Should Restaurants Include Gratuity as Part of the Bill?

Categories: Bites & Dishes

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www.smallbusiness.chron.com
Spotting the words "service included," "servizio incluso," and "service compris" on restaurant checks in most European countries means tipping isn't necessary (instead, a V.A.T. tax of 20 percent is added). But more and more restaurants in America are adopting this policy, causing the often distressful subject of tipping to become even more convoluted.

See also: Is the Michelin Guide Still Relevant? and What Are the Pros and Cons of Food Festivals?

Should Valley restaurants follow suit? Here's what some of our chefs and restaurateurs had to say:

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Farah Khalid
Chef and Owner, Curry Corner

I believe it should be adopted, as I have seen in this business that customers expect a great deal of service from everyone in a restaurant -- be it the chef, server, or busboy. Most customers are appreciative of this fact, but sometimes you do see an under-appreciation of service, which actually pinches the people involved. If gratuity is included, it ensures all the hard work done by people involved has not been in vain.

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Eric Flatt, Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill/Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House

We need to keep dangling the carrot to keep the focus of being professional and the rewards of being paid on performance.

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Chef Anthony Rivera
District American Kitchen & Wine Bar

I am a firm believer that restaurants should pay their servers appropriately and take tipping out of the equation. Great service should be expected and when a server is working for their money, the genuine feeling can be lost in the hustle. A good server should be serving because they love the industry and they love interaction, not because they need to earn enough money to pay their bills.

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Chef Andrea Volpi
Local Bistro

Gratuity is a direct reflection of the guests' experience with their server. Without the service-included policy, the servers have more incentive to give great service which, in turn, may increase their gratuity.


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48 comments
djmystique
djmystique

It all depends on where u live. In miami it is a neccesity to include the tip as most patrons are toursist and come from other countries. I have worked in the hospitality industry for over 25 years and in many areas of the country. I have seen first hand in miami where establishments that do not include the tip the servers and bartenders may recieve only half of thier guests leaving any form of a tip. Servers make less  than minimum wage and depend on the tips.Now i would agree on not having a tip included except for the fact that in miami most patrons are not tipping or are tipping 10 percent even on excellant service given. 

Kevin Flanagan
Kevin Flanagan

Really, NT? Ask a bunch of taskmasters if they should pay they wageslaves a living wage? Just pay servers minimum wage like any other profession and take the onus off the customer. I've been a server, a busser, and a cook, and the most money I ever made was spent chopping onions for hours a day (including a chunk of the server's tips!) The hardest, most thankless work was when I made it my business to make sure dozens of people a day we content, pleased, and well fed. Restaurants like to pretend paying servers a minimum wage (not even a LIVING wage, mind you) would bankrupt them all. Tipped labor only makes living wages with grueling, endless hours.

Miranda Michelle
Miranda Michelle

Wow!! All I can say is its obvious so many people do not understand what it is to be a server. We only get paid $4.80 an hour which is far less them minimal wage! And then on top of that we are required to tip out the kitchen, bar and bussers (if bussers are on staff) so we do not even get to keep all of the tip our customers give us!

Steven Hester
Steven Hester

Including a gratuity is saying its a given...a tip shouldn't be standard. A tip is a customer's way of saying the server did a good job. Including it in the bill takes away the motivation to work hard to make sure the customers have a positive experience. If a tip is warranted...I'll take care of the wait staff, otherwise..the only tip you'll get from me is "maybe you should find another job".

Cheri Mason
Cheri Mason

And yes, restaurants should pay their servers just like everyone else has to pay their employees.

Cheri Mason
Cheri Mason

I tip well. That being said... If it's part of the bill, then it's not gratuity, now, is it? It's just more bill.

Beth Simek
Beth Simek

It seems to me like this is a government effort to ensure that servers are declaring their tips as income...

Erick Biez
Erick Biez

How about restaurants start paying staff actual minimum wage like a couple other states do.

David Lawson
David Lawson

T to I insure P prompt S service. Hell no!. if I'm not getting it, neither are they. its not a given. I will tip 20/25% for good service.

Paul Ross
Paul Ross

always over tip bartenders and breakfast servers

Evan C. Paul
Evan C. Paul

Done in one. Instead of fighting over whether or not patrons should pay the servers, we should be fighting the system to stop allowing servers to be paid virtually nothing by their employers.

