Originally Posted by Phoenyx
Many restaurants only pay wait staff half to a third of federal minimum wage. So even if a large party has a huge meal bill, if they don't tip, the server only gets paid about $3 an hour for the time spent waiting on that table. Large parties don't tend to eat and run. If a large party occupies a table for say two hours, runs up a large bill, and only pays the amount of the food, the server gets paid $6 for two hours work. Restaurants average more money on repeated table turnover of small parties than they do on prolonged occupation of a table by a large party.
Say the server normally has five four-person tables. A party of 20 comes in and those five tables are combined to accomodate them. That leaves no other tables for the server to potentially gain income from during the time they are there. If each person orders a $10 meal, that's $200. Eighteen percent of $200 is only $1.80 per person for the tip. That's not a lot of money.
If those same five tables had each had two four-person parties in that two hours with a $10 meal for each person, that would have been $400 for those same five tables in the same amount of time - twice the income for the restaurant, and twice the potential tip income for the server.
If the server does have additional tables to wait, they then have to balance getting the 20-person table served while their food is still hot while also managing their other tables, and not giving them short shrift on service.
Depending on the restaurant, the servers may also be the ones cashing out the bills, answering the phones, slicing more lemons for the drinks, etc. Some places require wait staff to also bus their own tables. This is especially true for smaller eateries. Waiters do a lot more than just write down your order and bring your food to your table. They're not sitting on their arses while your food is being cooked.
I was not aware of just how much wait staff does in addition to serving food until M'ija started working as a waitress. I have a whole new level of respect for just how hard they work, and don't take it personally if I have to wait a little longer for my food than I would if I were cooking it at home.