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3 Ways to Practice Radical Kindness When Dining Out

3-ways-radical-kindness-dining-out-bistro

“You can never be too kind, too gentle.” I cling to these words like a prayer. They were first spoken by St. Seraphim of Sarov, and they’ve never failed to humble me.

First let me dispel a common misconception. Kindness is not niceness; it is not being polite. Rather, it is a radical generosity of spirit that doesn’t condemn, but seeks instead to know and be known through compassionate consideration.

With that in mind, I’ve become increasingly aware that the way to transform the world is through kindness. Likewise, the way to transform the food system is through kindness as well. What do I mean by that? How do I practice radical kindness?

While the practice of kindness should permeate all facets of our lives, today I am sharing three examples of how I practice radical kindness while dining out.

Could I have chosen different examples? Yes.

I could have written entirely about raising kids, or being a wife, or growing and choosing food. You get the point.

I chose these three examples because of their value to me, and because I think that at least one of them will resonate with each of you.

1. Leave a radically big tip.

leave-big-tip

When I was a teenager and first learned about leaving tips, the paradigm my parents gave me was simple:

  • 10% means the service was below average
  • 15% means the service was average
  • 20% means the service was above average

I stuck to this well into my adulthood. I am not sure of the precise moment my paradigm shifted, but now I balk at leaving tips that low.

Here’s how I think about it.

The difference between a 20% tip and a 40% tip when a couple is dining out is often less than $10.

What else do I routinely spend less than $10 on? How casually do I spend it?

Is it worth $10 to me to make someone’s entire day? To bring them a slice of joy? To let them know I truly appreciate them, and that my life is better because they chose to condescend to serving me when I stepped out of my home and into the restaurant or bar where they work?

The short answer is: YES. It is most definitely worth it.

I won’t miss the $10 (not really), and the waiter or waitress will be happier because of it.

Think it sounds hard? That $10 is a lot and will quickly add up with time into something you can’t possibly afford?

I know exactly how you feel.

When my husband first started leaving slightly larger tips, he dared to tack on an extra buck or two. Literally, it was just one or two extra dollars. That’s it.

And my first thought was to clutch that money back! We needed it. We had bills to pay. We had to buy gas to make sure we could get to work, and gas prices were shooting through the roof. The price on our raw milk just leaped from $5/gallon to $8/gallon.

You name it, and I had a good excuse for keeping that money.

These days, it’s not uncommon for me to leave a 100% tip.

Why do I say that?

To demonstrate that every journey of miles begins with the inches beneath your feet. Give yourself an inch. See what happens.

2. Buy a stranger’s meal when you pay for your own.

buy-strangers-meal-random-act-kindness

It’s a random act of kindness.

And that’s just what I write on the back of their bill:

I bought your lunch. This is a random act of kindness. Please pay it forward!

Do I know who these people are? No.

Do I know if they’re poor or could really use the financial break? No.

How do I choose whose check to pay? It’s random!

Sometimes I pick up the tab of the young parents with babies. Sometimes I buy lunch for the elderly retired couple that looks like they’re on a fixed income. Sometimes I buy meals for police officers or firefighters or EMTs or military personnel. Sometimes it’s just the people who happen to be lucky enough to have also sat down in our waiter’s section.

The point here is that who they are doesn’t matter. Whether or not they need your generosity doesn’t matter. Whether or not they deserve your generosity doesn’t matter.

The point is to be kind — to be radically kind in a way that our society views as unusual.

3. Only eat meat of known origin.

eat-meat-known-origin

You’ll hear this bantered about in the Real Food community quite a bit. It’s the idea that when eating, we shouldn’t eat meat of unknown origin.

Meat of unknown origin likely comes from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), from animals raised or finished within the factory farming system.

Their husbandry is not kind, but a wound upon the landscape — an ugliness that I want no part of.

What does this mean when dining out?

Well, it means that if I want meat, I need to only eat it at a restaurant that fully discloses its sources. And by disclosure, I mean that I want to know the names of area ranches that are raising grass-fed beef or pastured poultry and providing it to the restaurant.

If I’m not at a restaurant that can practice that level of disclosure, then I need to eat like a vegetarian.

It’s not complicated. It’s not hard. It’s a simple choice to practice kindness.

What if you honestly can’t afford to practice these tips?

Then find other ways to be kind.

My goal in writing this is to challenge you.

