Restaurants not serving blacks for Essence Festival? But Why?
I heard that Pat O’ Briens was closed Essence weekend for food service along with a slew of other restaurants in the French Quarter and I was livid! I felt that closing popular eateries in the quarter was a direct message to black people about how racial stereotypes in America still exist. Why wouldn’t popular places want to serve the Essence crowd? I found out that the same places that close for Essence, also close for Bayou Classic weekend, but why?
It didn’t take long to for me to come to the answer. Having served in a restaurant for two years and having dealt with both the Essence and Bayou Classic crowds I have to say, sadly, that the negative stereotypes about black people in restaurants are true. Last year for example, I don’t think I had one plate that didn’t go back to the kitchen during Essence festival weekend, not one. Something was always wrong with the food-it was too cold, it wasn’t good, the bread didn’t taste right- and was sent back after the meal was almost completely eaten. After the complaints about food quality, came a demand for the removal of the item from the bill, some just walk right out on the bill. To add insult to injury, we don’t tip the server well, if at all. This is the server’s reward for having been beaten down verbally by the customer, sometimes even laughed at and taunted with silly requests. I’ve actually had a lady ask me to bring boiling hot water from the kitchen and re-clean the silverware in front of her to her liking. I’ve even had a woman ask me if she treated me badly, I smiled and said no just to be nice she then responded “don’t feel bad, it’s not personal I do this everywhere I go.”
Because I am black, and I’ve served, I understand both sides of this ugly coin. Restaurants don’t want to open, because they loose a ton of money these weekends due to food comps and bill walkouts. However, closing these restaurants completely is not fair to the people who just genuinely want to eat a good meal in the big easy, pay what they owe, and tip their server accordingly.
The only reason I think so many black people act this way is because we don’t know the standards for tipping in the service industry, and we don’t understand how it works, I’m about to educate you.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor all employees must make at least minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). However, because servers are tipped employees employers are only required to give them a base pay, that base pay requirement is $2.13 an hour. The base pay is so small; tips are a necessary part of the server’s income.
Gone are the days when 15 percent is standard for food service waiters, you should tip between 18-20 percent of your bill before the tax was added. A good rule of thumb is to double the tax, which is usually about 9 percent of the bill, that would give you an 18 percent gratuity for your server.
As far as everything else goes, I can’t educate people on how to be polite, and to pay what you owe, that comes from home. However, as an adult, you should know that your server is not your personal slave for the hour or so you’re at the restaurant. Every request should be followed by a please and a thank you. The golden rule applies here just like everywhere else, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Post Written By: Jana Graber