February 3, 2008

Departing to Disney

There will be no new Tuscaloosa updates for the duration of February 6th – February 12th. I have the good fortune of visiting Walt Disney World. My plans so far include an early Valentine dinner at The California Grill, atop the Contemporary Hotel, and tickets for the after hours Pirate and Princess Party.

Even though I am a frequent guest of the Disney World resorts, I have never used Disney’s advance dining reservations system. After thorough Internet research thanks to Mousesaver.com I found that I could make reservations 180 days in advance to any of the Disney World restaurants, using one phone number. My next task was to decide the perfect restaurant. This was surprisingly harder than I originally thought. Luckily, we are now living in the Internet age, and I could view comprehensive menus for every single food location at Disney World. I was delighted with all the research done by devoted Disney fans. This cut my travel preparation time in half. I chose The California Grill because of the food and beverage choices, romantic atmosphere, and most importantly, it is situated on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort Hotel giving diners a perfect view of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. When I called Disney’s Dining Reservation Department (407) WDW-DINE, my representative educated me that the fireworks at Magic Kingdom were occurring at 9:30 ,and that I should make my reservations for 9:40. She informed me that The California Grill dims the lights and plays music during the firework show, making it a wonderful place to have a romantic moment. Disney’s customer service never fails to amaze me. The Pirates and Princess Party is an after hours event at Magic Kingdom. Entertainment includes Disney’s Enchanted Adventures Parade, fireworks, special themed shows and a “search for treasure spots throughout all of the pirate coves and princess courts.” The most desired component about this $43 event is access to the park after closing hours and minimum wait time to ride the rides. To be completely honest, who wouldn’t want to run around Disney World until midnight playing pirates and princesses?

Since spring break for Tuscaloosa schools is right around the corner, and Disney is a very popular destination I will make sure to review any restaurants and food I encounter upon my return.

February 1, 2008

Appropriate Tipping

I will be the first to admit; before I was employed at a restaurant I was a dreadful tipper. My beliefs were that they were already getting paid to work, and since the restaurant was eventful and busy, their pay was going to be decent already. Why should I have to give them an exceptional tip? Little did I know that a servers minimum wage is usually between $2.00 – $2.50 depending on the state. That pay usually takes care of taxes with close to nothing left over. Essentially, an elementary explanation of the server position would be that the employer is paying their taxes to give them the opportunity to make money off of the establishment's customers. What customers and employers tend to forget is that the restaurant is built on these servers. They make crucial interactions with the customer; making a lasting image of the establishment. According to the book The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life, author Jane Buckingham states that tipping at a restaurant should always be “15 to 20 percent of the bill. If you’ve had expensive wine, you can keep it at 15 percent. If the service is terrible, I recommend leaving 10 percent, but mention the bad service to the manager on the way out. That way you don’t look like a cheapskate, and the waiter’s poor performance won’t go unnoticed.” Buckingham makes an immense point. When we are subjected to bad service we feel better leaving no tip and making our frustrations known. This makes us feel better, but in reality, the server could have had no idea that they performed poorly, and in the end you look like an ungrateful customer. Tipping 20 percent has become more of the norm. Brad Trammell, a local server points out that "15 percent is very 90s, minimum wage has increased, but not for servers." Another point I’d like to make about the dynamics of restaurants is that the management is a gigantic mirror image of the employees. If the manager or the kitchen is aggravated or distressed, the entire restaurant is troubled. This is reflected hugely on the servers as they interact with customers. Next time you want to leave $1.50 tip on a $50.00 meal, remember that maybe your server was having a bad day and put yourself in their shoes. As cliché as that sounds, we all have days when we do not want to be at work, no matter how dedicated we are. As for figuring out the 15 to 20 percent, I tend to look at the tax on the bill and double it, then add onto that depending on the ability and likeability of the server. I am now proud to say that I am a very excellent tipper.