Can you really, truly not afford to leave bigger tips? Or are you just like I was — in the habit of holding money tightly. If you can afford to dine out, chances are fairly good that you can also afford to be a more generous tipper.

You get the idea.

Step out of your comfort zone. Be radically kind. Watch it transform those around you.

But, perhaps most importantly, watch it transform you.

How about you? How would you like to practice radical kindness this week?

(photo credits top to bottom: Hotel du Vin & Bistro, sarahnaut, pierrelaphoto, Joel Abroad)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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83 Responses to 3 Ways to Practice Radical Kindness When Dining Out
  1. Greg
    October 9, 2013 | 5:02 pm

    Love the article (and the blog)! I started leaving bigger tips a few months ago and my wife was expressed concerns I was too generous. She is slowly coming around. Have not randomly bought a meal, but think I will give it a try soon. Keep up the great work!

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 6:21 pm

      Thanks! It is really fun to buy meals for other people. I think you’ll like it.

  2. Jan
    October 9, 2013 | 6:28 pm

    I love your first two tips (I don’t eat much meat, but I buy it locally when I do). I am going to accept your challenge to be radical. I always tip big, but you have inspired me to go for 100%. And to pay it forward…although I really don’t eat out much because Ilike my own cooking better! Maybe I can apply it to other opportunities.

    • Demaroge
      December 4, 2013 | 8:52 pm

      Works at grocery stores, pharmacies …. even drive thru. Just pay for the person behind you; all or part.

  3. Jenny
    October 9, 2013 | 6:30 pm

    I LOVE this, Kristen! I’m also in favor of leaving radically good tips. The difference is usually only a few bucks. I think so much comes from generosity to ourselves and to others. I haven’t bought a stranger’s meal yet, but you’ve given me inspiration to do so.

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 6:22 pm

      That’s awesome. Once you do buy a stranger’s meal for the first time, I think you’ll find it addicting.

  4. Carol
    October 9, 2013 | 6:34 pm

    These are wonderful ideas. Thank you.

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 6:22 pm

      You’re welcome!

  5. Mary P.
    October 9, 2013 | 7:32 pm

    Thank you, I love this post. Having once been a server myself, I have always practiced radical tipping. Great ideas!

  6. Julie Drigot
    October 9, 2013 | 8:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing this great idea. I’m going to try this and harder still to reject meat from unknown sources. Even though I live in a rural area I know that most of the eggs and meat are trucked in from someplace else. We’re surrounded by farmland but even the farmers eat at local restaurants that don’t sell their food. I was having a salad at a local spot and noticed that the tomatoes were the worst possible Florida grown type. One half block away the our local organic farmer sat at her truck selling her most delicious ripe red tomatoes. I can hardly bear to eat out around here anymore.

  7. Dawn @ Peeling Back the Onion Layers
    October 9, 2013 | 8:35 pm

    I love this, Kristen! You found yet another way to inspire your readers to make this world a better place. What a gift you are to all of us!

  8. Jill C
    October 9, 2013 | 8:39 pm

    There used to be this waitress at a restaurant in our town who was always super crabby. She always had a scowl on her face and while she wasn’t rude, and her service was average, she always, ALWAYS looked like she hated her job, hated her life, and was just sort of pissed to be there. Normally, that sort of thing just ticks me off, but for some reason, it tickled my empathy bone. I would always leave her huge tips because I felt so bad that she had such a rotten life she hated so much, and spent so much of her time unhappy.

    • Gale
      October 11, 2013 | 5:24 pm

      I read about someone who tried to pay for the fast food line meal of the car of the person bin front of her who had just flipper her off–asked the cashier to to tell her she hoped her day got better. When she got her food the server gave her her money back with it…said the person said that she “Couldn’t accept that after being so nasty to her,” but when she told her the part about “She wanted to tell you she hoped your day got better,” she responded, “It already has.”

      I’ve never regretted being nice to someone who was mean to me…but I’ve regretted returning meanness for meanness many times.

  9. Candace
    October 9, 2013 | 8:43 pm

    These things make a big difference! Right after college I taught school in a small town and more than once in a restaurant a family from school would notice a group of teachers across the room and pay for our meals. Made the night! Currently my husband bartends at a pub on the side, so we personally understand how even one generous tip makes a difference. We are also more conscious about tipping well.

  10. Erin
    October 9, 2013 | 8:56 pm

    Thank you for posting this – I love it. It’s sad that it’s so much more common to see examples of unappreciative behavior than genuine kindness. What a lovely reminder to continue to appreciate the random people in our lives just as much as we appreciate the ones we love.

