Could restaurant tipping become a thing of the past?

Image of pound coinsTipping at restaurants is such a controversial subject that there has even been entire film scenes dedicated to it, most famously in Reservoir Dogs. People tend to have extremely strong views when it comes to tipping, as for some it’s completely justified, while for others it is an added cost to a meal for something that the waiter or waitress is already paid to do.

Debates concerning tipping also vary depending on the country which you are based, as in the UK tipping is seen as voluntary, however in other countries such as America it is an unwritten rule that you always tip your waiter or waitress unless they have been particularly rude or unhelpful. The amount you are expected to tip also differs from country to country, as in America it is customary to tip twenty per cent, while in the UK most people tip around ten per cent.

Some UK restaurants add a service charge of twelve and a half per cent automatically to their customers’ bills, which they then have to ask to remove if they don’t want to tip the staff. However, some restaurants make it clear on their menus that for large parties – usually those consisting of eight or more – a service charge is automatically added to the bill and has to be paid. Naturally, some feel that this is unfair, as large tables often have considerably large bills in the first place, however restaurant owners claim that these tables take up more of their staff’s time.

All in all, tipping is a complex subject, which is why some restaurants have decided to ban it all together. Per Se in New York City, French Laundry in California and Alinea in Chicago are all American restaurants that have chosen to completely ban the tipping custom from their restaurants, as they feel that it mars the dining experience. All three of these restaurants have received Michelin stars, and they believe removing tipping improves the overall dining experience for their customers.

Sushi Yasuda is also a New York based restaurant that has a no-tipping policy, as owner Scott Rosenberg believes that customers shouldn’t have to spend their time in restaurants ‘grading’ their waiter or calculating how much to tip them. He added: “The meal should be there for you to enjoy without doing this calculus.” Removing the tipping custom also means that restaurant managers can spend less time making sure the process is fair, and more time on other things such as creating new menus, finding cheap restaurant insurance or marketing the company.

However, not everyone thinks that getting rid of tipping is a good idea as customers are so used to the process. In fact, Carolyn Richmond, an attorney with Fox Rothschild who specializes in the hospitality industry, said: “Even if you changed the server’s mentality toward how they are compensated, it is almost impossible to rewire the American customer who thinks they have to leave ‘something’ at the end of the meal.” Furthermore, people claim that service standards in certain restaurants will fall if tipping is removed, as waiting staff will have no incentive to go the extra mile for their customers.

Many waiters and waitresses are also against the idea of banning tipping as a large number of establishments pay minimum wage, meaning they rely on the money they make from tips to increase their take-home pay to a reasonable amount. By banning tipping restaurant owners will therefore either have to increase their staff’s basic pay or see them leave for a better paying job.

As a restaurant owner, it is important that you have a policy for tipping and stick by it at all times. You could decide to allow it, or take all the tips from your staff members and divide them equally, either way you need to make sure that you are always fair. Arguments can quickly escalate when it comes to tips, especially if one of your staff members feels that another is purposely only taking tables that will tip the most. This is why you need to always make sure that each staff member has the same opportunity to earn as much in tips as the next.

If you are a restaurant owner we would like to hear your policy on tipping, and whether you feel banning it would improve the dining experience. Comment below, or let us know you thoughts on our Facebook, Twitter or Google+ pages.

Photo by William Warby / CC BY 2.0

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