Mouse Manners

Tip On The Service, Not The Food

Dear Mouse Manners,

My last Disney meal was underwhelming, but the service was spectacular. At our request, the hostess moved us from a table by the kitchen to a table by the window and our server was engaging, knowledgeable, and attentive.

Because the food itself was not very good and we waited almost an hour to get it, the group I was with left a tip below 10%. As I was leaving, I threw some extra cash on the table when no one was looking.

What’s the appropriate tip to leave in this situation?

Embarrassed Patron

Dear EP,

Let me get this straight. The kitchen staff let you down, so you all decided to punish your host, your server, and his or her assistants  –  the only people who treated you with respect? I’m guessing you were trying to “send a message”.

Well guess what? You mailed the letter to the wrong address.

This position is controversial, but I strongly believe that TIPPING IS FOR THE SERVICE YOU RECEIVE, not the food. If you get great service, then a quality tip is the proper thing to do. On the flip side, if you receive stellar food but crappy service, then by all means tip less.

While I will acknowledge with slight appreciation your cowardly effort to atone for your fellow diners by throwing a twenty on the table before you ran for the door, you missed the boat on this one. Some poor server in the future is going to be abused by this group again.

The standard tip for sit-down service is 15-20% (pre-tax). If you receive outstanding service, tip the 20%. If you use a coupon or a gift card, you should tip 15-20% on the pre-tax total BEFORE the discount is applied.

So, what should you have done about the poor quality of your food and the wait? You should have said something. Nicely. Here are some examples.

Your food is poorly prepared (i.e., raw or burned, too much salt, not what your ordered, etc.) Let your server or host know right away. In your case, you already knew your server was highly competent. Why didn’t you give him or her a chance to fix the problem for you?

If your food is well-prepare, just not to your liking, is that really the restaurant’s fault? I personally would just suck it up and blame myself for my own bad ordering. But, if you can’t do that then kindly explain the situation to the server and ask if you can have something else. (And if the server does bring you a new meal, that’s the kind of “good service” that should be rewarded at the high-end of the tipping spectrum.)

As for the wait, there really isn’t much your server can do about it if the kitchen is behind but do say something to a manager. 

Many people complain because they hope a manager will offer to discount the bill (actually, this is probably the only reason people complain). If an item is inedible, having the cost removed from the bill is a gesture most managers will make. But don’t ask for compensation if you’ve eaten half of the meal. Speak up after the first bite or two.

In the future, Embarrassed Patron, remember to boldly and openly support great service. The generous example you set will hopefully rub off on those around you.


Mouse Manners

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