  11. Laurie
    October 9, 2013 | 10:08 pm

    Thank you so much. I have been in service jobs most of my adult life. Kindness seems so rare sometimes. Things like this really do help to restore your faith in humanity.

  12. RC
    October 9, 2013 | 11:07 pm

    I love this article. All of the rak you mentioned are excellent. I’ve considered myself a big tipper until I read what you and your husband do. I am going to start giving more. My daughter is a waitress and I certainly know what generous tippers mean to her. I’ve also been struggling when eating out wondering about the meats and how they are sourced. I will also consider avoiding restaurants that don’t disclose where their meats come from.

  13. Peggy
    October 9, 2013 | 11:13 pm

    I do these. I also become a cheerleader. I choose one thing that my server did that was praiseworthy and praise him both to his face and to the manager.

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 6:23 pm

      That’s great, Peggy! My husband is really good about that. I’m a little too shy. :)

  14. beachmama
    October 10, 2013 | 12:57 am

    TIP = to insure promptness . . . I’m a great tipper (above 20%) when I get great service. If all you do is get my food to the table then you won’t be getting 20% from me . . .

    Unfortunately I rarely experience great service. Servers often expect tips without putting any effort into their job. It’s not up to me to see that servers are well paid, it’s up to their employer. If they want a great tip from me they need to earn it the same way I get paid, by working hard.

    I LOVE the idea of buying someones meal . . . thanks for the tips!

    • Rainne
      October 10, 2013 | 7:05 am

      I think the idea is to be kind to someone whether they deserve it or not. What is the difference in buying your servers next meal (with a large tip) or buying a strangers meal?

    • Keegan
      October 10, 2013 | 11:33 am

      Unfortunately, the laws requiring restaurant owners to pay their employees hasn’t changed since the 1940′s. Please Google the book “Behind the Kitchen Door” and the author Saru Jayaraman. Tipped employees are really paid by us, the diners, NOT the owners. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years (back of the house) and knew servers were “paid” less than $3 per hour because they received tips but it wasn’t until I read the book that what was happening really sunk in. The book is well worth the time.

      • Catherine
        October 11, 2013 | 7:25 pm

        In MN where I live, it’s law servers must make at least minimum wage. Still not awesome, but so much better! And come to think of it, we rarely experience poor service here …!

  15. Holly
    October 10, 2013 | 1:32 am

    I appreciate your generosity and commitment to kindness. As a restaurant owner, I know how tough it is for our servers because I work the front as well. We pool our tips and share with the kitchen and chefs so a $10 tip may mean $4 or less for the server. It’s also tough in this economy, when people eat out a whole lot less. We have had to cut hours and reduce shifts, so the few hours our employees work really need to be lucrative. Unfortunately, most customers, especially the ones who ask for a lot of extras, are not good tippers.

  16. Robin
    October 10, 2013 | 1:58 am

    Thank you for a good article.. I like it and I really like food renegade..new fan

  17. Une
    October 10, 2013 | 3:49 am

    Love this!

  18. Lindsey
    October 10, 2013 | 6:44 am

    We were never good tippers until my husband got a job waiting tables to help put him through Bible college. After experiencing what servers go through first-hand, we are now excellent tippers. Even if the service is less than stellar, we often leave at least 20%. My husband also understands that it isn’t always the server’s fault when the order is wrong or the food is brought late to the table. The servers are at the mercy of the cooks. If the cooks mess up the order or are slammed in the kitchen, there’s nothing the server can do, but often we punish them for something that isn’t even their fault.

    There was a time in our lives when we were so broke that eating out involved ordering only water, eating at kids-eat-free places, and sharing meals. We vowed we would buy the meals of families who were trying to enjoy the luxury of eating out but trying hard to be frugal like us by buying their meals one day when we were able. Pay it forward!

    I think many of us who place high value on real foods, sourced locally and organically, can often be so legalistic in our thinking about food that we often forget little acts of kindness and grace. I pinned a quote yesterday: “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.”

    • Rebekah
      December 3, 2013 | 12:36 pm

      This is a really good point, that it’s NOT necessarily the server’s fault! And we need to extend grace even when it is. If a server forgets to fill my water glass and I have to remind him, well, I forget things too.

      If the server seems a bit crabby or short with me, well, maybe she is going through an extremely hard time in her life. I can understand that.

