Should You Allow Tipping In Your Restaurant?

It’s a contentious point of discussion for the everyday American, the average restaurant worker, and would heavily affect the bottom line of any restaurant owner. To some, it’s an antiquated practice. For others, it’s a inherent part of our culture, and one of the reasons one may decide to work in the position of server. It has been the source of many discussions throughout history, including one of the most notable scenes in the early film career of a modern master.

At the end of the day, we may not reach an agreement, but you may have an idea of where you stand: should tipping be allowed and encouraged, or barred and disallowed?

Facts about tipping according to BBC News

The federal minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers is $2.13 an hour, with tips expected to take the wage to $7.25 an hour.

Since last week, staff at Sushi Yasuda in New York have no need to worry about the generosity or tightfistedness of their customers. Owner Scott Rosenberg has banned tipping, saying his staff already get a good wage, with benefits.

Other upmarket American restaurants have introduced an optional service charge of 15-20% instead of a tip. This is a common practice in the UK, usually between 10-15%.

Why is tipping encouraged?

  • For many restaurant owners, this is a way to keep employee costs low. If you allow tipping, you are also legally allowed to pay your employees less than minimum wage.
  • It is seen as a way to encourage better service in the staff. If you know you’re paid by merit and not time, the concept is that you will work harder.
  • It’s a personal service; this is one of the few industries where someone is explicitely taking care of you and doing things you could theoretically do yourself, such as cooking dinner, setting your plates, and cleaning up your mess.
  • Conceptually, it encourages the mindset that good work deserves reward.
  • If anything, it’s a common practice in the English-speaking world, most notable the United States, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom.

Why is tipping discouraged?

  • On slower shifts, employees may not be able to make enough in tips to even meet minimum wage. In these situations, the restaurant owners should make up the difference, which may not have been in their budget.
  • Servers may be monetarily impacted due to actions beyond their own. If a chef or cook improperly prepared food, the guest may be unhappy and take it out on the server, who supplied the right order. Likewise, if food is taking longer than expected to get to the customer because of a backlog of dishes, they’re not going to be happy, even if the server is prompt and timely.
  • It causes social discomfort. When at a restaurant, many people will internally (and even externally) debate how much should they tip. Is it 10%? Is it 20%? How much exactly is that amount, anyway? Is it insulting to give them change? If I order a $12 meal, how much am I actually paying? Do I increase the tip for every refill I receive? Did he or she tip enough for me to consider going on another date? Can I tip better for better service?
  • The staff may not be compensated fairly across the board. If a large tip is left to point out how amazing a meal was, the server had very little in the actual preparation of the dish. If someone sat them and took their orders and another finished and took their checks, they might not share the tip fairly. Likewise, if tips go to a pool (or a tip jar in certain establishments), some employees may be tipped despite having poor service, while others might be tipped less than for what they fairly worked.
  • Appearances matter to tippers, in many cases. Unfairly, customers may tip an “attractive” employee more than what they’d consider an unattractive one, despite service being the same. Additionally, male customers may tip a male host less than a female host they wish to impress.
  • It can cause conflict with the staff and customers. If a waiter or waitress feels they were negatively tipped (or not tipped at all), they may become contentious of the customer (and of customers in general). For example, a waiter may follow a party outside after one had not tipped to ask “why?”. This is an unprofessional maneuver that’ll cause nothing but animosity for the customers, staff, and establishment.
  • Certain countries would be embarrassed or insult to receive a tip, such as Japan. The question is likewise raised when eating at a Japanese-owned, operated, or themed establishment.

Where do you fall on the tipping debate? Do you encourage tipping, or discourage it?