Very interesting thread. My girlfriend has been a server for about 7 years, she's actually good at it, but of course doesn't want to do it the rest of her life. Fortunately she's getting out of it now. But I digress. For obvious reasons I have a lot of understanding of and sympathy for the situation servers and other restaurant staff are in. It's an industry-wide systemic issue, and yes it's unlikely to change any time soon. So the thing is, I agree in principle with Josh, but I know that reality has other plans, so I tip - I tip fairly generously in fact. Usually no more than 20%, but seldom less than 15%! It *is* comensurate with service however.
The comments about service potentially being worse in other countries are very interesting for me. As I said I agree with Josh and have long wished for a more normal wage situation in food service, both for my needs as a customer, and for the stability and sanity of those employees. I've never really thought that maybe service *is* actually better as a result of our otherwise totally f*****d system though. Obviously a few anecdotal reports are not evidence enough, but it's intriguing at the least. Wraith's comments are particularly interesting, and echo my experiences with a significant other in the industry as well, i.e. not tipping just hurts the servers, it will never effect actual meaningful change.
I actually had vague notions of opening a restaurant at some point and trying an experiment: pay people good wages *and* give them benefits. The catch? I as the owner would not make any (or at least much) money off of it. A lot of owners, at least of successful restaurants, *do* make decent money off it; sometimes very good money. What do they do to justify it? Depends on the owner, certainly. But in many cases not much! Of course they did a lot more to begin with - they usually funded or at least managed it to start, they had the idea, they put in the work early on and got it started. And for many owners there can be a lot of ongoing maintenance, at least if they're not willing/able to hire a good manager. But anyway, I'm still curious just what it would cost to have a restaurant paying people decently, and not expecting tips... I don't really think 300% increase in food costs is necessary, quite honestly. But then I haven't done the math. I guess one interesting point is that the money is already there and has to come from somewhere. People pay *at most* 20% on average for tips, probably more like 10-15% is the average, and servers industry-wide basically "make ends meet", along with the bussers, cooks, dish washer, etc. So if that's the case, er, surely increasing the cost of everything 20% would do it??