|The idea of tipping at a restaurant, or anywhere for that matter, is obviously quite dumb. I understand the typical response: "Waiters and waitresses only get paid $2.50 an hour, so they couldn't survive without tips." I'm sorry, but that doesn't sound like a very good excuse. I had a job at McDonald's. I was paid $5.15 an hour, which was below minimum wage at the time, but was considered appropriate because I got free food. The point is that serving food, cutting hair, and other jobs that force you to survive on tips aren't the only jobs out there (I'll insert my foot into my mouth as soon as this whole Hurricane Katrina and subsequent gas crisis obliterate our economy and cause us to lose our jobs).
If you're a decent person, you tip regardless of how your meal or service was. You may tip only 15% instead of 20% if your service was slow, but you still tip. The dumbest thing about this is that the tip is solely dependent on the price of the food. So if you get the most expensive crab cake on the menu, the tip will be the same as for a 2-person meal. But because it was the catch of the day and therefore more expensive, the tip is bigger. It's not like it was any harder to cook, serve, or clean up. And if there were flies in your soup or boogers in your salad, you might only give a 12% tip. Ouch. But let's do some math: 12% of $100 is $12. 20% of $20 is $4. Those are some expensive boogers.
[Update (2006-09-12 2:44pm): I think what I was trying to say with that last statement is that a bad tip on an expensive meal is more than a good tip on a cheap meal.]
So my recommendation to those of you entering the food service industry is this: Work at an expensive restaurant instead of a diner. If you don't know what's expensive, start out with Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and work your way up from there. Not only will your tips be about 5 times as much simply because of the price of the food, but you'll also be serving food to people who can afford expensive food. These are the people who are more likely to leave a bigger tip. And if you work at an expensive restaurant near a corporate or otherwise travel-heavy area, you're also more likely to attract business-people with the "corporate card". This is a magical piece of plastic that has an infinite credit limit and unlimited rewards. There are no bills. There are no "no's". Everything's a yes and it's beautiful all the time.
*Note: I don't have a corporate card. Seriously. #money