Study shows that, in restaurants, race matters

Apr 23, 2012

A new study from North Carolina State University shows that more than one-third of restaurant servers discriminate against African-American customers.

"Many people believe that race is no longer a significant issue in the ," says Sarah Rusche, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the study. "But the fact that a third of servers admit to varying their quality of based on customers' race, often giving African-Americans inferior service, shows that race continues to be an issue in our society."

Researchers wanted to determine the extent to which customers' race affects the way they are treated at , so the researchers surveyed 200 servers at 18 full-service chain restaurants in central North Carolina. The majority of the servers surveyed – approximately 86 percent – were white.

Survey results showed that 38.5 percent of servers reported that customers' race informed their level of service at least some of the time, often resulting in providing inferior service to African-American customers. Findings show that many servers perceive African-American customers to be impolite and/or poor tippers, suggesting that black patrons, in particular, are likely targets of servers' self-professed discriminatory actions.

The survey also found that 52.8 percent of servers reported seeing other servers discriminate against African-American customers by giving them poor service at least some of the time. Findings also show that restaurant servers share anti-black perceptions through racist workplace discourse, indicating a considerable amount of talk about the race of their patrons. Only 10.5 percent reported never engaging in or observing racialized discourse.

"'Tableside racism' is yet another example in which African-Americans are stereotyped and subsequently treated poorly in everyday situations," says Rusche. "Race continues to be a significant barrier to equal treatment in restaurants and other areas of social life."

Explore further: Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

More information: The paper, "Quantitative Evidence of the Continuing Significance of Race: Tableside Racism in Full-Service Restaurants," was co-authored by Dr. Zachary Brewster of Wayne State University and is published online in the Journal of Black Studies.

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hb_
2.2 / 5 (13) Apr 23, 2012
If the african-american customers really are "poor tippers" and "impolite", would giving them less service really be a sign of discrimination? After all, waiters are likely to give inferior service to poorly dressed guests, for instance, because they will infer that they are also poor tippers.

How do we know what is discrimination and what is a reasonable reaction?
Temple
1.5 / 5 (8) Apr 23, 2012
hb_: "If the african-american customers really are "poor tippers" and "impolite", would giving them less service really be a sign of discrimination?"

Are you really suggesting that a race as a whole might be "poor tippers" or "impolite"??

The definition of racism, you need to read it.
clint_norwood
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 23, 2012
Seems racism and common sense have a lot in common
Anorion
3.8 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2012
what about african-american servers ? is there any study if they have any bias towards some other classes of costumers ? like some that don't speak good english or dont wear appropriate clothes or cause they asians or white or south americans or arabs ....
i mean is this only white-black issue or is it an common trait to all humans to underestimate / judge others by skin color, height, fat/not fat, have hair/ not have hair, perceived material wealth, religion,....
Terriva
1.3 / 5 (13) Apr 23, 2012
is there any study if they have any bias towards some other classes of costumers
White visitors are commonly risking health if not property in Hispanic pubs and nobody is surprised with it.
Eli Bentley
3.6 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2012
As a server in the business for over 15 years I have NEVER, received a good tip from a black customer. Most of the time they are extremely rude, and about 70% of the time will try to get something for free. Usually by complaining about it after it has been eaten. I still give every customer the best service possible, but I am aware that if I have a 'black' table, I'm going to get a bad tip and for the next hour it will be extremely difficult to take care of my other tables due to the constant needs of the black table. So I try to avoid the black table, because every time I walk by them I will be asked for something else. Often times I'm forced to wait politely as they talk amongst themselves trying to decide what else they need. Which is difficult when I have other customers who are actually going to pay me for my time.

Is this racist? I guess so. But that doesn't make it any less true. Black people are horrible tippers.
mgmg
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 23, 2012
Are you really suggesting that a race as a whole might be "poor tippers" or "impolite"??

The definition of racism,


It's NOT racism to suggest that there might be differences in tipping or "politeness" between groups.

For example, a lot of Asians tip less; in San Francisco's Chinatown a 5-10% tip is roughly standard. And when my parents (who are Asian) go to their favorite Italian restaurant, it's pretty obvious that the waiter isn't ecstatic (and when I'm there to adjust the tip, their service is improved).

