You’ve probably noticed that many menus state “gratuity may be added to parties of 6 or more”. In most restaurants it’s usually left to the server’s discretion whether or not to include the gratuity at the end of the meal. Sometimes this gamble pays off and ensures the server a standard tip while other times the party may have left a more generous percentage. As a server, we will never know if our judgment call was a good one.
While the “auto grat” is usually reserved for large parties, in Jackson some restaurants also use it to offer a little extra protection to their front of house staff in a few other instances. Due to our touristic clientele, servers are often allowed to add gratuity to non-English speaking or foreign tables as well as to locals receiving the local appreciation discount or the infamous 2-for-1 off-season specials. These last two circumstances protect the service staff in situations where the guests don’t know how to tip, either in a foreign country or in a situation where a discount applies and a tip can often be overlooked for the total services provided.
In most of the restaurants I’ve worked the servers see it as a mini blessing, an automatic guarantee we’re going to be taken care of monetarily. In a sea of two-top turn and burns the occasional six or more is a sigh of relief in any of our sections. It doesn’t mean your server takes the opportunity to slack off, it simply means we know that what my idea of a good tip is and what yours is will match expectations.
Diners can enjoy their dinner and I can enjoy knowing that your “verbal gratuity” (a meaningful but far less lucrative accolade) won’t be the only form of tip I’ll be receiving. Guests who profusely shower us with praise for our service and a wonderful dining experience too often tip roughly 10-15%. Sad but true. To service industry professionals compliments are meaningful but money talks.
The auto grat lends itself to another small phenomenon. Servers like to refer to the mythical, potentially accidental, karma challenging double gratuity, aka ”the double grat”.
In a majority of cases the menu has stated that your gratuity “may be included…” Your server has also probably marked or starred the line item on your check that lists “20% gratuity” or in the very least they have hopefully reminded you of it’s inclusion as they lay the check presenter next to your espresso cup at the completion of dinner.
So when you’re table has been cleared and your party has moved on to the bars and your server goes to close out your bill and you’ve left an additional gratuity, what are we to do? Or are we to assume it was accidental? In most cases it would be impossible to track down the customer and ask if they were aware gratuity was included. I have worked in some restaurants where it is considered stealing to close out the credit card of a careless (or super generous) consumer and others that consider this a lucky bonus to its servers. What do you think? Let us know on the comments below!