The Tipping Point

Tipping in restaurants has always been something of a controversial issue. We Brits haven’t quite got the hang of it: the Americans take it as read, openly and generously tipping to make up the wages of the waiting staff; the French are undoubtedly more suave about the whole affair; we, on the other hand, never seem to get it right. How much to tip? To pay the 12.5% service charge and leave a cash tip? To tip even when service has been ineffably awful? It’s a boggy quagmire that can sink a successful evening.

To set the record straight, since October 2009 it is illegal to use tips to make up the minimum wage which most waiting staff are on. The practice was used in the industry to make up the cost of everything from the flowers adorning the reception to the laundry for the linen tablecloths – swallowed up by the enormous overheads of running a restaurant, tip money rarely made it into staff pockets. There’s talk of getting rid of that standard 12.5% on the bill but given we’re such a parsimonious lot, will we have to be forced to tip in other ways?

Tipping etiquette is a tricky business. Perhaps part of the problem is that in this country we still don’t think of waiting on tables as a ‘real’ job and consequently it doesn’t rate ‘real’ wages. Yet speak to any waiter or waitress who will detail the number of inter-personal skills and multi-tasking involved, all the while keeping a smile on your face, and you realise this is a skilled profession requiring certain skilled types. In France and America, to mention just two, waiting on is not seen as a demeaning, bottom-rung job; it’s hard work that they mostly take pride in delivering on. If you’ve had a nice night, it’s probably down to the skills of the waiter effecting communication between your table and the kitchen.

So maybe we need a little help. Who Gets The Tip is a new campaign to get you asking restaurants just that. Offering transparency for places to eat across the country, it highlights the tipping policy – or lack of – making it plain to the customer where their money is going. We do have to change the way we think about those we do our best to ignore on an evening out. And keep it simple: reward good service by leaving a 15% tip in cash on the table having first ascertained who gets the tip. If the service was poor, explain why you’re not leaving a tip. And if their tipping policy isn’t up to scratch make sure the tip goes to the waiter/waitress personally.

What’s your tipping policy? Are you a generous tipper or do you pay and run? What’s your tipping point?

  • Alex

    After 13 years as hospitality professional, I have always been hard pressed to find anyone who works in office or a mainstream profession, who has the skills and attentiveness to constantly look after hundreds of people per week, who for most of the still enjoy who they do and don’t bitch that they haven’t been given a fare go. Sure only tip if you believe everything is as a good standard ie: service, food, etc. I take a lot of pride in what i do. It’s only of the basic human needs too eat and If you were prepared to give up your nights, weekends and public holidays just to help people do something, which to large number of people in this world is still a massive luxury, you can say whatever you damn will please.
    However it’s all about how you perceive things, I can’t tip supermarket attendants due to their individual company policies, I believe that army do get pay quite a lot more than the average hospitality worker does too. However I tip and I earn not much on the grand scheme of things, but show something good for when your given something good. My Job is to make people happy and enjoy their time doing something they have the ability to do. If you wish to complain about your hard times, Learn to carry 4 plates through a maze of tables and chairs, kids allowed to play unsupervised on the floor, and still answer questions from people who don’t know any better and see that otherside……. Or just stay at home and cook and clean up after yourself :)
    Bon Appetit
    Al

  • Fred Jones

    if the waiting staff just did what they were paid to do then that wouldnt be good service, it would be adequate. Good service is going out of their way to make your meal more enjoyable, the extra effort and thats worth tipping. Maybe you have been unfortunate to choose restaurants with lower standards (the ones that do two for a tenner are not restaurants), because in good restaurants it is very noticable. If the person at tesco smiled once in a while, or ran to the aisle if i forgot something, or carried the bags to the car then i would quite happily let them keep the change!

  • Wendy

    haha, as a student i had several part time jobs, including shop assistant, bar worker, waitress and receptionist. Being a waitress was definitely the the best job.

    The hours were generally good; Friday & Saturday evenings, but finish early enough to meet friends at the bar later.

    Free food from the chefs and help yourself to drinks behind the bar.

    Chance to chat up the hot, rich blokes.

    Pay was only minimum wage, but could earn over £150 in tips on a good night. (Cash in hand)

    and it is not exactly rocket science, smile, take the order, smile, give order to chef, smile, bring out drinks, smile, bring out food, smile, ask if everything is Ok, smile, clear plates, smile, present bill, smile, take payment, smile, say goodbye, keep smiling….simples.