A lot of people probably think my parents have poor table manners as well. But "good manners" are different in Korea.

My ex-girlfriend was a waiter (and African-American), and observed that black customers often tipped less. She's complained, but it obviously does NOT mean that she thinks African-Americans are inferior. After working hard all day and feeling a little bit short, it's very human to gripe.
mgmg
4 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2012
I'd also like to add that it's "well-known" that Sunday 2 p.m. customers are poor tippers, and that delivery drivers are tipped best in low-middle class neighborhoods and worst in poor and super-rich neighborhoods. I would bet that a study would show similar attitudes by waiters against groups as well.

Studying one aspect one one phenomenon and drawing broad conclusions about such a complex topic as race and racism is an overextension.
fenwaydb
5 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2012
I have been a server for more than 25 years at mostly upscale restaurants. i am African-American and will say that i am embarrassed at the seemingly deliberate ignorance of African-AMericans when it comes to tipping. White rednecks are also poor tippers, but tend to avoid high end places. as they should.
leftfield
2.8 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2012
If my grandparents were in a restaurant in Asia, if a server expects them to pay just for bringing over the food, they would get up off their seats and go get the food themselves. No one in Asia pays to get someone to bring over food and drinks in a restaurant. That's just odd. I'm not sure why Westerners submit to this kind of extortion. :)
Eli Bentley
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2012
Extortion?

There are plenty of restaurants where you can get your own food and don't have to tip anyone. If you don't want to tip, then go to one of these restaurants.
Terriva
1.3 / 5 (12) Apr 23, 2012
Just dry numbers: Homicides in NY by race/ethnicity of perpetrator... (another graphs)
Cynical1
1.7 / 5 (10) Apr 23, 2012
The headline and article are "race baiting" and disengenuous. As a rule of thumb (past experience), servers know who and when they will be tipped generously, or even just decently, by. They act accordingly. Racist? Or Capitalist?
Sadly_True
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2012
I worked for restaurants throughout high school and managed some after high school. Unfortunately, african americans, for the most part are rude, loud, obnoxious, and never tip. Most of the time you can spot the ones right of the bat who are going to be a pain and not leave a tip. It's all about attitude. It's not just black people. There are white people just as bad, but percentage wise, a black person is more likely to not leave a tip and be a horror to wait on.
Tewk
2.2 / 5 (13) Apr 23, 2012
Studies like these, in the racial/political atmosphere we live in are always done to serve an agenda in my experience. This isn't science. "Social science" in general is slop. Universities shouldn't even teach social science. Although I will now submit the conclusion of my own study (financed with not 1 tax dollar),"The vast majority of racial studies conclude that white people are racist and therefore the study themselves are racist."
Skepticus
1.7 / 5 (12) Apr 23, 2012
yep, 300 years and they still incessantly talk, study, research, categorize, collect stats re black-white. If it is not racism, I don't know what it is. Looks like they will be stuck with this slave trade and importation karma fallout for at least the next 300 years!
dubitabam
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2012
When I attended NCSU (from 03-07), before graduating, I was a Shift Manager for several different Papa John's in the area and the PJ's on New Bern is where I spent a lot of my time. Most of my employees were black or middle eastern. Every single black delivery driver would refuse as best they could to get out of delivering to other black people - they hated it, loathed it - assumed they would be stiffed (they were the majority of the time). When they did deliver to other black people on top of being stiffed, they were sometimes robbed, assaulted for fun, or harassed. When I worked at one of the PJ's in Cary that served very upscale areas (Preston or Maynard - predominantly white areas) delivery drivers there would make $300 a night every weekend in tips alone, not including their hourly minimum wage and $1.10 per delivery they were paid. Purely anecdotal observations, but it certainly reinforced the stereotypes black people generally don't tip or tip poorly in comparison.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2012
One couldn't say this is a statement about race, simply because the common denominator with all these people is that they are Americans. If anything this makes a statement about Americans.
Husky
not rated yet Apr 24, 2012
i don't think the problem starts from the racist point of view of the waiter, giving bad service hence not earning a tip, but rather the cultural background of the customer, i mean cmon if you grow up in a neighbourhood where many people get foodstamps, you expect a free lunch at dennies! btw here in holland tipping is not such a hot issue as we have decent minimum wages (we dont have special appointers that seat you at a table to equally distribute the tips earned) , but i know that in America tips are imperative for the butter on your bread and while american tourists here in general are perceived as loud and overstating their importance, they are great tippers for our standards, so i can see how this is a big deal.
Husky
not rated yet Apr 24, 2012
and don't get me started on israeli tourists as anybody working on Schiphol Airport can tell you, twice as loud complaining and trying to freeload as african americans (no NOT everyone but you know what i mean), but hey i dont want to be accused of racism AND anti-semitism at the same time i barely had my coffee, but i just want to say that this aforementioned study mixes up cause and effects
BillWallace
1 / 5 (3) Apr 24, 2012
Races possess different levels of intelligence. Multiple IQ tests conducted world-wide over several decades have been normed for every conceivable variable and Blacks always rank at the bottom, even in non-verbal tests. There has never never been an IQ test administered anywhere in the world where the racial rankings were different; Jews, Asian, White, non-White Hispanic and then American Blacks and African Blacks.

