people who serve us food. It's not an easy job. Not too many other jobs require you to be "on" all the time - to put on a smiling face after the manager just yelled at you, to try to keep from crying when a customer insulted you, or to act as if your personal problems back at home aren't bothering you. Food servers are people and they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. And they deserve to be tipped accordingly.
Now, being ignored by a server when the restaurant is nearly empty is another matter altogether . . .