    So no i don’t tip any waiting staff….but thanks guys for all the tips I got. x

  • Bill Shat

    Ouch! All im saying is no one tips me for doing my job so why should i tip them for doing theirs?… If I went into Tesco and the check out person gave me speedy service with a smile would i tip them…. I mean they have an equally s**** and low paying job… i wouldn’t give them an extra fiver for doing the job. . .did any one tip me for fighting insurgents in Baghdad?… NO!

  • Fred Jones

    I am sure they love you at the restaurant you go to Bill, give you extra special treatment, listen for the mutters as you leave. The point is that good service is personable and can actually make the experience better. If you cant afford it stay at home or get a better job, preferably one that doesnt make you all bitter. Go on leave them something, a couple more quid on top of the education you have provided isn’t going to make much difference. I thought that you would get your tips in the form of a christmas bonus? holidays? weekends off? only work 9 hours a day? flexi time? This country is full of people who believe they should be able to eat in restaurants of a high standard, get great service and pay next to nothing for it. Stop complaining and open your own magical restaurant where customers eat for free and you are able to pay your staff 20k a week so no one has to tip them. We can catch and eat the pigs that fly above it.

  • Rachel

    I tip when its deserved, and sometimes even when its not!! Generally i tip at least 10%. Its a tough job but i believe tips are a way of showing what you thought of the service, so if it was good and came with a smile, then tip. If service was poor, then don’t. Service is often something people in this country struggle with, so if they learn that if they do it better they get better tips, then that can only be a good thing!

  • Wilscombe

    There was a time when retailers listed VAT exclusive prices rather than the full price. They now list the full, VAT inclusive price because they lost customers. As a customer I expect the full price to be upfront and clear. Staff wages are a matter for the staff and management to work out between themselves. I find tipping to be demeaning and outdated and I regularly ignore the begging bowl left by the till. Perhaps if restaurants got their act together and banned this practice, they might get more custom..

  • Bill Shat

    Chris, I don’t think anyone’s questioning the bill / price of the restaurants. i think if you go to a £100 + restaurant the service should be amazing regardless and doesn’t warrant a tip.. The blog is about tips! Not about worrying about the bill.. some people tip some people don’t… like I said previously no one tips me for doing my job.. so why should I tip them for doing theirs? and its not only a tenner! It’s a tenner of my hard earned cash! so why should a couple of waiters/waitress get my money for doing a job they get paid to do anyway… I mean we pay enough in tax for their education, now we should fund their beer money? COME ON!! It’s like people are surprised when they get good service so they tip.. when you go to a restaurant you expect good service/food so why should you pay more when you receive it? Or maybe it’s just another way for pretentious snobs living off money they’ve probably not even earnt to “flash the cash” Bigger the tip, the more well off you must be… Makes me sick!

  • Chris

    I totally agree with Fred
    I know a couple who go out to nice restaurants very very rarely and then moan because the bill was too expensive & they are sat there all night looking worried because they are dreading what the bill is going to be. God knows why I do think whatever you order (so if it is the most expensive thing on the menu or a very nice bottle of wine) then the tip % should be added on the final amount & if you need to you should do a rough calculation of how much its going to be to save embarrassment when the bill arrives.

  • Fred Jones

    The restaurant really would like to charge you more and include a service charge in the price of the food or drink. But then the argument would be some restaurants are too expensive. We build our costs in to the menu and dont add a service charge. Customers know what they are going to pay and tip very well if they have had a nice experience. Its about knowing your market and what they are prepared to spend. There seems to be quite a few people who eat out with no intention of relaxing or enjoying themseves moaning about £10 tip to waiting on staff… £10!! Who cares it probably costs more than that in fuel to drive to tesco. Choose a good restaurant, a good bottle, tip the staff and enjoy your evening. Or stay in, the food is cheaper, seats are comfy and you dont have to tip the wife!

  • Paul Jackson

    well I visited birmingham in 2007 , I went into a chinese retaurant and agreed to a gratia payment by pressing yes on the debit card reader which pushed the bill from £16 to £32 they would have taken it off had I asked them but I am to much of a gentleman, I later told the tale to a waiter in a tuna steak bar I remarked I hope he does not do the same as them, he did though and my bill went from £43 to over £70 so be careful in Birmingham

  • Adey

    12.5% is an included tip – it you work for a restaurant that keeps this money then that’s your choice.

