Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

You ask "Can we transfer the bar tab to our table?"

And I reply, "Certainly, although it's our preference that you settle your bill at the bar."

Awhile ago, a savvy customer on a busy Saturday night was considerate enough to ask me why bartenders prefer for him to settle his bill at the bar. He was happy to pay it, but he actually wanted to know why I stated it as my preference.

I liked him immediately.

Here's why we say that, diners, just as I told him... because if you transfer your $78.00 bar tab to your table, your bartender will never, ever see your gratuity. The bartender might have made $14.00 on that tab, but the server is required to tip me out only 5% of that, once it shows up on his check. The server gets the $14.00 you would have tipped anyway, as a part of your overall bill, and I get 70 cents. Sure, we gently remind servers of the really big tabs we transfer, but I can't, and don't, expect them to keep that all straight. 5%. That's what we get.

You probably think we're going to get tipped all the same, work it out in the end, but it doesn't happen that way in practice. If you don't pay us before you sit down, the bartender doesn't get a tip.

You added the middleman. And the middleman took it right out of my bottom line. That's nothing against servers. They work a hell of a lot harder than I do, trust me, but they didn't sell you that bar tab, and they shouldn't be tipped on it.

It doesn't cost you a dime more to settle your bill at the bar before moving to your table to dine, but your convenience costs the bartender her tip, although we took your orders, mixed your drinks and provided you with light and frothy conversation and entertainment while you waited for your table. I will try to be funnier, and even more charming, if it means you can whip out your credit card twice in one night.

It's like the doctor's office, in a way... Payment Upon Services Rendered.

I accept the fact that you don't know any better, but, sure, I'll transfer your tab to your table. Thanks for nothing, yutzo.

So, remember this... while you're free to do as you please, and we'll smile and do as you like and never hip you to protocol so as not to appear rude, the savvy diner should know that bartenders are appreciative when you settle your account at the bar, and tip accoringly, before moving to your table.

And if you'd rather keep it simple, which you seem to define as an entire dining experience as one credit card transaction, how about throwing down a few bucks cash before transferring your tab and leaving the bar, instead of essentially stiffing me? Yes, you don't know any better. But there's a thought.

Thank you, good evening, and enjoy your dinner.

I refer to a $78.00 bar tab, because it belonged to the gentleman (and his party, of course) who posed the question that inspired this post. He listened intently to this rant, and then slapped down a $20 tip.

He said, "Who knew?"

Otherwise, the bar is ours
The day, and the night, and the car wash, too
The matches, and the Buds, and the clean and dirty cars
The sun and the moon
- "All I Wanna Do" Sheryl Crow