Reginald B. McKinley II
Reginald B. McKinley II

Yes. That would make it easier. But I think that the wait staff would actually make less. I tip more than 18% and I know quite a few who do too. With mandatory I would drop to whatever they feel is a staple rate. So I say yes for the everyday locations but no for higher end cafes, restaurants, etc.

Natalie Gossen
Natalie Gossen

Or maybe the restaurant should just pay the servers a normal wage?

Steve
Steve

I understand a standard gratuity for large parties as they are more work, and getting stiffed by some jerk can make or break a server's entire night. But forcing a gratuity upon smaller parties is ridiculous--and may end up costing a good server money. I'm a standard 20% tipper even if there are some service problems, but great service (and perhaps a few cocktails) can have me go well beyond that number.  If there was a standard gratuity I might think twice about it.  Also, I've experienced extremely poor service in places where there is a standard gratuity or in foreign countries where none is expected. If there's no incentive to provide good service, bad servers will benefit while good servers lose out.  It'd be a race to the bottom. 

Concerned_Food_Fan
Concerned_Food_Fan

Having the tip be a percentage of the bill is what is stupid about the whole process.  Which server works harder:  the one working when you order a meal that costs $10, or the one working when you order a meal that costs $30?  They both do the exact same amount of work, but for some reason you're supposed to tip the second server three times as much..

D.c. Small
D.c. Small

I think I'd prefer it if they did. Or just get rid of tips and "living on tips" all together.

NoBaloney
NoBaloney

Restaurant Management 101 - staffing is the highest expense of running a restaurant; often more than 30% operating cost. It takes a server, a prep/line cook, a dishwasher and a manager just to serve one meal. On a busy weekend night, it takes a small army to keep up with the demand (add hosts, bartenders, cocktail servers, bussers, more line cooks, an expeditor, and food runners to the headcount). If owners paid the tipped staff a reasonable salary - you wouldn't be able to afford a meal. And oh, by the way the 15-20% gratuity standard hasn't changed in more than 30 years in the US. Just sayin'!

az-desertgal
az-desertgal

Ten+ years ago I was out for dinner with a friend and another couple. He took the check and paid it and left a normal (at least what we thought of 10%). He had been tipping 10% all his life and didn't know they expected more nowadays. The waitress came back to our table before we left and embarassed him in front of all of us. She called him out as he left only 10%. I thought she should have been reported but he would not do this to her.Come on now employers. Pay your employees justly and quit being greedy. This may be one of the reasons people go to fast food joints or just do a take out so they don't have to deal with the extra costs of tipping.

LETS ABOLISH ALL TIPPING!!!!

az-desertgal
az-desertgal

I really believe employers should pay their employees a decent wage just as in all other professions.  Employees should not have to rely on tips.  It should not be upon the customers to pay extra for the lack of consideration they are paid by their employers.  This practice is going to far.  I have encountered this lately in other professions which I would never expect it to be and where I know the employees are not just making minimum wages.I think if there is a tip it should be 10% like it had been for years.  Why does it keep increasing?No, it should not be added to the check.  Possibly for large groups but 15% should be the maximum but should be disputed if you have a waiter/waitress who does not give you the service you deserve.  If they go beyond this expectation then it would be up to you to leave a little more.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

For those that think it should be included, why don't you just raise your prices, and pay your people more?  That way they will only get a tip if they DESERVE it.

A "tip" is an EXTRA and should NEVER be included on the bill.

NoBaloney
NoBaloney

@Chef Anthony Rivera: Are you kidding me? Servers should do it b/c they love it, not to pay bills? So let's see, that would possibly include 1.) people who make enough money at their real job that they take a SECOND job they don't need, but they "love" 2.) the uber-rich (c'mon Hollywood) 3. ) retirees with a healthy pension who can hustle! 4.) congress 5.) nobody!

I truly loved serving back in the day, was great at it, but it barely covered my bills. Let's see Chefs not pay their bills with their profession.

Sherm
Sherm

When I was in Barcelona last year, each bar/restaurant I went to had the gratuity included in the bill.  Yet, what many of the bartenders, waitresses and waiters confided in me was they may not see any or all of the gratuity, as some owners would keep it as additional profit.