    As for the US, I don’t tip for a different reason. If it says $25 for a dish that’s not takeaway prices so service is already included. If the restaurant wanted more for paying their staff the should put it on the menu. If the staff don’t like it get a proper job where you don’t have to beg for change.

  • Georgina

    Having worked in the Hospitality industry for 10 years i know how demanding and hard the job is both front AND back of house. Tips are always appreciated but not always shared with the back of house! Having said that it really annoys me when the service charge is automatically put on and you are then also expected to leave a tip. Your effectively paying twice. i usually get them to take the service charge off and then leave a tip of MY choice.

  • Elaine

    I would normally leave 10%, but 2 weeks ago didn’t leave one for 1st time in ages, at Ego’s in Heswall (see review). We had waited and waited while those who came in after us got served, and after pointing this out politely, nothing improved, Shame as our waitress was friendly. This is exceptional though.

  • Andrew

    The job, Paul, is extremely hard, depending on how much you put into it. If you aren’t interested in what you are doing then that will come across to the customer. If, however, you are working your guts out, running around, dealing with numerous things at once, keeping every customer happy along with the kitchen staff, you are working extremely hard.

    Nobody has mentioned that the Government also taxes tips, after a VAT inspection we now lose a large amount of our tips every week through tax. Yet many businesses/ staff that haven’t had a recent inspection do not. I was even charged “back – tax” for previous tips they had presumed I received. The whole system stinks.

  • Ukoap

    I like to leave about a 10% tip in cash, however, I know that some men seem very reluctant to do so. I have, over the years trained my husband to hand over the cash and he does, as do nearly all our friends. If the service has been truly dreadful, then, it is fair not to leave a tip, or just a very small amount of loose change, equally, if it has been exceptionally good then leaving more (about 12-15%) is always a good idea. I do find tipping overseas a bit of a minefield, however. Although I use the roughly the same guidelines I always wonder if we are leaving enough or too much! I have great respect for the work waiting on staff do in restaurants and I think it is good to show appreciation, if the staff were paid more wages, then I probably would think again. Having said that, I also tip hairdressers and I think they are paid far too much money really, these days, so, I suppose I am just programmed to be generous! What is it they say about a fool and his money?

  • Bob

    Being a yank that has held about every job in the food business from dishwasher to chef, I generally always tip the wait staff. If the service was poor I do not tip, or leave 5 cents to let them know I didn’t forget. I realize in the UK tipping isn’t that common, but I usually tipped at least 10% and have tipped up to 50% depending on the service. If all the wait staff did was take my order and bring my food, that doesn’t necessarily rate a tip. To the wait staff that makes sure my water is always full, or my tea always hot , and I feel that has gone above and beyond just serving, I will kick up more for the tip. If it is someplace that I frequent more often, I will tip to ensure I get continued good service.

  • H H Shaw

    Why should how much I pay for a meal affect my tip? I detest having tips added to my bill, insisting it is prepared without them. Having friends all over North America, I tip between 10 and 20%, but don’t expect it if you don’t do your job professionally. In the US and Canada I tip 10% when the service is routine, but that is a different world. There are Scandinavian countries where giving small amounts of money instead of spoken thanks is insulting and to be frank, that’s how it should be here.

  • Lynda Kingston

    I usually leave 10% unless there is already a service charge. If the service is really bad i won’t leave a tip.
    A couple of weeks ago in a restaurant that i like, i told the manager why i wasn’t leaving a tip as is my usual practice as the waitress was simply not doing her job and there was only one other table to wait on apart from ours.

    I will return to the restaurant and hopefully the waitress in question won’t be around or will do what she is paid to do!

    I have always worked with the public, and if you can’t put a smile on your face for people who are out to enjoy themselves or who are there to be assisted/waited on then find another job where you can sit in a room and sulk and no one needs to see your face!

  • Lucy Knight

    Not exactly taxing’? Eh? What a load of bobbins. Waiting tables is hard work. Like the article said, interpersonal and multi-tasking skills are key, as is the ability to be physically fit enough to spend your shift running around like a blue a***ed fly trying to keep on top of orders.

