Some Thoughts on Tipping
As we approach the holiday season this is a good time of year to talk about common practices in the restaurant industry. First of all, I will identify myself as a thoughtful tipper. This is not something that I feel the need to broadcast, but it does ensure a convivial relationship with service staff who may not otherwise be particularly enamored with my interviewing and interrogation skills and not everyone expects or appreciates a culinary inquisition.
Tipping remains a controversial and peculiar phenomenon of the hospitality sector and other service-oriented businesses. Most people who argue for the abolishment of tipping do not realize that the majority of servers in Ontario earn an hourly rate just below the standard minimum wage.Tipping is the the accepted practice to subsidize incomes in the labour-intensive hospitality industry. It is also an opportunity for patrons to show their appreciation for good service. It would be ideal if everyone were compensated so well they did not need to rely on tips. However, this is not the case, and many professionals depend on the extra remuneration. Most people of my acquaintance agree that the unspoken implication today is that only good service merits a tip.
A number of studies suggest that tipping may not be as much of an incentive for providing good service as is commonly assumed. Several years ago, Cornell University’s school of hotel administration released a study that showed, “there is rather a weak relationship between the size of the tip and the level and quality of service one receives … The amount left as a tip by diners is influenced more by bill size and the fear of disappointing the server than by good service.”Other reports indicate that the carriage of the server and even his or her greeting has a significant impact on tipping. Research indicates men are likely to tip more than women and individuals seem to tip better than people in groups. Amusing, entertaining and eccentric behavior, when it is appropriate, can increase a gratuity.
Studies indicate that patrons also tip more in restaurants when their bill is presented on a tip tray with a credit card insignia. The standard for excellent service still remains 20 percent of the total bill, minus the taxes. In exceptional circumstances, a larger gratuity is not uncommon. Poor, rude or grossly inattentive service should not be rewarded at all.It is common practice for servers to “tip out the house” at the end of each shift. “The house” usually refers to tipping the cooks in the kitchen, the bar- tender and sometimes the host and busboy; sometimes it’s just the management or the dishwasher. In some cases, if the gratuity is not large enough, the server actually ends up paying out of his pocket to serve the table. Another pet peeve of servers is the patron who uses a gift certificate and only tips on the remaining balance of the check in excess of the gift certificate amount.
The most annoying and unprofessional tendency I encounter comes from the server who inquires; “Do you need change?” It is clearly the server’s obligation to return your change. He or she should never assume that the change is meant as a gratuity unless the patron has specifically said so.
Who among us wants to be labeled a cheapskate or worse? And for those of you who don’t follow the rules of polite society— you can bet that your disgruntled server has a very long memory and is likely plotting revenge for your next visit.