Thursday, October 9, 2008

To Tip or Not?

“Excuse me, do you have a cappuccino?” said a woman at a home that I was catering for. I replied, “I am sorry miss. We only have Earl Grey tea or coffee.” “Oh,” she said. “Then I will have a mint tea please.”

I quickly ran into the kitchen (with just a thin wall dividing the dining room from the kitchen). I scurried around wondering what I was going to do to appease this woman, exhausted from an 18-hour day. How was I going to make this work? I looked into the cabinets of the person I was cooking for and found nothing.

“Mint tea,” I said to myself. “Grrrrr.”

I know that I am supposed to be catering to people’s needs, but sometimes people don’t realize that we are not a fully operational store with everything at our disposal.

“Think, Mary, Think.”

They had just finished their meal and dessert. And then it hit me. Of course! The dessert course! I quickly ran to the leftover mint that had been tossed about. I had two leaves left and a bunch of stems. My staff looked at me oddly as I began lightly smashing the leaves and stems of the mint to get the true essence out. I threw it all in a sauce pot with water and turned it on high. As quick as I could, I poured it into a tea cup and took it out to the customer with a little sweat on my brow, and of course the woman right next to her said, “Oh that looks delicious! I will have one too.” I ran back in to boil another cup, hoping enough flavor was left in the leaves and stems for just one more cup. Thankfully there was.

After we were all cleaned up, the client came up to me and thanked me for the attention that I had given to her guest. She handed me an envelope with a lovely tip, not only for me but also for my staff.

This experience reminded about how important it is to think on your toes. And how important is it to tip! Tipping is a gesture of kindness and gratitude. Even though we expect services at a restaurant or at our home, it is very kind and greatly appreciated when people tip.

I am constantly asked when catering an event in one’s home how much to tip. Here is how I would break it down. First of all, if it is an enormous event like a wedding or a large party, I would suggest tipping 20% on the overall cost of the event. This will take care of all the servers and the kitchen crew. However, if it is a smaller job, it is very kind if you tip $10 to $50 a person depending on their job title. Again, this is never expected but always greatly appreciated.Remember, the tip goes to the workers who probably are not making much money, and they are the ones making sure that all of your needs are met.

On another note, if you received the dinner as a gift, make sure that you consider tipping off of what the bill would have cost. You have to remember the person that paid your bill may not have considered the tip, and even though it is so wonderful that you get a free night out, you shouldn’t make the waiter suffer for your pleasures.

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