Dear Waiter:

My girlfriend and I had a romantic dinner at a fancy restaurant last night. We had such a wonderful time that we stayed for four hours. The service was good and I tipped the waiter 20%. This morning I felt out of sorts about the tip. Since my girlfriend and I stayed at the table so long and prevented him from getting another table, should I have given the waiter extra in the tip?

Dear Sir:

Technically you don’t need to leave extra money no matter how long you stay. But if you and your girlfriend get a reputation among the neighborhood waiters as always taking forever to eat, you may find yourself getting less than stellar service in the future.

Waiters get frustrated with lingering diners because they can’t turn the table and earn another tip. It’s simple economics. If a waiter knows a table in their section normally generates $20 a turn, then they expect that table to yield them $50-$60 for the night. The relationship between a waiter and his or her tables is like the relationship between a pimp and his whores. Waiters get pissed when their “girls” can’t make money for “Daddy” because customers are taking too long or getting freaky with the merchandise. While pimps unfairly take out their frustrations on the working girl, a waiter just pimp slaps the customers. If the servers know you’re the take-four-hour-to-eat type they’ll avoid you like the plague. Your reservations will mysteriously disappear, you’ll never get a nice table, and you’ll always get the trainee. We might even be rude! Of course, if you compensate the waiter for the extra time you take, all is forgiven. For example, if you tie up a table that normally yields $20 per turn for four hours and leave $30-40, then the waiter will be grateful. The restaurant’s owner, however, will be less than thrilled.

If you think waiters are the only ones trying to hustle people out the door you’re gravely mistaken. Restaurant owners HATE customers that take forever. A diner might make it up to a waiter by leaving extra in the tip, but what can they do for the owner? Pay the bill twice? I don’t think so. Owners and managers are constantly pressuring servers to “turn and burn” tables in order to increase revenue. Waiters often insulate their favorite customers from management’s rapaciousness, but they’ll gladly push the average to cheap tipper out the door. Every restaurant owner has a rough idea how much money in sales a waiter should generate each night. A waiter won’t be a waiter long if they don’t hit that revenue target. You see, restaurant owners are like pimps and waiters are like whores. And believe me, management definitely slaps around the talent.

It’s tough out there to be a pimp

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