Should One Pay to Eat in One’s Own Restaurant? 

Restaurant ownership grants one amazing rights. You can pop in at any time, request that the chefs prepare any dish (either to review the process or sample the cuisine), and change the décor, music, and lighting at will. However, when it comes to dining in your restaurant, should you pay?

You don’t have to pay to eat in your own restaurant. However, it’s good practice to do it, as the chefs and waitstaff are taking time to serve you and should be compensated for their efforts. Dining at your restaurant gives you an opportunity to see the experience from a customer’s perspective.

There is no rulebook for how a restaurant owner should handle these kinds of issues. We hope this guide will help you determine what’s appropriate when dining at your restaurant and why it’s advantageous.

Why Dine at Your Own Restaurant?

Most people eagerly exit their workplaces on Friday afternoon and try their best not to think about work again until Monday morning. The last thing they’d want is to be called into the office on the weekend.

Your restaurant is your workplace, so the thought of dining there as a patron perhaps never crossed your mind. After all, you spend enough time there that nothing could surprise you, right?

Well, it could! Here are some advantages of dining at a restaurant you own.

Experience the Menu Firsthand

What’s on the menu? You might be able to recite the items from memory, but how many have you tried? 

Your waitstaff has eaten plenty, allowing them to recommend entrees, appetizers, drinks, and desserts with conviction. 

Even though you’re not in their position, you should still have that same level of conviction when discussing your menu. For instance, if you have an investor meeting, who can get your investors more excited about your menu, someone who’s tried it or hasn’t? Exactly.

Begin coming in and sampling things here and there. Discover your favorites. Then try them again another time to see if they’re still your favorites. 

It may take some months, but you’ll eventually eat everything on the menu. You don’t necessarily have to disqualify items you don’t like, but you might pay more attention to those items and how often they’re ordered to decide if they stay on the menu. 

Determine If You’re Allocating Ingredients Well 

Does your restaurant serve humongous portions, even though it’s not something you’re known for? Or are your portions so teeny-tiny that you can easily walk out hungry?

This is another advantage of sampling your own restaurant menu. You can conclude whether the portion size is commensurate with the dish or your kitchen staff is wasting ingredients. If you’ve determined it’s the latter, you can have a meeting to discuss portion sizes and new rules to adhere to. 

Get a Taste of Your Restaurant’s Level of Service

Every restaurant wants five-star service, but it takes hiring high-level staff, paying them well, and training them to do their jobs to get it. You’re confident in your hiring decisions, but how well do your staffing choices play out in an everyday dining scenario?

The only way to find out is to come in. If you worry that your staff will drop everything to accommodate you because you’re the boss, so you won’t get a fair treatment, here’s what we recommend.

Send in a friend or family member on your behalf, someone who your restaurant staff hasn’t met. Observe their experience, as they should get the average treatment from your staff.

What are you looking for? Here’s what to check for:

  • How long it takes for a waiter or waitress to address the table.
  • How long does the waitstaff take a table’s order.
  • How long it takes to serve drinks, appetizers, and main entrees.
  • How quickly the waitstaff clears the table between dishes. 
  • How fast the waitstaff delivers and processes the check.
  • How friendly the waitstaff is.
  • How clearly the waitstaff explains the menu and answers customer questions. 

Tell the person you’re sending on your behalf to go in and demand their all from the waitstaff. They shouldn’t be difficult on purpose, but ask a lot of questions to gauge just how well the waitstaff does their jobs. 

Review Pricing 

You track overhead pricing for ingredients, vendors, equipment, lighting, electricity, refrigeration, and other charges. You deal with large bills, but are you aware of how your menu prices break down item by item? If not, you should become familiar.

Dining at your restaurant will help you gauge if your pricing is fair or if you should consider revising the costs of some of the items on your menu.  

Relate to Your Customers Better 

Your job is mostly behind the scenes as a restaurant owner, but you will sometimes interact with customers. When you do, you want to have the capacity to understand their problems firsthand. Dining at your own restaurant will put you in that advantageous position.

When your customers remark about the menu, the portion sizes, the ambiance, or the dining experience, you can open up dialogue between the two of you to generate feedback that you can use to improve your restaurant processes.

Should You Pay to Eat at Your Own Restaurant?

As you know, dining at your own restaurant is helpful, but the question becomes, should you pay to eat there?

Ideally, yes, you should. As we discussed above, paying to dine at your restaurant will give you the authentic customer experience. Besides that, it’s also the right thing to do.

Your waitstaff, chefs, dishwashers, and other employees are taking time to serve you exceptionally well.  The electricity to power the kitchen, the ingredients to make your meal, water to wash your dishware… None of it comes for free.

Depriving your staff of a payment undercuts their service and might make them more reluctant to serve you to such high service the next time you come in.

You already funnel so much money into keeping your restaurant operational. What is a couple hundred dollars more, if that? It’s ultimately a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ve already paid for your restaurant and what you will continue to pay to keep it running. 

Should You Tip When Dining at Your Own Restaurant? How Much?

This naturally inspires a follow-up question. If you’re paying your waitstaff when you dine your restaurant, should you tip them too?

The answer to this is a resounding yes. It’s no secret that restaurant staff and bartenders earn hardly above minimum wage. They heavily rely on tips to make enough money to keep a roof over their heads.

Even if you strive to pay your restaurant workers more than average, they will still expect a tip for a job well done. Failing to tip them or leaving them a very low tip suggests that they didn’t live up to your standards.

This can hurt morale and leave your staff dreading when you visit the restaurant when it should be a positive experience. 

The next question is, how much should you tip your employees? The average tip rate at a sit-down restaurant is between 15 and 20 percent of the bill pretax. You can expect your servers will rely on you to pay at least that much.

However, as the restaurant owner, you should make a show of tipping your waitstaff substantially more. Perhaps you tip them 30, 50, or even 75 percent of the pretax bill.

This does more than put a wad of cash into the pockets of your waitstaff. It also subtly tells them that business is good if you can afford to tip so well. Further, your staff will eagerly await your next return and strive to serve you even better, hoping to generate a generous tip.

Bottom Line 

Paying to eat at one’s own restaurant is a good showing all around. You can instill faith and morale in your employees, give them a substantial tip, and personally experience what it’s like to dine as a customer. That gives you glimpses into your restaurant’s menu variety, pricing, portion sizes, ambiance, and service.

The next time you crave a meal out, why not visit your restaurant? It will do it a world of good. 

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