In the second of a five-part series, Eoin Higgins reveals the tricks of the restaurant racket to get you to spend more.
Part II – The Tender Touch – How the healing art of touch can ignite your desire to tip, generously.
I had the ‘tender touch’ on the shoulder at a fairly new restaurant only the other night. I had it twice in fact, and I took two per cent off the tip for each time. Not because I was feeling particularly mean, for once, but because it was so fake it made me cringe. Throughout the meal, there was nary a glimmer of a smile, but once it got close to bill time, the love machine was turned up to eleven.
Of course, waiting is a tough job – long, anti-social hours dealing with disgruntled diners with a bloated sense of entitlement, not to mention the screaming prima-donnas in the kitchen who’ve watched far too many episodes of Chef’s Table – but the shoulder touch is particularly sneaky. Also known as “the Midas touch effect”, it’s where your server touches you on the shoulder close to, or when you are about to, pay your bill. It’s a subliminal, psychologically nurturing gesture and diners unaware that it is happening tend to tip more in return for the imitation shoulder love.
At the best of times, the whole pre-bill love thing is enough to drive even the most understanding diner to distraction. Let’s face it, if a server finds it difficult being hospitable throughout the whole meal, maybe they shouldn’t be in the hospitality industry? That said, it pays to have a couple of annoying questions, or requests, to counteract a sour grapes server: “Is the honey wild?”, “Where does your Parma ham come from?”, or “Can I get an egg white omelette after my dessert, please? As a smoothie.”
So beware the fake touch, the phony “Darling”, the fraudulent smiley face on your bill, and any other sham endearments if they only appear come check time. Meanwhile, if you do, in fact, get good service, 12.5% of the total bill is the very least you should be dropping. And that’s whether the food was “wow” or “ew”, you’re tipping for service, not execution.
Next week … Part III – A Fair Share – Sides, nibbles, sharing platters and small plates – the dishes designed to share that are anything but sharable.