0319_DNR_Econ Task Force_2

Jeremy Cohen, at left, and his brother, Matthew Cohen, of Harrisonburg, walk out of Lola's Delicatssen with their carryout order Tuesday.

Never worked in the service industry, eh?

Never spent a shift slinging drinks from behind a bar, refilling sodas or balancing two trays of food on your shoulders while walking out of a busy kitchen, slicing and dicing your way through an obstacle course of tables, chairs and unruly kids (and adults)?

Oh, boy. You don’t know what you’re missing.

Yes, it’s a thankless job, but some of the best years of our lives were spent doing exactly those things. Struggling through college or the early portions of our post-college life and looking for a little extra folding money to help offset rent, college loans and/or car payments, we made lifelong friends in the go-out-back-and-complain-about-everything world of working in a bar or restaurant. (And, boy, could we complain.)

And we did it for next to nothing.

We did it with a smile and great attitude because we knew we were depending on those tips. Ever try explaining to a customer unhappy with their food that they should still drop 20% your way if the service — you know, your job — was good? Yeah, us neither. That was frowned upon back in the day, even if enough customers didn’t know how the whole tipping process worked.

Yes, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s decree Monday includes new policies that mean restaurants will be limited to only carryout, curbside pickup or delivery. Missing in there is the front-of-house help — the waitstaff, the bartenders, the door hosts. You know who these people are, they’re the ones who depend on your tips to pay the rent and put food on their plates.

Surely, we hope, local restaurants will put the waitstaff to good use during this time, treating curbside cars like tables full of people and making the process as assembly-line as possible with multiple people filling multiple orders to keep the cars moving.

That’s our hope, at least.

But reality may not match up. We expect some of our service industry friends to lose their jobs — hopefully temporarily. We expect the ones who will be lucky enough to stay employed might expect the tips they depend on to drop.

So now is the time to be a little more generous when it comes to tipping. Twenty percent? If you can, up that a bit. That person delivering pizza to your driveway? Now is when you should toss a bigger bone their way.

Don’t worry, restaurant service industry. There are plenty of us out there who graduated from that much-missed school of hard knocks and, trust us, you know darn well we’ll make sure we’ll give all we can.

Now comes the tough part — convincing the rest.

(1) comment

Neal Frankel

Thank you for a very timely piece.

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