Ask The Salty Waitress: Are Servers Trying To Sell Me On The Most Expensive Dish?

​Hello Salty,

I sometimes ask the server for a recommendation when I'm between two menu items. I usually am happy with their recommendation, but there is a tiny cynic within me that notices that they usually suggest the more expensive item and wonders if it is an attempt at a higher tip. Could this cynicism be well founded? Or do the better meals just tend to be the more expensive ones?

Hungry Cynic

First things first, Hungry: Lobster is delicious. So is filet mignon and truffle and those fancy cheeses from fancy sheep. All that fat content and luxury doesn't come cheap.

But no, we're really not trying to upsell you when we recommend that pinkies-out stuff. It's mostly just damn tasty. But to prove my point, let's do some math.

Say you're at a really classy restaurant, the kind with white table cloths and three forks and staff who scrape the crumbs from your table. Maybe you're choosing between the $35 scallops and the $42 rack of lamb. If you tip 20 percent, which you should if your mama raised you right, then we're talking about the difference between me making a $7 tip on the scallops versus a $8.40 tip on the lamb. I am not selling you out for $1.40, kid.

The difference is even more narrow if you're a breakfast server or work at a casual restaurant. (By the way, breakfast servers are friggin' angels among us.) Whether you order the $18 Angus burger or the $13 chicken strips basket ain't gonna make me miss rent, you feel me? I'm making an extra buck, maybe, if you get the burger. And if you feel like I'm pushing a hard sell, Hungry, you're probably not gonna tip well anyway.

So it's in everyone's interest if servers straight up tell you what's good. We might not get to eat all the fancy stuff ourselves, mind you, but we know when other guests have really liked a certain special or when the kitchen scored a particularly juicy something. If you're at a nice restaurant, we might assume that it's a special occasion and you won't sweat the $12 difference between the veal and the risotto. So yeah, sweet pea, try the veal.

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