Shoddy Service for Diners Splitting a Meal

July 27, 2013

in Server Stories

My wife and I are retired. We are active and financially secure, and enjoy dining out three to five times a month. For a variety of reasons, our appetites are not what they used to be and we don’t drink alcoholic beverages. Normally we split an entrée and an appetizer, and have iced tea or water. Dessert is out of the question. We know to tip on what the bill would have been for two people eating “normal” meals with the result that our tips are in the 30-50% range of the actual meal charge. Usually this isn’t a problem; the wait staff have generally been polite throughout the meal and pleasantly surprised with their gratuity. However…

Recently we went to a familiar restaurant on a slow night. A lot of the staff had been released for the evening and there was no one there we recognized immediately. Our waiter was new and started off being courteous and attentive.

When we let him know we were going to split one meal between us, though, his attitude changed noticeably. His visits to our table became perfunctory and infrequent. The entrée we ordered, one of our favorites, usually takes 15-20 minutes to come out, but that night it took 35. The dish was not hot and barely palatable; I believe he deliberately left it sitting before he brought it out as there were not enough other customers for the kitchen to be backed up. And he never came back to see how the meal was or to refill our waters.

We were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a person having a bad night, lowering our tip to 30%. But at the end, when he dropped off the bill we both heard him mutter under his breath, “Cheap old <bleeps> should stay home.”

At that point we called the manager over. After describing what had happened and relating our usual habits at his restaurant, he offered to comp our meal. I refused but also declined to tip the culprit.

We haven’t been back to see if the waiter is still on staff. I wonder, however, what we could have done differently to avoid his attitude. Announcing at the start of the meal “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you” is well-known code for “You’re going to be stiffed.” Any thoughts?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack July 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I would not offer any explanation. How much extra effort did the server have exert to bring an extra plate and glass of water to your wife? You seem to imply that you are embarrassed for just ordering one meal, thats ridiculous, you're still a paying customer.

Some restaurants will impose a "sharing" charge, I've never understood why, but if you like the food I guess it's worth it.


Argan January 31, 2014 at 8:15 pm

The reason for the sharing charge is because often when diners split a meal, they have different requests as to how they want the meal prepared. For example, with a steak, the patrons could request half be medium rare, the other well-done. One person could request garlic butter sauce on her pasta while hubby wants a tomato sauce. So you see, there is the potential to cause as much prep/cooking time as when 2 entrees are ordered,


Monica R. April 29, 2016 at 6:42 pm

I have never in 25 years of serving had anyone order one steak two different temperatures nor do I know any reputable restaurant that would cook it that way.


Serenity July 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Wow, how rude. You don't need to feel obligated to tell someone how much you're going to eat, why, or how much you'll tip them. It doesn't bother me at all when my guests split meals…and I sometimes recommend if I know they're not that hungry, as our portions are quite large. Some of my favorite regulars do the same as you. I enjoy them bc they're usually pretty low maintenance and can give me a bit of a break if I'm having a busy night. Don't stay away from a restaurant you enjoy over one rude server, who was probably severely reprimanded or possibly even fired for his behavior. He's the one who should feel bad and be embarrassed, not you.


Shawn January 25, 2015 at 8:53 pm

Very well said, Serenity!


Debbie Morella July 29, 2013 at 1:04 am

What an aware restaurant guest you are – we love those! But in this case, there's nothing you could do. Unfortunately, you were the victim of a new and growing breed of 'entitled servers'. Somehow they have been led to believe that they deserve a tip just for showing up for work, and they genuinely think they know more than they do – like who's going to tip what. (They also don't have the common sense to keep their negative thoughts to themselves.) I'm sorry you and your wife were subjected to his rudeness and I hope for the sake of the caring and hard working servers in that place, that he was fired. They deserve to work with better. Servers like that are poison in an already difficult industry.


Estelle July 31, 2016 at 7:22 pm

As a chef, I often wonder why more eateries do not offer senior dishes. Seems the western world has a lot to learn about respect for elders. Do not worry about this. Go out and enjoy eating. You were right….he was wrong.


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