      Now, I don’t make excuses for outright rudeness or sloppiness. I don’t feel that I must leave a big tip for bad service. But I do think that genuinely bad service is a lot less common that some people seem to find…

  19. Valerie
    October 10, 2013 | 8:35 am

    What can I say? I fell in love with you a little bit upon reading this post ;-)

    I’m a former server. Yes, you’ve made my day simply by being one of those people. Sometimes I’d receive a huge tip, and there was no direct reason to trace it to. Conventional tipping “wisdom” can be a strange powerplay thing. It’s where anybody gets to determine your worth in a monetary amount based off of your performance, despite how much sleep you got, whether or not you have a headache, if you’re short-staffed or new on the job.

    I am stepping into the power of unconditional love. You don’t have to be perfect or “deserving” or logically deemed the best candidate. You’re a human being. And I love you. That’s what bucking the system and leaving a big tip says. It doesn’t need a reason. Everyone deserves love, simply by their mere existence.

    Imagine if you work at an office, that if you had a headache and performed less perfectly that day than the day before, that someone came alone with a little knife slicing off bits of your paycheck / salary.

    And the meat thing? Thank you. I got on the meat bandwagon for a while after reading Nourishing Traditions (and how I found blogs like yours!) and then got overwhelmed by going out to eat. Before that, I was mostly vegetarian. I’ m back to mostly vegetarian for a few reasons: the ones you mention, and that my body simply isn’t asking me for meat recently.

    Kristen, I LOVED this. Everything about this. The message of love in here is so powerful and speaks volumes. Thank you!!!

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 6:24 pm

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you found it inspiring.

  20. donna
    October 10, 2013 | 9:19 am

    Love, love, love your article today!! Ripple effect in life!!

  21. Jeanne
    October 10, 2013 | 10:18 am

    How would one go about paying for a stranger’s meal? I would not want to call a lot of attention to myself. Can it be done anonymously? Can’t think of a way to make this work.

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 10:56 am

      I always do it anonymously. Just ask your waiter for your own bill and someone else’s. The people you’re buying for never have to know who paid for them.

  22. Mara S.
    October 10, 2013 | 10:22 am

    Also a former server…I put myself through university waiting tables. Big tips did make my day (and my education). (And my rent!)
    Thanks for the post.

  23. Debbie
    October 10, 2013 | 10:23 am

    Awesome article Kristen!
    We are radical tippers in our house. We always trip to leave the tip in cash too, for we like to think that the server is getting all of it. Our last trip out to eat only four people were on shift. The server/ hostess, the cook, the bus person, the shift manager. They got slammed with customers. We knew that the poor waitress would end up getting paltry tips after listening to everyone’s grumbling. When we were leaving she was so apologetic, I loudly said “I understand, you are the only waitress serving tonight and there is never this many people on a Thursday night”. I said it so loud so everyone could hear. Plus we left her an awesome tip.

  24. Sherry Rogers
    October 10, 2013 | 10:28 am

    I do much the same for tipping but I always tip in cash even when I pay by credit/debt card. Wait staff are forced to pay taxes on tips and even if someone leaves no tip at all they still have to pay the taxes on the approximate tips generally left. It is SO WRONG. When I leave cash there is no documentation and what gets declared is up to them.

    • Gale
      October 11, 2013 | 4:42 pm

      Oh my…I didn’t know that. Now I’ll try to do that too.

    • Amy
      December 1, 2013 | 10:40 pm

      Really? When I was a server, we paid taxes on just the amount we entered (for cash tips) or the amount that people gave on credit cards.

      After working in a restaurant, I ALWAYS put my tips on the credit card because I know those tips will be processed accurately. All of the other servers in my restaurant were shocked to see me actually counting my tips and entering the amount honestly. They said I was just causing myself to pay taxes: why not enter a low number just high enough to not let the manager notice that you were lying? Well, the manager definitely DID notice (just didn’t do anything about it) and confided in me that almost none of the other servers reported their tips honestly. I know that surely there are countless honorable servers who do not cheat on their taxes, but in our restaurant–a pretty big one–that was not the case.

      Anyway, I know it’s not my responsibility to make sure others pay their taxes. But I feel that I am contributing to possible fraud when I leave a cash tip. I’d rather leave a larger tip–to cover the extra taxes, at least!–but have it reported honestly.

      Plus, receiving my tips from the register every night was easier than keeping them in my pocket because all my cash tips were in small bills, whereas the tips from the register came in one lump sum. Easier to count and deposit!