To me, that is more than a little distressing if true... I would much rather give a deserving waitress, waiter or bartender their just desserts (no pun intended) cold hard cash for whatever ranking of service I deem prudent.  The onus of reporting such remuneration then rests upon them... not myself... I've fulfilled my obligation of sorts.

Leaving gratuity distributions up to any establishment seems dangerous to me, and sort of like Social Security or pension funds... rife to be raided should the economies of scales suddenly go south.

Sherm
Sherm

When I was in  Barcelona last year, each restaurant/bar I went to had the gratuity included in the bill.  Yet what many of the bartenders and waitresses told me was they may or may not see some or any of that, and that most times the business kept a majority of the gratuity, if not all of it.

To me, it is a little distressing if that is true... I would much rather give a great waitress, waiter or bartender cold hard cash in person for a job well done.  Then, the onus is on them to report it or not... but I've rewarded them individually for services rendered.

Leaving it up to the business to collect gratuities seems dangerous to me, and sort of like Social Security... something prime to be raided if economies go south.


Fran Schmell Hasslacher
Fran Schmell Hasslacher

I am still trying to figure out why we tip in the first place? The price of food is so high to begin with that restaurant owners should be paying their own employees, I wish I could pay my employees $2.oo an hour and let my customers pay the rest for them to do their job. A tip is suppose to be for service above and beyond, not how salary is paid!

tanrazz
tanrazz

Maybe if chefs/cooks worked for tips, we'd have more restaurants with better food.

davelog
davelog

Any restaurant that forces a gratuity on a small table will never get a penny from me.

I'm a strong tipper and I've worked for tips many times in my life, but if you want to get a resounding nothing from me, act like you're entitled to a tip without earning it.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

When did the gratuity rise from an expected 15% to 18% and now to an expected 20%?  It seems like the expectation is now 20% across the board.  The bill at Pig and Pickle has gratuity calculated (but not included) at the bottom of the bill with 15% being the low point, 20% being the midpoint and 25% being the high point.  When did the expectation become that a normal tip is 20% of the bill.

Kimberlynn Hall Tovrea
Kimberlynn Hall Tovrea

love the comments by the chefs in this article... as a customer I would like to be provided with the info as to whether or not tips go to the house to be divvied or to the server so that I may make an informed decision as to the amount I tip. As someone who, like many, spent time in college waiting tables, I would like like for people to remember that if there is an issue with the food or kitchen's responsiveness that seems inappropriate (if they are slammin' busy in the front of the house they are in the back of the house) this really isn't the server's fault. If the server is just whack, this isn't the back of the house's fault. I have left many a tip with the chef for the kitchen staff and not much of one with the server for bad service, and vice versa for a bad experience caused by back of house. Most generally, however, I never tip less than 15%, 15% = bad something in my book.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@Miranda Michelle Which is the problem - servers should be paid an adequate wage, the menu items should be grossed up to account for the additional labor costs and tipping should be removed from the equation.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@Steven Hester Here's a better idea, how about restaurant managers actually manage their staff, fire servers who don't give good service and not rely on you dangling an $5 spot out there to "motivate" the servers for good service.  I go to Target and need assistance, I expect the person in the red shirt to be helpful, courteous and efficient in assisting me - and they usually are - and I don't expect to have to tip them.  Why should I be responsible for paying the salary of a server directly to the server just because its a restaurant and in no other service environment. 

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@Beth Simek Or maybe its a government effort to require restaurant owners to treat their employees equal to the way every other business has to treat their employees.  Treating people equally - that's important, don't you think.

marcy
marcy

@NoBaloney Why should the gratuity "standard" change?  The price of meals has gone up substantially so total tips paid has also increased.  The notion that the tipping percentage should go up over time is as silly as tipping for normal services rendered.

I don't tip my auto mechanic, the person who sells me shoes or the guy that cleans my carpets.

If an employee can't provide good service without an additional bribe, it is management's job to replace that employee with one who can.  

Tipping should be eliminated and it shouldn't be replaced with a surcharge.  Post a price for your meal or service and that's the end of it.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@NoBaloney Growing upthe standard was 15% with 20% for exceptional service.  Now its an expectation of 20% with 25% for exceptional service.  There standard has changed. 

