The results of a new study show that almost 40% of servers admit to adjusting the quality of their service based on the race of their customers, and just over 50% claim that they have seen their colleagues do so.

The study, published in the Journal of Black Studies, surveyed 200 servers at 18 different full-service chain restaurants in North Carolina. About 86% of these servers were white.

The survey also showed that 90% of those surveyed have participated in racially charged conversations among their co-workers. The beliefs that these conversations have brought out, which, the study says, fuel the prejudice displayed by the servers, are the ideas that black customers are neither as polite nor as generous tippers as are customers of other races.

Sarah Rusche, co-author of the paper, sees restaurant treatment as just another way that discrimination bleeds into our daily lives.

“’Tableside racism’ is yet another example in which African-Americans are stereotyped and subsequently treated poorly in everyday situations…Race continues to be a significant barrier to equal treatment in restaurants and other areas of social life.”

The sample size of these studies are never large enough to make hard and fast rules about how people behave, but it’s very telling that out of 200 servers, 80 of them admit to have treated a customer poorly because of race — that is far from insignificant. The problem is likely made worse by the pay structure for waiters and waitresses — since their pay is so dependent on tips, it’s rude, but perhaps more efficient, for servers to discriminate than to hope for the best.

Aside from boycotting establishments that have directly treated us poorly, however, what can we do about it? When I receive bad service, I tend to withhold or reduce the tip, which probably then allows servers to think that black people are bad tippers…where does the cycle end?

What do you think? Have you been discriminated against while dining out?

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125 Comments

  1. i’m so glad this was done.

    i frequently eat out and know that i am treated differently.

    there are times when some kid server thinks she/he knows more about food than i do. it is obvious at times that people think blacks lack the sophistication to know about anything that is not collard greens and fried chicken.

    i’ve often wondered why i rarely see blacks at restaurants when i know we can afford to be there. i sometimes think it is because of the way we are treated. we just don’t want to be bothered.

    there are many restaurants i won’t patronize because of this.

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  2. Kacey

    Racism is alive and well and permeates every area of life, so this is no surprise. And, yes, I’ve been aware of being treated “differently”, sensing a certain attitude and aloofness, by servers in restaurants. Trust and believe that any tip I give (if any) is commensurate with the quality of service I receive!

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    • Crumpalina

      “Trust and believe that any tip I give (if any) is commensurate with the quality of service I receive!”

      Well there you go, ya’ll! Living up to the stereoype.

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    • Kacey

      @Crumpalina
      Actually, you are stereotyping. I am a very generous tipper and I enjoy dining out. Unfortunately, I have, on a few occasions, experienced less-than-par treatment from wait staff and I will NOT reward bad behavior. It seems to happen most at chain restaurants (like Red Lobster, Olive Garden types) so I usually avoid them and frequent smaller, better quality places. But, sometimes if I go out to a show they may be the only places open very late and its always a crap shoot what type of service you get.

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    • @crumpalina….

      tips should be commensurate with service. imo, tipping is not meant to pay someone’s salary though it has become that.

      tipping is meant to acknowledge a job well done. i do not care how people stereotype me; you treat me like ish, you will not be generously tipped. my money is the same as everyone else’s and i should be treated as well as others are treated.

      i also find it odd that blacks are saddled with this stupid tipping reputation. when i dine with nonblacks, they regularly leave smallish tips – like 15% and sometimes less, regardless of whether the service was great.

      this blacks tip poorly stuff is crap and a total myth.

      i hope blacks do not allow themselves to be suckered into believing they tip poorly or worse than others. it is not true.

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  3. QueenOfCastle

    Im guilty of it. I worked at an IHOP in Philly when I lived there and I prayed I was never sat with any blacks or Puerto Ricans. Rude, entitled and NEVER EVER tipped. We used to fight over white diners.

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    • Kacey

      Well…I’m sure what goes around comes around :)

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    • QueenOfCastle

      @kacey

      Take a job as a server. PLEASE. I know that when I tip, I am tipping the server, the bus boys and the cooks. Some people think paying their bill is a tip. It aint. I always leave a generous type and if the service was appalling, I can always speak to a manager.

