We often take going out for granted, when a century ago, people hardly went out because they could not afford it. A little over fifty years ago, people may have gone out once in a while, but since families were often single-income, the wife would handle her duties of the household and going out to eat was not necessary. Flash forward to today and everyone goes out to enjoy a good meal without a second thought. Going out to a fancy restaurant or even a fast food restaurant is more of a luxury than anything else. Fast food restaurants are affordable for people of all incomes, while sitting at a restaurant is still affordable to most people. The life of luxury, especially at restaurants, comes with expected generosity in the form of a tip.
The waiter or waitress is getting paid below minimum wage and is working for their tip. Of course, there are both good and bad servers. It is their job to ensure you have a wonderful experience and look good doing it. There are plenty who seem to hate their jobs or may having a bad job, but unfortunately, it is their job and they should remove all negative attitudes before they start their shift. There are plenty of great servers too who have years of experience and really go out of their way to make sure you have the experience of dining out.
There are plenty of people who do not feel they have to leave any tip or a good tip because they may be too cheap to pay it. If you and your family are going out to eat and experience the life of luxury - which is what it is - than you can afford to leave a fair tip. No one should have to work for free or for very cheap labor to the point where they can barely make a living. There are plenty of stories lately of people leaving hundreds to thousands of dollars in tips, and if you can afford to do it, be my guest. There are also a countless number of stories that never get reported about those people who never leave a tip. You do not have to be rich to go out, but you should tip no less than 15%, as the server is literally working on tips and trying to make a living. This does not give them the right to work less efficient and treat a customer with disrespect.
A good server will be friendly, courteous, and cater to your needs in a timely fashion. More experienced servers will never let your drink go empty until you are almost finished with the meal and come back several times during your meal to ask if your party needs anything, and of course, ask the party if they would like dessert, and know when the party is wrapping up and immediately bring the check. All of this, to a server, might be easier said than done, but I would not be writing about a good server if I had not had one. There are also bad servers who may not bring out food on time, who may mess up orders, who may not come more than once to check to see if a party needs anything, who do not ask the party if they would like dessert, and wait a long time to actually bring the check. Of course, this server does not deserve a grand tip, but will still deserve a tip for delivering food. No server should ever go without a tip. I always make it a point to compliment my server and let them know they are doing a good job. I normally start a tip off at 18% to 20% and the server must do their job to maintain those levels. If they provide okay service, they slip down to 16 to 18% and if they provide poor service, they will get about 15% or lower. Judge me not, for the better your service, the better your pay. Unfortunately, I am not everyone, and there are plenty of people who tip differently, so it is hard for any server to know how they will be tipped, as every guest is a mystery for what they will tip.
If you are a server, try to feel good about what you are doing and do your job. You know you are working for your tips. Make the customer feel privileged to have you as a server. My brother is a waiter at a busy restaurant and he has customers asking for him by name. Make sure you cater and do everything that you are supposed to do for the party you are serving and hope you get a great tip based on your performance and possibly your personality.
If you are guest at the restaurant, you should already know to have a tip in mind for your server. If you are able to afford your night out on the town, you can afford to leave a monetary tip. Your server is there to make sure you have a good experience and get what you need. Be courteous, be thoughtful, and know that your server has a life, is at work, and is trying to make their living by serving other people, so keep that in mind and definitely do not blame your server for food that was not cooked right. They did not cook or handle the food in any way. They most likely did not even prepare it or set it on the plate. Give your server the benefit of the doubt and tip well. If you tip well and you return to the same place, your server is likely to remember who you are and treat you very well the next time you return, especially if you are a repeat customer and ask for them by name. This advice also applies to bartenders.