      Anyway, on the topic of random kindness, I can still remember to this day the people who left me surprisingly large tips. Definitely made my day! Now, I tip as high as possible. So many of my coworkers were single moms who could barely pay bills. If we are wealthy enough to go out to eat for a nice meal, surely we are wealthy enough to add a little extra to the tip for these people who are working so hard.

    • Kim
      July 30, 2014 | 1:14 pm

      I’ve never seen this to be the case. Servers need only claim what they actually make. If a server takes in cash there is no way to prove what she has made and she could potentially NOT claim it. But, a credit card tip is shown on paper and will be found out if she doesn’t claim it.

  25. Cindy
    October 10, 2013 | 10:28 am

    Good thoughts! The more we practice kindness, the more we are BEING the change we want to see in the world!
    2 of my 4 sons work in food service industry. I always think of them when I leave a tip—knowing that the server’s pay is low and they depend on generous tipping for a livable wage. So it is easy for me to leave big tips and I always do.

  26. Kathy
    October 10, 2013 | 10:35 am

    Words to live by. Loved your article. :-)

  27. Chantel
    October 10, 2013 | 10:43 am

    Brilliant! Just Brilliant! As a former restaurant employee, I can tell you that good tips really do make your day (or night)! REALLY! Some customers are so rude and needy (or don’t leave a tip at all) that it makes restaurant folks get fed up with humanity. So when someone comes along and blesses you, it is greatly appreciated! And there were a couple occasions where i had customers randomly pay for someone else’s bill. It was greatly appreciated as well!

  28. Mimmy
    October 10, 2013 | 10:47 am

    When my daughter & I eat out, we use this method: 20% bad service, 30%-50% for good to very good service. Our motto — don’t eat out if you do not have enough for a good tip. The 20% tip comes from servers that totally ignore serving us; they give their time and attention to those ordering alcohol; we do not drink alcohol and we have noticed the difference in the service we get at many places, because we do not order alcohol. We leave them 20% because everyone needs a break. If the person waiting on us is at least slightly attentive we use the 30%-50% as the rule. When my daughter sees people holding signs, “Will work for money/food”, she bring them hot food. Thank U Kristen! Luke 6:32-33.

  29. Michele
    October 10, 2013 | 11:01 am

    My random acts started with paying tolls for people behind me. I’ve actually been chased down and given the strangest looks or they sometimes they wave. I’ve also started leaving bigger tips even on pickup orders.

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 6:27 pm

      You can also pay for the meals in the cars behind you if you’re going through a drive thru. (I know drive thrus aren’t ideal, but we’ve all been there and done it, you know? This way I don’t feel so bad about eating that crap because at least I received the meal with gratitude, love, and a healthy dose of generosity.)

  30. Beth
    October 10, 2013 | 11:21 am

    I love the idea of radically kind acts of compassion and generosity, randomly doled out. What you said is so true, that it will transform you.

    I think you would love the work of Marshall Rosenberg, such as his book Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life, if you aren’t already familiar with it. His radically refreshing ways of looking at the world encourage us to replace learned habits of blame, shame, judgement, reward, punishment, criticism, guilt, etc., with more nourishing, transformative ones like what you’re suggesting here. The way to change the world, indeed.

  31. Julia
    October 10, 2013 | 12:57 pm

    Try being generous in other areas as well. Try randomly doubling your babysitters pay. They deserve it!

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 6:25 pm

      Excellent suggestion! Thank you for sharing.

  32. Hannah
    October 10, 2013 | 12:58 pm

    Thank you for the bold challenge! I want to work on these things… I loved your quote by St. Seraphim. I’m curious, are you an Orthodox Christian? (I am.)

  33. Melanie
    October 10, 2013 | 1:20 pm

    I love these words from our beloved Saint, St. Seraphim of Sarov! He is truly an example to live by. Thanks for the examples.

    • Kristen
      October 10, 2013 | 6:28 pm

      Me too! I have an icon of him right next to my work computer. :)

  34. Rebecca
    October 10, 2013 | 1:32 pm

    This is a great post, thank you! And as a former waitress, a big “thanks” to all you radical tippers. :-)

    I would add not eating dairy of unknown origin to #3. This makes it super hard to eat out, yes. But dairy cows are treated far worse than livestock raised for meat (which is already pretty bad). I do a lot of salads and grilled vegetables, beans, and rice when eating out. It’s a little more boring, but I’m not willing to eat an animal that was abused just for the entertainment of my own taste buds.