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    • LMAO my older sister served for a couple of months but in that short time she pretty much gathered that Blacks just don’t tip well. If you are bitten by every dog that comes your way, why wouldn’t you think the next one isn’t going to bite you too? That’s the same philosophy I have when it comes to not tipping when you dine out. I’ve never served but I feel that if you don’t have enough money for dinner AND the standard 20% tip then stay your ass at home!

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    • HopeChest

      I agree with that, Sasha.

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    • LiveLoveLife

      Unfortunately, that is a bit true…..My first job was a waitress..from 10th to 12th grade. A lot of blk ppl didnt tip..which is why I pretty much over tip when I go out..to go against that stereotype.

      I think a lot of waitstaff are afraid of/intimidated by big groups of black ppl…esp blk men

      I’ve seen how differently we are treated..when I go out with black friends versus white friends.

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    • QueenOfCastle

      @LiveLoveLife

      The advantage of serving a group of black men is that they dont come with a bunch of children that rip the place apart, their attitudes arent nearly as bad, and maybe, they dont want to look as broke as they probably are so might kick you down a couple of coppers.

      As an aside there was a video going around You Tube of this Hispanic waiter wondering why so many of his black female customers had such bad attitudes.

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    • @sasha… “I’ve never served but I feel that if you don’t have enough money for dinner AND the standard 20% tip then stay your ass at home!”

      if every diner had this attitude, restaurants would go out of business.

      it is not the diner’s job to pay the server a salary. it is the employer’s job to pay the server.

      and as far as i’m concerned, the standard is 15% and it goes up the better the service is.

      i’ve been treated miserably by servers and don’t often feel sorry for them. i don’t owe them anything, but it is their job to provide me and any diner with a good experience.

      servers work in hospitality. be hospitable and a server may get a better tip. showing up is a server’s job.

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    • @QOF

      Ummmm no. Many women of all races don’t want to be served by black men because of the sexual harassment they recieve and the racial generalizations they place on black men.

      Nowhere in her comment did Live speak ill of black men, she spoke of the experiences of her peers. But you did when you admitted that black men neglect their children and opt out of taking their children to social settings. It’s seems like you are the one that has issues with black men, seeing how you are so quick to serve whites over them. It that same stereotyping that’s results in our youngs boys death. Tsk Tsk and I thought you actually cared.

      P.s. you should have left that “white-is-right” mentality on the boat. That ish won’t fly here.

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    • Dreaming

      But you did when you admitted that black men neglect their children and opt out of taking their children to social settings. – Exactly.

      You have articulated what I was thinking.

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    • Sasha

      @omfg- Well fortunately the general population doesn’t go by your standard 15%, so as far you’re concerned it can remain at just that HOWEVER 20% is the accepted standard of tipping and anyone knowledgeable of etiquette knows this and will tell you so. While I apologize for your experience with waiters/ waitresses and agree that their job is in hospitality, it is NOT their job to provide you with a “good” experience. So again I stand by my statement- if you do not have enough money to cover both your meal AND the ACCEPTED STANDARD 20% TIP then stay at home!! Go to the grocery store, buy your steak, asparagus, mashed potatoes and some read wine and make it yourself with some Whitney Houston playing in the background for your “good experience”.

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    • QofNew

      @YB

      Hold up. In my experiences waiting tables, literally across the country and even in the UK, I would never see single men out to eat with children. Its always couples with children or women with children. Secondly, LiveLoveLfie wanst tlaking about black men as servers but as patrons. Also, I said all blacks tip poorly. I should also note that groups of black men dont go out to eat as often as groups of black women go out to eat. I’d imagine men are more likely to go with take-away foods than going to resturants. Chill.

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    • Dreaming

      “While I apologize for your experience with waiters/ waitresses and agree that their job is in hospitality, it is NOT their job to provide you with a “good” experience. “

      Sasha, I have to respectfully disagree with you here, because I’ve worked in customer service, and the motto of many businesses, if not most is to provide a good experience for their patrons. Otherwise, why would anyone continue to patronize that business?

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    • Super Negra

      Are you a black woman?…just a question…

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    • QofNew

      @Super Negra

      Was that question for me? Im a woman.

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    • Super Negra

      I didn’t think that you would say you are black….You are extremely self-hating I am assuming against your own race..On every post that I have seen you on you denigrate black people….and speak extremely negative against us…why are you here?