Racial activist groups have tried to create their own tests to demonstrate intellectual parity of the races and attack the integrity of existing tests but the rankings are always the same; African Blacks average a 70 IQ (only 2% of Whites score this low), American Blacks are 85 (due to mixing with Whites, 20% on average), non-White Hispanics are 87, Whites 100, Asians 106 and Ashkenazi Jews at 115.

Even using culture-free, unbiased testing designed by Black psychologists, no amount of testing, no amount of wishful thinking, shows any improvement in Black IQ
YawningDog
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 24, 2012
What a pathetic excuse for a school. Her advisor should have made her do a follow up to find out to what extent the servers attitudes were valid.

Sarah, you make all sociologists look bad. Get a job waiting tables and see what the real world is all about.
Ferky
1.4 / 5 (9) Apr 24, 2012
Journal of Black Studies??? One wonders how rigorous was the review process there. But really, the first comment in this thread says it all, so it deserves echoing:

"If the african-american customers really are 'poor tippers' and 'impolite', would giving them less service really be a sign of discrimination? After all, waiters are likely to give inferior service to poorly dressed guests, for instance, because they will infer that they are also poor tippers.

How do we know what is discrimination and what is a reasonable reaction?"

Exactly.
Skepticus
1.5 / 5 (11) Apr 24, 2012
Races possess different levels of intelligence...

Even using culture-free, unbiased testing designed by Black psychologists, no amount of testing, no amount of wishful thinking, shows any improvement in Black IQ

You are on dangerous ground here, buddy, to make explosive sweeping generalizations. There is much variations in IQs even in the same group. There are much ongoing debate about effects of nurture an nature on IQ, methodology in measuring IQ, even the comparative validity of IQ tests. I hope you have plenty of fire extinguisher bottles ready!
creeseven
1 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2012
It is interesting that the commentary here has focused on the table-side behavior of servers only even when the article clearly states that racist talk goes on throughout the day amongst employees. I am sure that whatever incorrect behavior occurs in black customers, it is magnified greatly and that admirable behavior in black customers is ignored or minimized. I have observed how ANY attention requested by a black customer is perceived to be unreasonable.. It is pitiful that I ever expected otherwise. I used to be a 20% tipper. Now, I'm a zero % tipper except at black establishment because I am sane enough now not to patronize anyone else. If someone has that much contempt for me, why or why would I want them to serve me food??
Terriva
1 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2012
I used to be a 20% tipper
I guess, you're black and racist. Am I correct?
creeseven
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2012
Terriva , no, you are not correct.
The Questioner
1 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2012
I don't know if the disgustingly bigoted commenters here are real people or professional trolls, but either way---you all represent exactly what is wrong with American society. I'm looking directly at "Eli Bentley," "BillWallace," and "Husky."

