By Marcela Bonet and Sally Nagle, Guest Contributors
The hospitality industry is one of the largest industries in New Hampshire, employing more than 65,000 people across approximately 4,500 businesses. At best, it can be a rewarding industry, full of the joys of good food, good art, and good business. At worst, it can be grueling and thankless, with workers abused and taken for granted by disrespectful patrons.
In such an industry, even the most enthusiastic workers can burn out. Ms. Sun is one of the many citizens of the town of Exeter who are employed in the hospitality industry. She works at Capital Thai as a waitress alongside several other women. Upon meeting Ms. Sun, we could tell she was passionate about what she does. “We try to keep the flavors as authentic as possible,” she said. “I think about 2/3rds of the menu are things that we would eat at home.” That’s it—a passion for serving good, authentic food, just like you’d eat at home.
Her passion, and the passion of the other employees at Capital Thai, made a difference. As we sat down to our delicious meal of pineapple fried rice, flower-shaped dumplings, and steamed pork buns, we couldn’t help but gush about the food. It felt (and tasted) like home. What made the biggest impression, however, was Ms. Sun’s astonishment at our reactions. “We [the servers] don’t usually get such a kind treatment,” she told us. “Most times they [Exeter students] will just sit down and call for a waiter right away, even if we’re busy. [Y]ou don’t have to treat us as lesser just because we work in service.”
And by the way—servers are people too, and bad treatment gets everyone down. “It can be hard on the girls,” said Ms. Sun, referring to her team of servers. “But we still do back-breaking work to make your time here enjoyable and comfortable.”
It seems astonishing, then, that even after all of this hard work that servers aren’t often given a tip. It’s common practice for restaurants in most of the United States to charge gratuity tips for large parties, and Capital Thai is no exception. “We charged one party a gratuity tip, and we explained why we charged them. One girl got so mad she said she’d never come back here again!” Though in some of our cultures giving tips isn’t common, it is important to note that in New Hampshire, tips are often expected, especially from large parties.
We at Exeter Summer are extremely lucky to have access to so many great restaurants and shops right outside our door, but we must remember to treat the workers and servers with the respect they deserve. The people who work to feed us deserve as much recognition as all of the others who strive to make Exeter filled with good food, good art, and good business. Hospitality work is honorable work, so remember—thank your waiter, and by all means, leave a tip.