’What Would Jesus Do?’: The Church’s Restaurant Reputation

There is a growing reputation among restaurant service professionals worldwide…and it has everything to do with the church.

If you were to stand in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon after regular church services were finished, you would hear a startling exchange among the service professionals who take care of your meals.  Most are saying, “I can’t believe how rude church people are!” “I hate working on Sundays.”  “They must have left all their money in the offering plate.” “This is why I hate Christians.”

You may ask how I know this, well, I hear about it…and as a Christian, I have a hard time defending the church and its behavior on Sunday mornings. I have been waiting tables since I was about 16. Sharing my faith with my co-workers becomes harder and harder because I am left explaining why some Christians act one way, and others another way, and why they are just so rude.

As believers in Christ we must remember that even when we are dining with our families after church, we are being watched.  When you bow your heads to pray there is often a groan among the service professionals because the stereotype has become one of negativity.  While I am not big on stereotypes, and I often remind my fellow employees that NOT ALL Christians are bad customers, I do recognize that stereotypes are created because of consistent behavior from a large group of people. So big that there is a large following of service professionals who have made a Facebook Group about Christians and their tipping habits. They have T-shirts, pens, and bumper stickers! What’s it called? Jesus Tips 20%. There are over 2,000 restaurant employees following as of today. Think about this.

So how do I know it’s happening? I have been burned myself.

Here’s my story:

Whenever I start to work somewhere, I often share up front my need for Sunday mornings off so that I, too, can go to church.  However, I always tell them that if there is an emergency, I will come in and cover a shift for someone.  On this Sunday morning, there was an emergency. One of my fellow co-workers was in a car accident the night before and the outcome was heartbreaking.  So, I was called in to help cover shifts, and I came willingly.  When I arrived, the church rush had already begun.  I took a large party of about 15 people, all dressed in their Sunday best and they even prayed before their meal! Because I missed church that morning, I was excited to find out what had been shared at their service, so I asked what their service was about. The response I was given– “We’re ready to order, we have to be out of here in an hour, so can we speed this up?” Ouch. I said, “Sure.”  Apologized for asking, and proceeded taking their order, trying to grin and bear the embarrassment I felt for even asking. 

I am a fellow believer, and I was amazed at how horrible, and well how unworthy I felt.  The entrees came out in perfect timing, and I continued to refill drinks, and offer any side items that were missing.  Not once did I receive a thank you, or a please. By the time the meal was over and the check was ready to be dropped, I did my usual “Thanks! God Bless! –Abbi” on the bottom of the ticket.  I did not add gratuity to cover the tip, because I was sure that it would be offered as there were no complaints and I had gotten them out in under an hour as requested while never missing a beat on refills, etc. I thanked them for coming in, and offered to-go drinks for their kids.  They grumbled about the price and gave me a credit card.  I brought their receipts back to sign, along with the to-go cups of punch.  I then waited for them at the door, so I could hold the door, as I knew they were carrying children, and a baby carrier. (Still not one thank you.)  I went back to the table, exhausted, and at this point—frustrated and defeated.  I opened the book to…NOTHING. I went from being frustrated to being furious. What if I had been a non-believer? What if I had been struggling with my faith? What if? As a Christian I was discouraged, and left reeling after this experience. I had heard my co-workers complaining about this behavior but I had never really experienced it first hand…and this was only the first table of the day. While I could tell you the rest of the stories, I think this one makes the point.

We must practice what we preach on Sunday mornings, and we must be stewards of the faith in every area of life.  I view my work at restaurants as a ministry, and while we all make mistakes, many servers today have a very sour taste in their mouth from the Christian community. That makes sharing the gospel of truth with my co-workers extremely hard.

I’d like to take a moment here and say that I am not saying you should accept bad service at a restaurant—if you do not receive the service you desired, tell a manager. Most restaurant professionals want you to leave happy — that’s their goal — so if there is a problem, please speak up so we can fix it! However, I do not encourage taking it out on the server, remember you are representing Christ when you bow your heads to pray in a public fashion, so act like as Christ would act — with love, grace, compassion, and respect.

Did you know that most servers only make around 2 or 3 dollars an hour? They depend on tips to pay their bills, to take care of their children, and many are struggling to make ends meet.  What if the church viewed going out to eat as a ministry rather than a convenience? What if our mission fields were the places we frequent the most, like dinner out with the family, or grocery store lines? Maybe we could change the stereotype.  Maybe our new stereotype could be, “I love waiting on Christians, they are the best customers, and they tip well too!”

Be First to Comment

  1. Britton Cowman said:

    Thanks for your article Abbi! Being a former server, too, I often shook my head at the very same problems you expressed here. Do you think it would make a difference if other Christians knew that their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ would tithe their tip money? Would they give more? Britton

    May 19, 2010
  2. Nitsuj Relis said:

    I agree whole heartedly. If a Christian can’t spare that much after good service and a meal then they should go home and fry some bologna. Not tipping is a terrible reason for people to look down upon Christians, but Christians should do the right thing too.

    May 19, 2010
  3. Tentmaker said:

    Abbi, enjoyed the article. I had no idea, incredible is all I can say about such behavior.

    June 10, 2010

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