  35. Hiranthi
    October 10, 2013 | 2:27 pm

    Great article :)

    Last week I was walking with my 3,5yr old son, towards the farm behind us. He wanted to use his walking-bicycle (or whatever that’s called in English), so he wanted to make quite the walk (first walk without a diaper too).

    It was the first time we actually saw how the cows were led to the farm, to milk them. We had to wait (I know cows are friendly, but I’m not gonna cross a group of cows crossing a street, especially not with a wire on the other side to make sure they wouldn’t go there ;-) ).
    Anyway, we had a little smalltalk with the farmer. He told us the name of their dog (which we’ve seen quite some times before) and he told us he and his wife were expecting their first born.

    I’m kinda a baby DIY/sew addict, so when I got home I practically immediately started making a few things (balloon ball, 2 pairs of erm nursing compresses/patches? (“zoogkompres” in Dutch) and a clutch-like thing for a few diapers and wipes, all in the same fabrics). I thought of loads more, but that wouldn’t fit the envelope anymore… ;-)

    I hope to deliver it tomorrow :)

  36. Kelly the Kitchen Kop
    October 10, 2013 | 10:16 pm

    I love you even more now Kristen!

    Thanks for some new inspiration and unique ways to give back. :)

    Kel

  37. Honora
    October 11, 2013 | 3:52 am

    In New Zealand the servers are low paid but no less than other low paid workers so the average diner generally doesn’t tip as far as I’m aware. I’ve probably tipped about twice and that was for very good service e.g. the waiter/tress made enquiries with the chef when I asked something about the meal. It seems to me that the tipping practice is used as an excuse to underpay staff. However I have no compunction about expressing appreciation and gratitude to the waiter and chef and thanking them when I leave. Do you people have a minimum wage below which it is illegal to underpay?

    As far as paying for another diner’s meal. I figured if they couldn’t afford it, they wouldn’t be in there having a meal just like I used to when I didn’t have a lot of money. However maybe the food is so bad when you eat out that in the States, it’s as cheap as what one can make at home. I may sound mean but I’m not and give of myself a lot in my own work and get good feedback from the people that I have the honour to serve in my professional capacity in the public health service. I think paying for someone’s food at the checkout makes sense particularly if you see all they can afford is stuff like the cheapest white bread and sausages.

    • Gale
      October 11, 2013 | 5:00 pm

      We do have a minumum wage here, and it varies by state, but the minimum “cash wage” can be less for “tipped” employees. In other words, if I understand things right, an employee’s tips can make up part of that minimum wage. I’m not sure exactly how that works, even after reading the following websites.

      http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm
      http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs15.htm

    • Kim
      July 30, 2014 | 1:19 pm

      In Michigan servers are paid $2.52 per hour. Tips make up the rest. If a server makes less than minimum wage in a pay period (between tips and the low hourly wage) then the restaurant is required to make up the difference.

  38. Gale
    October 11, 2013 | 3:14 pm

    For those “can’t afford” folks, here’s some free ways to be kind at restaurants–may not be “radical” but they are, I think, a little better than just nice.

    If you can’t afford an extra generous tip, leave a note for the waiter on the receipt saying how much you appreciated their service. I sometimes draw a little picture too (that’s just me).

    If your waiter gave extra good service, don’t just give an extra tip…find a way to let the manager know. A lot of places have comment cards. If you plan to take that “survey for a free something” many places offer these days, mention the waitress by name in the comment section.

    Waitresses really can use the extra money, but the reason an extra big tip makes their day is not just about the money, I think. It’s about feeling appreciated. These free things can help accomplish that too. You’re never too poor to be kind.

    • Kim
      July 30, 2014 | 1:24 pm

      You are correct about servers feeling appreciated. Even if the tip is $1 over 20% I feel very good like I must have done something special for my guest to add that extra dollar.
      As for your comment about leaving a note, just make sure that the “Verbal Tip” does not take the place of the real tip. So often I’ve heard from my co-workers that their table was really talking them up and they were sure they could plan on a low tip because of it.

  39. Elaine DiRico
    October 13, 2013 | 6:35 pm

    Kristen, I loved the ideas here. I am always startled when I meet someone who has never worked in food service; it feels to me almost like a rite of passage. My beloved Aunt Billie, now almost 90, worked cafes in Oklahoma through the Dust Bowl, and ‘a honky tonk’ or two in Oklahoma City. When I was fifteen and working my first waitressing job, she told me: ‘Watch how a person tips… they are the same way with their emotions that they are with their money.’ I have never seen that contradicted.

