Protestors have taken to the streets of Beverly Hills accusing Urasawa, one of the country’s most exclusive and expensive restaurants, of theft. The victims however, are not the well-heeled patrons but are instead the servers and kitchen staff who were cheated out of compensation.
Urasawa, a world renowned Japanese restaurant, has been ordered to pay fines and back wages because it failed to pay overtime or provide breaks to employees.
Before making the career jump to journalism, I worked in the service industry for several years as a server - or waitress, depending on what generation you’re from. While I loved my job most of the time (great guests and cheap food whenever I wanted it), I quickly realized that some people didn’t quite understand the difference between server and servant.
Like every server, I had my fair share of horror stories: a 25-cent tip on a $19 bill, men who felt it was socially appropriate to pinch me as I walked past and, of course, the customer who was never wrong (even if they sent their steak back more than twice). So while I adhered to the idea that the customer was always right, that didn’t give the customer free rein to act like a jerk.
It appears that not everyone shares my opinion, though. After dining at an Applebee’s in St. Louis, Missouri, one customer not only left no tip, but also wrote a snarky comment on her bill.
Chelsea Welch, another server in the restaurant, snapped a picture of the receipt and posted it to the social media-sharing website Reddit. The Consumerist later picked up the story, if only for Welch’s equally snarky picture title, “My mistake sir, I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.”
Chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain is now a CNN contributor. He will travel around the globe to places such as Myanmar, Israel and the Congo as host of a new CNN show premiering this April. Follow him on Twitter @bourdain.
When you’re a small, independently owned and operated restaurant in New York City, the perishable inventory you just had to throw out of your warm refrigerators as a result of Superstorm Sandy may have been valued at, say, $2000 (to pick a completely arbitrary and optimistic number). And that’s what, in a perfect world, you might presumably, hopefully, eventually get back from the insurance company. If you’re lucky.
But the real value of that food was at least three times that amount from the second it entered the door. That’s the number you were counting on generating once that food was prepared and served. More likely, that’s the amount you needed to generate to cover the expenses of operating your restaurant.
Our sister site HLN reports that a Houston, Texas family claims they were locked inside La Fisherman restaurant after refusing to pay a 17 percent tip on their meal. The restaurant's policy states that the percentage will be automatically added to the tab for parties of five or more.
Customer Jasmine Marks told Click2Houston.com that the staff was rude, the drinks weren't refilled and her group received generally poor service. Marks asked if she could speak to a manager to have the auto-gratuity stripped from the bill, but claims the staff locked the doors and told her that her options were to pay the 17 percent or speak with the police outside.
Alec Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. did it. So did Zach Galifianakis and Jon Stewart. Table bussing is generally one of the lowest-paid, least glamorous restaurant gigs, but it's almost a rite of passage for those entering the service industry.
The word "busboy" (or girl) comes from a combination of "bus," derived from omnibus - meaning ‘dealing with numerous objects and items at once - and "boy," because at the time (1910 or so) most positions were filled by young men.
Duties typically include removing finished plates and glasses, resetting tables and, fairly often, cleaning up diners' spills and messes. Restaurant labor was divided this way so that servers could spend more time tending to tables. Some restaurants even go as far as to separate table setting, bussing, refilling water and food running into individual jobs.
Jim Boulden is a CNN Business 360 correspondent
I've just gotten back from a ten day holiday trip in the U.S., which included a lot of meals, bars, baseball games and hotel rooms – which means, of course, a lot of tipping, or not as the case may be.
I may be American by birth, but I have spent 20 years overseas and so I have to re-learn when to tip, how much to tip, and how to get out of tipping when it feels right.
I am also cheap. I hate the pressure to tip but I am quite happy to tip well when the service warrants. I also know well that many an American teenager survive off the tips, something non Americans don't seem to readily understand.
Read Jim's tipping tips at Tipping traps in the U.S.
At the front of the room, Pierre Siue calls roll. The rest of the room stands in their uniforms quietly, attentively, collectively with pens and pads out ready to jot down the notes from today.
A man with slicked-back silver hair approaches the front of the room carrying a wooden tray - part of today's lesson. "This is from Connecticut," he says pointing to the object on the right of the tray. "And this, is from Provence," pointing to his left. "Both are washed rind and will be new cheese selections on the menu this evening."
This is DANIEL, the flagship restaurant of famed French chef Daniel Boulud - one of seven restaurants in Manhattan with a New York Times four-star review and one of five with three Michelin stars. And this is the meeting held every day before dinner service, where the maître d' goes over the reservation book details, executive chef Jean François Brue explains any addendum to the menu and the general manager Pierre Siue oversees the calm before the dinner rush storm.
There are no models or aspiring actors in the room. It's an education, a continuing education at that - but it's also a career where the word "part-time" doesn't exist in a world where the profession of serving tables is typically viewed as a transient one.
The tree is trimmed. The halls are decked. The gifts are wrapped. The list has been checked - twice, even.
Then you remember Matt at the local watering hole, who knows how to make a gimlet sing. And master oyster shucker Carl at the neighborhood fish counter, who has saved your digits from meeting their gruesome death time and time again.
OH, and what about the maître d' at that little Italian joint you love, who always seems to find a table for you on a full night? And crap, the smiley barista that has your 160-degree skim, no whip, decaf mocha awaiting every morning at 7:45 on the dot.
Figuring out how much to tip and who to tip during the holidays can be as stressful as dealing with the in-laws. Here's a few tips of our own (Editor's Note: Granted, we live in New York, which just happens to be one of the tip-happiest places in the world. Not how you tip in your neck of the woods? Let us know in the comments.):
"Ding dong." "Buzz." "Knock, knock." Delivery.
It’s pizza. Or sushi. Or Chinese food, Italian, Thai, burritos or burgers. I fumble for my wallet, secretly wishing my husband makes it to our apartment door first. I have no desire to be the one to decide how much to tip the delivery guy. Some women want a man around when it’s time to kill an insect or plunge the toilet – my fear is the delivery tip.
Ordering in food is a way of life in New York. Our kitchens are small, our work days long, our social calendars are full and perhaps we’re just lazy. We also can pick from nearly any type food imaginable – from dirt cheap to high end – and have it delivered to our door in a matter of minutes. It’s a huge convenience, but it’s partially offset by the anxiety of figuring out the tip. If I’m the one to answer the door, I usually grab the receipt from the delivery guy (and no, I have never seen a woman doing the job) [Ed. note - plenty of delivery ladies out here in Brooklyn], scan it and try to do some quick math in my head.