The waitron industry in this country is slowly taking a professional route, but, it will still be a while before we see any semblance of the bloom we see in countries like France, Italy, America and more recently, Spain.
Short term money
Here’s the thing. Traditionally and still today a vast number of the waitrons that serve you are only in it for the short-term money. In the restaurants I have worked, waitrons are actors, writers, students, recovering drug addicts and so the list goes on. And yes, of course, sometime serious young people who would like to get ahead in the restaurant industry, until they realise the hours it entails for the reward on offer.
Not enough good ones
It is one of the biggest problems facing Cape Town restaurants. There are just not enough good waiters out there. Many people want jobs, few want to work. So what do you do with a work force that is itinerant and disinterested in their job as a future career? You motivate them. With what? Money. That is after all what they are there for.
Gamble on fixed salaries
So for people to say that restaurateurs should take care of their waiters – well sure. They can raise all the prices by 10% and at the end of the month hand over a salary. Does the salary then correspond to how much business the waiter in question brought in, or does the restaurateur gamble on a fixed salary and pocket the surplus and pay in the deficit?
You see, I would much rather have someone serving me who is motivated by the fact that I have control over their remuneration than someone who knows what is coming and just goes through the motions.
You should control what you tip
And yes, if you have had terrible service, you have every right to tip 5% and not suffer the remonstrations of the owner. You shouldn’t really even have to explain yourself, just don’t go back.
But the problem is tipping happens at the end of the lunch or dinner. After the wine and after the lovers' tiffs. And yes, I have seen people in bigger groups say things like: “That young man doesn’t deserve such a lot of money,” and pocket some of the kitty.
But the thing is they do, because a proper waiter works long, hard hours and has to put up with all the idiosyncrasies of all you different types who have no-one better to take your shitty day out on than someone serving you.
And by the time you have made up with sweetie-pie and are fast asleep in bed, they are polishing cutlery and setting up for the next day’s service.
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