To your point re: paying a salary, what's the difference.  I can pay 20% more as a tip or I can pay 20% as the price of the meal.  Either way, its 20% more than the aggregate cost of the items I've ordered from the menu.  Just charge me the 20% more, pay it equitably to the staff and remove that akward tipping issue from the equation.

And while we're at it, whats with tip jars at even the most quick serve of quick serve places.  I go for coffee, the person at the register reaches behind her, fills a cup with coffee, sets it on the counter and seems to expect a tip for that.  Huh?  I'm tired of tip jars at every cash register.  Charge me a fair price, pay your staff a fair wage, and be done with it.

marcy
marcy

@az-desertgal 

If someone did that to me I'd happily take back the tip and give them nothing.

Tipping is dumb.  In more civilized countries tipping just isn't done the way it is here.  

marcy
marcy

@NoBaloney 

Serving is a job, they should be paid by their employer.

HaddieNuff
HaddieNuff

@Sherm  Exactly my first thought, Sherm.  Including the tip in the bill? No way! The service staff is already underpaid, and now they're supposed to trust the employer to honestly pass along 100% of the tip? 

No thanks, and BTW, I'm also not interested in any beach front property in Chandler either.

marcy
marcy

@tanrazz 

Servers believe they should get a 20% tip for nothing special service, why do you think if chefs relied on tips their food would be any better?  

Chefs rely on the success of the menu to have a job, and that's a pretty powerful incentive.


marcy
marcy

@JohnQ.Public 

It's a combination of guilt trip laid on the public by servers and the notion that if you aren't a "big tipper" you are a cheapskate.  I think the waitstaff should be compensated for their talents and that is something best done by the management and not by consumers who are now expected to tip EVEN IF THE SERVICE IS BAD.

If I order a $30 bottle of wine or a $300 bottle of wine, how does that change the service provide by the waitstaff such that they believe they are entitled to an additional $56 tip for uncorking a bottle of more expensive wine?

marcy
marcy

@Kimberlynn Hall Tovrea 

You point out part of the problem, the expectation that BAD service is entitled to a generous 15% tip.

Bad service should be rewarded with unemployment, not a tip. 

NoBaloney
NoBaloney

@JohnQ.Public My point is that restaurant owners can't afford to pay their large staff a "reasonable" hourly rate and stay in business. Charging you 20% more per MEAL wouldn't begin to dent "aggregate" labor costs... And are you really willing to tip $12 on a $30 meal?

And I would be surprised in servers averaged 20% let alone 25% in a night. Maybe in a different market, but not Phoenix.

Love to hear an actual restaurant owner/manager weigh in with actual labor costs...

marcy
marcy

@NoBaloney @JohnQ.Public 

What silliness, they can't afford to pay their staff a reasonable hourly rate and stay in business?   Tips are NOT intended to cover an owner's labor costs, the price of the meal or service is.

Price your product to cover your costs and be done with it.

You don't need a "surcharge", just price your product appropriately.  Tipping is a way to HIDE the true cost of a product or service.

Not_Just_Restaurants
Not_Just_Restaurants

@JohnQ.Public@NoBaloneyThe REAL PROBLEM here it that this society spends less on food as a % of their income than any other developed nation. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the lowest paying jobs (not careers) are businesses about food. Why is that you asked? Well ask yourself how often do I eat at a place because it's CHEAP? And if it's so cheap what could the employees actually earn after food cost, rent, insurance, and the wasted item you sent back because you didn't like it, etc. Bottom line is it makes for a great sound bite to say just charge more and pay the staff more but as @NoBaloneysuggested, we're not ready to pay the actual cost. So in the meantime servers rely on tips to make ends meet.  Here’s a great little read that perhaps might enlighten us on what it cost to run your favorite restaurant http://bit.ly/u6aCX PS. My restaurant has been in business for 5 years and there have been many occasions where after bills are paid my tipped staff (waiters and bartenders) made more than the kitchen staff or I.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@NoBaloney 12% on a $30 meal is 40%.  Maybe this math is why restaurants fail so frequently.  If they can't figure out how to pay their staff a reasonable hourly rate and stay in business then maybe they shouldn't be in business in the first place.  Maybe they should stay home and cook for their friends instead.  From being in business for 20 years, I can tell you that almost every small business struggles with the balance between paying an adequate wage to staff and staying in business.  Figuring out the economics of running a restaurant is part of being a restaurateur. 

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