If anyone here is a real restaurant server who ADMITS to discriminating against African American customers, I can only hope that your bosses are reading your comments. You all admit to acting out psychological violence on Black customers (if you think Black folks don't notice your racist nonsense, you're a fool), and then you have the nerve to wonder why Black people are so angry. The arrogance, hypocrisy and ignorance you each display is stunning.
Terriva
1 / 5 (5) Apr 24, 2012
The arrogance, hypocrisy and ignorance you each display is stunning.
I'd rather say, you don't understand the psychology of people, who lived separated racially thousands of years. The black people REALLY don't like and trust the whites and vice-versa and this psychological barrier has a deep evolutionary origin. Your babbling will not change this bare fact at least a bit.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2012
This study merely documents that becoming American makes people stupid, judgmental and petty.
serious
not rated yet Apr 28, 2012
As an African America, I am encouraged by this article and the comments that follow. It underscores what I tell Black people all the time: White people will NEVER change! On the surface (some) whites are courteous but truthfully a culture that rose to the top by using RACISM as a key tool for success will NEVER truly do away with it.

I tell Blacks all the time STOP SUPPORTING WHITE and other NON-BLACK businesses!! Blacks seem to want to appease white supremacy by "acting white". Meaning they forsake their cultural norms in order to appear less ethnic. Instead Black must build and support a true culture of their own. This is evident that EVERY non-white American has a definite culture except BLACKS!

In Martin Luther King's last days on Earth he said "I fear that I am integrating my people into a burning house". I agree with him. America is doomed nation. Blood of many races on the hands of the Caucasian. It is only natural for the Black Race to separate once and for all..
Terriva
1 / 5 (6) Apr 29, 2012
Thank you for this nice demo of black racism.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Apr 29, 2012
@serious America is doomed nation. Blood of many races on the hands of the Caucasian. It is only natural for the Black Race to separate once and for all..
I am interested in your ideas of separatism, if but on a philosophical level. Most poignantly I hear that Africans in the US are shunned by black Americans yet there is paradoxically a movement for some unity. I can understand that as Russia gives me advantages and insights as well. But what will be the wellspring for this identity, or ethnic idea, if it is itself separated from Africa? I take it many black Americans don't identify strongly with any particular part of Africa. For me I find it interesting place and the spirit of people in the face of adversity is inspirational.
serious
not rated yet Apr 29, 2012
@kochevnik: "Most poignantly I hear that Africans in the US are shunned by black Americans"
That is true on both sides. However, when I talk to people of both groups (as I volunteer with a group that works for the economic and cultural Unity for Africans, Afr Americans, Afro Latinos, and Caribbean peoples) I get the impression that it stems from preconceived notions that are rooted in information promoted by Caucasian stereotyping.
Like American propaganda against Russians, Chinese, etc for the purpose of keeping the hate for those people prevalent. Once Africans arrive in the US, most of them say that they learn a tremendous amount of Afr American history by being around that culture. They find themselves embarrassed about being duped by the same racists that colonized their country. The Afr Americans once informed, are surprised to learn about the rich African history on the continent and off and the modernization of African nations. When truth is shared Unity becomes natural
thenamesd
not rated yet Apr 30, 2012
Wow, this IS an interesting (but not surprising) article and discussion board. I have been in the service industry for some time and do not vary my level of service based on my expectation. "A little bit of Delusion goes a long way" is a phrase i use frequently because every table is an experiment with the only variable being the tip viewed as a percentage of the the bill. Overall i will make my money, good with the bad.

Another saying i have: "I don't believe in stereotypes, However I Do believe in Statistics." Granted we all know the many ways statistics overall can be criticized, but its obvious from the posts so far, that anyone in the restaurant field knows where I am coming from.

I don't actually believe that race as a whole is the issue. It is the culture people are raised in that dictates behavior.
kaasinees
0 / 5 (21) Apr 30, 2012
@serious America is doomed nation. Blood of many races on the hands of the Caucasian. It is only natural for the Black Race to separate once and for all..
I am interested in your ideas of separatism, if but on a philosophical level. Most poignantly I hear that Africans in the US are shunned by black Americans yet there is paradoxically a movement for some unity. I can understand that as Russia gives me advantages and insights as well. But what will be the wellspring for this identity, or ethnic idea, if it is itself separated from Africa? I take it many black Americans don't identify strongly with any particular part of Africa. For me I find it interesting place and the spirit of people in the face of adversity is inspirational.