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    • @sasha…

      the standard is not 20%. it has only been in the last few years that servers have tried to revise the standard – probably because of the recession. the standard is 15% and 20% for good behaviour. lol.

      and here’s the definition of hospitality:

      1.
      the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
      2.
      the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

      when you are in hospitality, that means your responsibility is the make sure your GUESTS have a good experience.

      you obviously know very little about service because in any business, especially in the hospitality business, you want your guests to have good experience. guests can only have a good experience when the hospitality is right.

      are you very young? you sound like you probably dine out very infrequently. and i don’t mean at red lobster and ihop either.

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    • @omfg- And you sound very ignorant. Just for the record I’m 24 and I have never stepped foot inside of a Red Lobster or an IHOP and dine out once a week so keep your assumptions to yourself. Not going to go back and forth with you, it’s 20% and if you have decent etiquette and manners that’s what you should tip. “Good behavior” really?! You sound like once of those people who acts like its an honor to serve you. The hospitality can be perfect and the experience still wouldn’t be enough for people. Have a great day!

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    • sasha Go to the grocery store, buy your steak, asparagus, mashed potatoes and some read wine and make it yourself with some Whitney Houston playing in the background for your “good experience”.

      LOLROF@U!

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    • Whatever

      Often the diners and the waitstaff go head to head over tipping… take it up with the Department of Labor. Restaurants get away with barely paying their staff and letting them work on less than minimum wage hourly rates and tips. This concept is ridiculous.

      Complain here: http://www.dol.gov/dol/contact/

      Also, 20% is standard and diners sometimes fail to realize that issues with food may not be the servers fault. It could be anything from management to the kitchen staff.

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  4. Dreaming

    I don’t eat out often, so I can’t say.

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    • Dreaming

      I tip based on service.

      I once had a pizza delivery guy show up to my house, wait in his car to do whatever, then walked up on our lawn (not the steps) to my front door. He didn’t speak to me or anything. He was having a conversation on his cell phone as I signed the credit card slip and then I looked at me. I guess he was wondering where the tip was.

      He was a young Black guy.
      _______________________________________________________________________
      Like someone else said – It is not the responsibility of the patron to make up for someone’s wages. Likewise, when people go into a waitressing/waiter occupation, they know that their income is based on the kindness of strangers.

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    • QofNew

      @Dreaming

      It isnt so much kindness but an unwritten rule. Seriously what that young brotha did was appalling but we are talking about standard service given to people who refuse to tip based on one principle, “I dont have to if I dont want to.” Its belittling, and just plain rude.

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  5. I have been treated poorly at a restaurant and was so upset by my treatment that I stormed out of the restaurant. Long story short: the waitress admitted to treating our table (full of black people) poorly.

    Unfortunately, I have had many black friends who have worked in the restaurant industry and every single one of them has told me that black people do not tip. I have heard horror stories…one friend waited at a table with 10 people and the bill was nearly $300 and she got a $5 tip. It is what it is.

    This conversation leads me to this point: These stereotypes exist for a reason, people. There is no stereotype about black folks that in my experience does not comport with reality. Sorry. We don’t want to face the facts.

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    • Sasha

      Did you leave before or after your food was served and you were finished eating?

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    • @Sasha…

      I left before we got our food.

      The abbreviated version of the story.

      I went to a restaurant with some of my Howard classmates to support one of our friends. That friend was sitting at a table with her white friends because we had to be split up. The waitress (who also happened to be the owner – she was also white) was incredibly gregarious with the other white tables. When she got to our table she was cold and downright mean. She asked us to give her our cards before we ordered (where do they do that at?). After enduring her treatment, we walked out before our food came and I wrote a scathing note on a napkin (lol). Our friend, who was seated at the table with her white friends, saw us leave, asked why and then went back in to confront the waitress. She explained that she was acting up and that it was because a table had stiffed her for the bill earlier <—– presumably a bunch of Negroes.

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    • JaeBee

      “I have heard horror stories…one friend waited at a table with 10 people and the bill was nearly $300 and she got a $5 tip. It is what it is.”

      How the hell did that happen? Most restaurants will automatically tack gratuity onto the bill if the dinning party is 6 or more.

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