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Serving Suggestion

How a good tipper makes the rounds, and what happens when service goes sour.


Take Rob Kent, publisher of City Edition and Community Weekly. He may not want every server in town to recognize his face, but he's on the A-list at Sensi, one of his regular spots in Shockoe Bottom. Kent and his wife, Laurie, are enthusiastic diners with an appreciation for good service, and they "like an interactive experience," Kent says. "I think that dining is absolutely not just food and ambience. That huge third is service. If you're spending a good deal of money, you want someone who knows what they're doing. Personality and knowledge of their craft are important."

As a former waiter at Rochester Yacht Club in New York, Kent has learned what most servers wish their customers would understand: You can't blame the waiter for the quality of the food. So, like most servers, Kent's a generous tipper, usually at 30 percent of the check total.

His local favorites include La Grotta, Twenty-Seven, Bookbinder's, TJ's and Dogwood Grille & Spirits.

Not everyone is getting refined service, however. A Style reader writes of a particularly bad experience:

"This past Saturday night I had dinner at [a Fan District café] with friends. We decided to stay for drinks and our waitress left for a shift change so 'Melissa' was our new waitress.

"This waitress took our drink orders but for the little time that we saw her, she was extremely rude. We understood it must be a difficult job, dealing with a lot of drunk people in a small space but her attitude worsened as the night went on. When we asked for the check everyone put in their share plus tip. I don't know the exact percentage of the bill that she was given but it was more than 10 percent (but not quite 20 percent, which is the norm for my group of friends).

"When the waitress came to get our check she looked at the tip and came back to the table and asked why we had tipped so poorly and did we realize we hadn't given her 20 percent. We were all shocked and I asked if she was asking for more tip because we tipped what we thought was appropriate. She glared and said that she wanted to know what she had done because she thought she deserved more. There were a few things we wanted to say to her but didn't and instead, my friend kindly gave her another 10 bucks to just end the situation.

"I spoke to the manager on the way out and he didn't seem too concerned! He said well, as long as the tip is 15 percent or more then she shouldn't complain. He not once apologized for her behavior or said he would address the situation. On our way out we saw the waitress sit down at the table on the patio and take a shot with her friends. No wonder she was so rude, she was wasted and trying to work!

"That waitress really ended an otherwise fun evening on a sour note. Do waitresses have the right to ask for more of a tip?" S

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