In 2014, a pastor, Chad Roberts, was heartbroken to know that food service workers consider Sunday the worst day for customer behavior and tips. Worse, the prime offenders are church groups. Waiters often regard the sight of a group saying grace in a restaurant to be a sign of a lousy tip, and of a table that will be occupied for hours, and left looking as if the customers had never been out to eat before.
Another pastor, Alois Bell, wrote a note on an Applebee’s receipt: “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18%?”
On another occasion, a waitress was considering becoming a churchgoer that very day, after a tragedy in her life, but the behavior of a church group at her table led her to change her mind. They were from the very church she had been thinking of joining. The customers spoke rudely to her, left fake money and left such a bad impression that the waitress decided not to go to any church, and to sleep Sunday mornings instead.
Such treatment of workers, who sometimes survive entirely on tips, is simply wrong, and seriously unchristian.
Roberts decided to remedy the situation. He set up the site “Sundays Are the Worst”, where workers can relate their experiences anonymously, and receive personal apologies from Roberts on behalf of all Christians.
I have been to restaurants as part of church groups on Sundays, and I have seen that around half my friends are actually kind to staff, but the other half are shocking. Going out to eat transforms some good, caring, humble folks into imperious and inconsiderate table campers, and I don’t understand why.
When I have asked, the answers I get still don’t make sense. Some say that they are there as a meeting, not as people having a meal, so they assume they are allowed to use the space as they would a church meeting space. It is not the same, though. In a restaurant, there is a line constantly forming for your table. Someone else is doing the cleanup. Someone’s survival depends on your tip. You can’t treat it like a classroom.
Others say that the subject of food is so personal to them that they want to send orders back over and over, complain loudly, treat staff as a nuisance and linger forever. Otherwise they feel as if they are the ones being mistreated. The thing is, though, being a sensitive customer is a special privilege, an extra in this world, and extras cost extra, they don’t cost less. If you need special treatment you have to pay for it.
And still others rarely go out anywhere, the monthly church group lunch being their only luxury, and the responsibility of paying is left unsettled until after the check arrives. They do not know the etiquette, they are overcome by the novelty, they want attention on some level, and the have no realistic idea how much things cost or what the standard gratuity is. Such people need to educate themselves on manners and the economics of the restaurant world before the next time they go out.
People going to a restaurant need to figure out who is paying what before they go, and make sure they can afford to tip before deciding where to go. People with special dietary needs cannot realistically expect any given restaurant to accommodate them. People who plan a long meeting need to make sure the place they are going is not too crowded for their meeting.
Some church groups are good as far as table manners, business manners and tipping are concerned, but have the mistaken idea that workers are allowed to discuss religion on the job. Or, they think a worker has actually never heard of the Christian faith and will appreciate a tract or verse in lieu of a tip. While there have been people who appreciated being given a tract, I am certain that few if any were excited to get one when they needed a tip.
The absolute best way to share the faith at a restaurant is to pray visibly (but not loudly), then be a good customer.