  40. Denise
    October 14, 2013 | 9:49 am

    Hello,

    Someone just turned me on to your blog and also “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook (also a blog). I’m so excited to look through your blog. Denise

  41. Leah
    October 18, 2013 | 5:37 pm

    Love this!
    Honestly, as a former server, even an extra $2 was enough to really make my day. It wasn’t necessarily a money thing (though that’s a bonus), but more just feeling like the patron appreciated me enough to tip 20%+$2…it didn’t go unnoticed and could really brighten my day. Seems silly to think how big an impact on my night that “bonus” would have, but it really, really did.

  42. Jennifer Hearin
    October 29, 2013 | 11:22 am

    I love this post! Love that you are helping to promote kindness. I usually pay a little more with tips, maybe 20%. I feel similarly -hey, what’s another buck or two (or more) for me when it means something to another person. I will think of this even more after reading your blog post. I have read that little book “Random Acts of Kindness”, and I think Oprah did a show about it years ago that was very moving, but I’ve never made the effort to pay for a stranger’s meal, etc. I will also have this in my mind again. Also love that you bring up the issue of ethics around meat and animal agriculture. It doesn’t seem to talked about that much in the ‘real food’ world.

    Thank you for your kindness. :)

  43. Tara
    November 7, 2013 | 6:16 pm

    This is wonderful! Beautiful, really.
    Thank you for writing this!

  44. Sheila R
    December 1, 2013 | 10:59 pm

    I love this! Thank you so much for sharing!

  45. shar
    December 1, 2013 | 11:13 pm

    What about buying a meal for a homeless person outside the restaurant. We had a chance to do that while visiting a bigger city early this year. I am sure doing this in your back yard might be less advisable though… any thoughts?

  46. Vicki Lowery
    December 2, 2013 | 10:55 am

    I love these ideas. I routinely leave generous tips, though certainly not 100%! Sometimes it comes back in your favor, like the other day when I left my cell phone on the table in a restaurant out of town. I know that they would have saved my phone for me regardless of whether or how much I had tipped, but knowing I had given generously and seeing to what great lengths the waiter had gone to catch me before I went too far, made me glad I had done so. Also, growing up in a family that had very little money and seeing what a blessing it was when people provided for us makes me always eager to help others. We pay for the meals of extra guests who go to eat with us every Sunday after church. We have a reputation for always having a large group at our table. It feels great!
    Finally, though, I do want to take issue with your statement that a waiter “condescends” to serve me when I eat where he works. I, first of all, don’t think it is a condescension to serve people. But secondly, it’s his job!! People need to take pride in their work no matter how lowly…or NOT lowly. The problem with our country is that we’ve gotten “too good” to do certain things, too proud. It’s arrogant and wrong. Whether or not he expects an extra large tip, the waiter needs to give good service because it’s the right thing to do.

    • Rebekah
      December 3, 2013 | 12:41 pm

      I had the same thought. It is their JOB to serve, and not an exceptional thing (thought it can seem like it). That’s no excuse for taking advantage of waitstaff, of course. But just like I don’t expect huge accolades for changing my daughter’s diaper– it’s my JOB after all– I don’t think that a waiter’s service deserves the term “condescension.”

  47. Karen
    December 4, 2013 | 5:16 pm

    I like these ideas a lot. However, I do have to agree with someone who posted elsewhere–make the gift truly “no strings attached.” Don’t put “pay it forward” on the receipt–that’s attaching strings/conditions. Make it truly a free, unconditional gift of kindness and grace.

  48. Jennifer Fischer
    December 5, 2013 | 3:39 pm

    I love these tips. As a former waitress, I always leave good tips (you’ll get 20% from me if you just do your job). A bartender I worked with put it in terms similar to the way you discussed it. She would say, “What am I going to do with that extra 2 or even 7 dollars? Buy a cup of coffee? Get a cheap t-shirt at a store that will wear out in a few months? Or just make someone’s day?” This has been a week of radical acts of kindness for our family. I discovered that a gift card I thought was for $50 was for $500 and subsequently left our bartender a 50% tip (on a fairly decent check). I also bought a mocha for the person behind me at the coffee shop and we gave out bags of organic produce and Panera bagels to a local homeless man. This is just the start for our family. #addictedtogiving #SpreadingJoy

  49. linda spiker
    December 5, 2013 | 8:44 pm

    Great post Kristen! May I please share in my Monthly love link for December?

