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Should an Applebees server who posted a customer receipt online be fired?

A recent story from my area of the country brings up an important question that will inevitably come up many more times. What should a restaurant owner do if an employee posts a customer’s receipt online? Does it make any difference that the receipt has something rude written on it?

Here is a link to the original story I’m referencing on the Consumerist. In short, the media is reporting that a church pastor stiffed a waitress because they didn’t like the 18% auto-gratuity on their check, the waitress posted the receipt online and then was fired by Applebees. One media outlet, the Huffington Post, is circulating a petition to get the server her job back.

Here is the USA Today version:

There are some major mistakes in most, if not all the news stories I’ve seen about this situation other than the original. Since the Consumerist’s original story had the facts right, it begs the question of intent of the other media outlets in misstating them. Here are the important facts being left out:

  • The waitress who posted the receipt online was not the waitress who waited on the pastor. She was not the one purportedly “stiffed”.
  • While the pastor crossed out the auto-gratuity and added up the tab without the tip, she did leave the server a $6 cash tip on a $34.93 tab, equating to a 17% tip. The server was not “stiffed” at all.
  • Applebees, where the incident took place, charged the 18% auto-gratuity to the pastor anyways, because it is their policy to charge 18% automatically on tables of 8 or more. This is standard in many full service restaurants. The waitress actually made a 35% tip on the table, though that certainly wasn’t the intent of the pastor.

I’m not posting this information to defend the pastor in any way. The pastor wrote “I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?” on the check. Even if she intended it for the restaurant and not the waitress, this sort of activity by a customer is inexcusable. The restaurant should “fire” the pastor as a customer for leaving such a comment on the tab in my opinion, or at a minimum give them a warning, and the church should fire the pastor for disgracing the church as its primary representative in the public. Using God as an excuse to make a negative statement about tipping an individual person is never okay, even if she did leave the server a 17% cash tip.

The real question being raised here is, “Should the server who posted the receipt be fired?”

My opinion is that yes, the employee was rightfully fired by the Applebees where she worked. Customer receipts are private property of both the customer and the business, not the server. As such, the server has no right to post that information online, regardless of what was written on it. Had the server only shared what was written on the receipt, without posting a picture of the receipt, I might have a different opinion. It’s possible there might even be some sort of criminal law broken by the server. The server’s defense is that there is nothing in the employee manual forbidding her from copying and posting receipts online.

I’d like to get the input of restaurant owners and managers out there that could face the same situation in the future. What do you think is the right thing to do as a restaurant owner?

One piece of advice I do have to offer restaurant owners on this type of incident is that you should have a policy in your manual forbidding employees from posting pictures of guests, their personal property, or the property of the restaurant online. I also believe it would be good to expressly allow the posting of food and drink pictures online for the purpose of promoting the restaurant.

Brandon O’Dell with O’Dell Restaurant Consulting is an independent restaurant consultant who offers operations and concept strategy consulting for independent restaurants and small chains. You can learn more about their services at www.bodellconsulting.com.

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What mobile apps are helpful to restaurants?

The potential of apps in business settings is mind boggling. Every time you turn around, someone introduces another fantastic app that automates a process or system for your business or personal life for a very cheap price. Unlike software, apps don’t carry a lot of packages, postage and marketing overhead. An app is hosted on a website and you use it via the internet, making traditional distribution methods for software worthless overhead.

Five years ago, when Microsoft and other companies were predicting that we would all be using internet applications instead of software someday, I thought they were crazy. Now, the writing is one the wall. Great applications are coming out constantly and business owners that don’t learn how to use them face the possibility of not being able to compete with business owners that do. Restaurants are no exception.

The following is a great article I found on mobile apps that are designed specifically for restaurants that really give you a good idea of some of the potential uses for apps. Some of them are already popular and some still have a little growth needed before they become mainstream and really effective. Either way, this article from Software Advice’s Stephanie Shih is a must read for any restaurant owner or marketing professional that wants to stay ahead of the competition.

Check it out here: 6 mobile apps restaurants should know about

Brandon O’Dell of O’Dell Restaurant Consulting offers operations and marketing assistance to independent restaurant owners and small chains. Learn more at www.bodellconsulting.com.

Should I create an app for my restaurant?

Should I create an app for my restaurant?

This is a growing question in the minds of restaurant owners. Mobile apps are the big new thing. It seems everyone has an app now. So naturally, restaurants are asking restaurant consultants like myself and other professionals if they should invest in getting a mobile application.

Since my expertise is not in mobile technology, I go to more knowledgable people for an opinion on things like ‘mobile apps for restaurants’. Here is a great article I found on whether or not restaurants should create a mobile app. It’s from Sara Petersen at Punch Mobile Marketing. After reading this article and considering the benefits and costs, my own professional opinion is that you shouldn’t spend money developing a mobile app unless you are planning on it doing some specific that your website doesn’t do. If it is just a recreation of your website, it’s a waste of money. Read the following opinion from an expert in mobile marketing to see what she thinks…

Why you shouldn’t waste time developing a mobile app

Court Strikes Down NLRB Union Election Rule | ENR: Engineering News Record | McGraw-Hill Construction

Here’s a recent ruling and attempted regulation change that restaurant owners should be very aware of as it could have a massive impact on their ability to compete with other restaurants.

The National Labor Relations Board recently passed a new regulation reducing the amount of time business owners have to educate their workers on the risk of voting a union into the workplace. It is called the “Ambush Rule” and has recently been struck down by a federal judge. Read more about the decision below and continue to monitor this issue. Though independent restaurants aren’t normally a target for unions, if it is made siginificantly easier for unions to get into restaurants, it’s only a matter of time before they move from the chains to the independents.

Court Strikes Down NLRB Union Election Rule | ENR: Engineering News Record | McGraw-Hill Construction.

45 (B) Tax Credit for Restaurants – Do you qualify?

IRS logoRestaurant owners may be able to take advantage of a tax credit on the taxes they pay on employee tip income this year. The following article discusses the qualifications for taking the credit.




Simply put, to qualify:

  • You must be profitable and owe taxes
  • You may not deduct the the same taxes as a business expense
  • You may not use the Alternative Minimum Tax

Check out the following post from the National Restaurant Association’s website to find out more details and for a link to download the necessary forms to file for this credit.

45(B) tax credit helps restaurants reduce taxes

For help getting your restaurant profitable so you can take advantage of this tax credit, visit www.bodellconsulting.com or call (888) 571-9068.

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