Its called apartheid and its no fairy tale..
And it is happening to a large extend not only in africa, but in Israel and America to.
Large communities in the USA are black, white, jewish, chinese, russian etc.
Terriva
1 / 5 (5) Apr 30, 2012
But these communities are forming spontaneously, whereas the apartheid is based on forced segregation. For USA government would be a much easier situation, when minorities would integrate into mainstream society spontaneously without any racist connotations. Nobody actually wants the ghettos, the white rap or black rap, the black or white gangs at the streets. It's just the members of minorities, who are opening the racial problems and who segregate itself from the rest of society obstinately. If they wouldn't be racist, then they wouldn't perceive itself as a some minority at all.
kaasinees
0 / 5 (21) Apr 30, 2012
It's just the members of minorities, who are opening the racial problems and who segregate itself from the rest of society obstinately. If they wouldn't be racist, then they wouldn't perceive itself as a some minority at all.

Forced can be done in many ways, economically, socially etc.
In Israel they built a special wall to seperate the arabs.
Even though the wall is half crumbled the arabs are still on the other side.
How convenient to say that there is no apartheid because you are "not" forcing them, the wall is just invisible.
However due to racism most blacks still live in one area.
And due to bad parenting and bad environment those kids will be just as bad as their parents... it is changing very slowly though, but the black gangs are still there, mostly due to intolerance from white-black.
Terriva
1 / 5 (6) Apr 30, 2012
However due to racism most blacks still live in one area.
Due the black racism. Because black don't want to live in diaspora. They do want their own culture, I mean black culture. They do want differ, they do want to produce black music, black movies, etc. Do you think the millionaires like Eddy Murphy is producing black movies, because he couldn't survive otherwise? Oh, come on. He become rich because of white movies. dtto serious
(Apr 28, 2012)

In our country we have the same problem with gypsies. Our government spends huge money for integration of gypsies, it subsidizes them, so that their children can attend the mixed schools. But their parent's don't want to send their children into these schools. They want to keep them at home. As the result, these children get unqualified, unemployed and parasites of society in the same way, like their parents.
kaasinees
0.1 / 5 (23) Apr 30, 2012
And why are they so persistent to have a black community?
They are poor to begin with, the rest of society is very intolerant towards them.
If i was in america i wouldnt want to be aprt of the capitalist system either.
Terriva
1 / 5 (5) Apr 30, 2012
This is just an evasion. The immigrants from East Asia come into our country with no money as well. But because they're not lazy and asocial like the blacks, they do manage to improve their social status fast, although they're living in diaspora all the time. When Asian arrives into our country, he starts with business immediately. Whereas the black people never work willingly and they do seek an occupation. This indeed makes a difference after while.

The difference and the origin of the whole problem is, the black people were migrated forcefully into USA. They're not able of adaptation and they would never leave Africa willingly - with compare to Asians. They're lacking genes for it. The formation of close communities is their only strategy of survival. But it's passive strategy and it leads into their deeper segregation instead.
Terriva
1 / 5 (6) Apr 30, 2012
For children of East Asia immigrants is quite normal, they're attending the school together with whites and they do manage to learn Czech language in the same way, like the natives during few years. Whereas our gypsies are living in our country for decades, but they never managed to learn even Czech language, not to say about finishing of school and finding of stable occupation. It's all with the people - our government doesn't support Asians more than gypsies - or the contrary. For example, we don't pay the schools for children of immigrants like for the gypsies.
kaasinees
0.2 / 5 (24) Apr 30, 2012
In america you are very unlikely as a black person to get a scholar ship even if you work very hard it is very difficult, same goes for white people that are born in the wrong area where a lot of foresigners live.
That is the impression i have anyway, i will try googling some studies or statistics but i have found nothing so far.
Maybe someone with more knowledge about it can speak.