Restaurant Weeks' Tipping Debate

Houston Restaurant Weeks' tipping debate: And why most waitresses & waiters love the event (no, really)

Houston Restaurant Weeks tipping debate: And why many waiters love HRW

waiter waiting on people waiting for check
Remember to tip your waiter when you ask for that Houston Restaurant Weeks check.

So how many restaurants have you sampled this month?

Houston Restaurant Weeks is in full swing. One of the greatest things to happen on the Houston dining scene, this fundraiser allows folks to sample different restaurant menus they might not otherwise try, at reduced prices, and a portion of the meal price is donated to the Houston Food Bank.

Founder Cleverley Stone, a food journalist and radio talk show host, came up with the idea in 2003 and since then the program, run entirely by volunteers, has donated more than $4.3 million to the food bank.

It’s a great idea. The nonprofit food bank loves it, the restaurants that are gaining extra diners love it and the people who depend on the food bank love it.

 "Houston Restaurant Weeks’ customers do tend to tip less than our regulars. But the extra volume of diners makes up for it.” 

But what about the servers?

Well, turns out they love it as well. Even though they may not be making as much money.

“It’s really great for business,” says one local waitress. “We get a lot of new people in here and some of them become regulars and we’ll see them all year long.”

Besides feeling philanthropic, one of the reasons people reserve Houston Restaurant Weeks’ meals is because of the great price. You can dine at fine restaurants and enjoy a three- to four-course dinner for $45. Seven dollars of which goes to the food bank.

But think about this for a moment: Your waiter is working just as hard — if not harder because they want to impress new guests and hopefully lure them back — for that meal as they would if it were at the regular, higher price.

But they are likely to get a smaller tip because of the reduced Restaurant Weeks price.

Tip Trouble?

Here’s the trick to being treated like a VIP at a restaurant. You don’t need to be a celebrity or a food writer. You just need to be a regular, and not a curmudgeonly regular like Old Joe in Waitress. No, just be a regular guest who is kind and tips well. And by tipping well I mean at least 15 percent. If you can afford 20 percent, that will make you a rock star in the eyes of your server.

And here’s another tip. Base the percentage on the regular bill. Not on a discount. I admit I sometimes forget this (Montrose Mondays at El Real Tex-Mex for example), but I try to make up for it next time. Oh, and even if you pay with a credit card, tipping in cash is much appreciated by your server.

 “I don’t mind,” says another server, “because it’s all for a good cause.” 

“Houston Restaurant Weeks’ customers do tend to tip less than our regulars,” says one server. “But the extra volume of diners makes up for it.”

So that evens out, except that the waiters and waitresses are working more tables for less money than they would make if the prices were not reduced.

“I don’t mind,” says another server, “because it’s all for a good cause.”

And that’s another great thing about Houston restaurants. The people who work in them are usually pretty awesome.

So support your local servers. And if you are checking out new places during Houston Restaurant Weeks try to tip well because the staff is really doing its best to impress you. They are doing it for a good cause and they may be losing a little money in the process.

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