  50. melissa @ my whole food life
    December 7, 2013 | 6:16 pm

    What a great post! I waited tables for 5 years in Las Vegas and I can tell you that a large tip will make a server’s night. What most people don’t realize is that many servers make under minimum wage and have to split the tips with bartenders, bussers and food runners. So leaving a bad tip often takes money out of the server’s pocket. I also love the idea of buying a stranger’s meal. Such an easy way to brighten someone’s day. They may even decide to pay it forward to someone else.

  51. lila rose
    December 7, 2013 | 7:45 pm

    I am so glad i read this article. I have always been a generous person and just enjoyed the feeling of brightening up somebody’s day. I just recently started to become more clingy to material, money etc. because of the thought that is what it takes to be a responsible adult and mother (i am 24, and still unsure and insecure). I became aware of the gift of generosity that i had and decided not to let go of it when i was on my way to work approaching a toll booth, scrounging for change, just to be told i was paid for. I lit up, and immediately gave the dimes and nickles, possibly even Pennies, and said the next person through is on me. It isn’t the amount given it is the act and it does go a long way. Instant chain reaction whether you see it or not. I appreciate this and believe kindness is the cure for this world.

  52. Susan
    December 8, 2013 | 3:08 pm

    I’ve always tried to tip well! It just feels so good! One time we got a young woman -and I mean young!- who was waitressing 2 weeks before her due date. My daughter and I had lunch and then left the young gal $40. I didn’t necessarily “have” it to give away, but because she told me she was having the baby on her own, that she was probably in much more of a bind than my family. She immediately came over and said I had made a mistake: I’d given her way too much money for the bill. I just smiled and told her the rest was for her and the baby. Her eyes filled up with tears and she gave me the biggest hug. It was amazing.

    I’ve tried to do this for several people over the years, but my greatest gift came recently: My college aged daughter who is living on her own now, called to tell me that she recently left a $4 tip on a $10 check just because her waitress had been really frazzled and my daughter felt bad for her. Granted my daughter’s tip wasn’t a life changing amount, but it thrilled me that on her limited budget she was still trying to carry on the good deed she had seen me do. Isn’t cool to find out your kid was actually watching and listening during those 18 years???

  53. Sandy
    December 8, 2013 | 4:16 pm

    I do it by helping a young family; they were essentially homeless, and living in an unsavory shared place. I took out a loan and bought a mobile home in a quiet park, where they (mama, papa, and 18 month old baby) now live. I pay the loan on the mobile home, and they’re working hard to take care of the rest. It’s a place to start; to build those skills they’ll need to survive. We’ve become good friends: share food, friendship, etc. And I feel like I’m giving back to the universe that helped me in troubled times.

  54. wanderingeducators
    December 10, 2013 | 9:17 am

    i love this, and also how you note that kindness isn’t niceness or politeness. i think that with the internet, there’s a growing lack of civility – people are being so rude and trying to hurry through life. we always tip 50%, it feels GREAT to see the happy waiter’s face. thanks for starting my day out well! :)

  55. Darryl
    January 2, 2014 | 10:49 pm

    In no way do I expect you to accept my belief the truth on this matter, yet the most radical concept of kindness around eating can ONLY be met through absolute and unwavering abstinence from ANY meat or any other animal product(s).

    Anything else is neither radical, nor kind.

    I love you as a fellow being (human, or non-human), though do not love what you are advocating.

    Darryl
    Seattle

  56. Nickole Dowd via Facebook
    April 22, 2014 | 8:04 pm

    Here here!

  57. Teree McDay via Facebook
    April 22, 2014 | 8:26 pm

    I absolutely love this! Thanks for sharing.

  58. Food Renegade via Facebook
    April 22, 2014 | 8:52 pm

    You’re welcome, Teree.

  59. I too am passionate about food and this, our earth. I have been well off and I have been absolutely broke. I had to sell my stuff just to pay my rent. Today I am somewhere in between and I have learned that stuff is just extra weight.
    In one of my many career paths, I was a dog trainer. One of my passions is seeing happy owners with well balanced dogs. I have a neighbor who is always apologizing for his dog and the dog is way out of control, though beautiful. I offered to train him and his dog at no charge. That is my act of kindness this week.
    I look forward to seeing them both happy.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.