    As a rule I try and tip 10%, unless I’ve been disappointed with the service I’ve received, when I’ll leave nothing. I think I may have made a social faux-pas, though, reading the comments above, as I thought the 12.5% service charge was the tip and I didn’t leave anything else at a couple of restaurants on a recent visit to London. Oops…

  • Stewart

    If the service or the food quality is above expectations I tip 10% directly to the waiter. If it is average I don’t tip. If I’m asked “Is everything OK?” I tell them honestly my opinion. If the food is costing £100+ then there is an argument for not needing to tip. There is no guarantee that a £100 meal is going to be good either.

  • Jo

    Where good service is given I have no problem in leaving a tip (except if it has already been added to the bill) but it is a two way street, give the good service and you will get the tip. But to expect a tip regardless, forget it. No tip = bad service so I reserve the right to not tip if this is the case.

  • Kath O’donnell

    Leaving a tip is all very well but what I do object to is if you have an expensive bottle of wine with your meal and you are expected to include this cost in your percentage of tip. Okay your waiter has uncorked it and poured it but does it justify being included.

  • Kd

    Hi all, and hello from St Annes
    As a restaurant owner myself … I find this a wonderful topic and discussion … and I have recently had experience with the legislation for tipping that I would like to share

    We have been running our restaurant for 10 years and our staff are paid above the minimum wage… and since we opened myself and my wife set up a policy that any tips received would be evenly distributed between all the staff …. we did not include ourselves as we felt it unfair for the owners to take tips given by our customers ….. we even gave staff the full value of tips left by customers on credit cards even though we had 3% of that value deducted by the credit card company

    Then in 2006 we had a routine tax investigation by the HM revenue and customs …. one of the points that were raised was TIPS

    They told us that tips were treated as additional income and therefore were subject to national insurance and income tax …. and that it was our responsibility to deduct this from the amount received from customers

    I had always seen tips as a gift from customers who appreciate good service ( and a smile )

    We were finally given a tax demand backdated for the previous six years for the estimated tax to be paid on tips ( approx £4500 demanded ) I was gutted

    The outcome was we had to pay … plus we now have to deduct the NI and PAYE from any tips received ( and this has to be calculated per individual because of each persons tax allowance )

    Also ( as we found out ) any restaurant that distributed tips without making the NI and PAYE deductions are breaking the Law

    We don’t demand the customer pays tips … in-fact we say on our bill that its down to the customers discretion if they want to give a tip, and I am certainly against service charges … if i eat out at a restaurant and i get good service and a smile I certainly leave a tip

    For me when I tip .. its way of showing appreciation also I like to think that this person on my next visit will remember me and make sure i get exceptional service again

    all the best …. KD

  • Chris

    If most of your meals cost £100 plus i dont see why leaving an extra £10 plus tip would matter. In my opinion in certain restaurants leaving a tip is essential, so if most of your meals are costing £100 plus then its obviously quite a high class restaurant serving very good quality food. In the restaurants that i eat the staff dont push for a tip & rightly so, therefore its totally up to me who i tip and how much. But when going to a restaurant where i know the bill is going to be £100 + I would take that bit more with me so i could tip whoever i felt was right to do so.

  • Paul

    I’m afraid I have to agree with donald and peter, waiting really isn’t that hard in the scheme of things, I did a bit of it myself and whilst it was tiring on a busy night it wasn’t especially hard, and no where near as hard as my current job for which I do not receive tips. You get paid a low wage because invariably you are doing a low responsability job (and before you say you make or break and evening and thus affect the restaurants profitability directly, so does any customer facing employee and most of those don’t receive tips) forcing 12.5% is ridiculous, most of my meals reach 100 pound plus, do I want to leave a ten pound plus tip every time, no, I worked for that money I am paying for the food (which we all know has a huge markup to cover overheads, including wages) so yes I am very anti tipping and quite rightly so I believe, if u think u should get paid more, change job, if u don’t care cos you love the job, then money shouldn’t matter.

  • Rex

    It is a very sensitive subject. Having worked in the industry I would always tip around 10% (but less if there is already a service charge), would always tip cash (never add it on to the card) and would always make sure it goes to the waiter/waitress. I think it’s a bit low rent not to tip and the service would have to be pretty poor for me not to leave something.

    It varies though in different countries — in the States they expect at least 15% whilst in Australia it’s considered an insult if you offer a tip.

  • Chris

    My view on it is if the restaurant adds a 12.5% service charge then that is a tip for the chef and the people behind the scenes that you dont see when you are in the actual restaurant & that should be paid, its then up to you if you want to tip your waiter/ waitress on how they have been & if they have made your night more enjoyable.

  • Peter

    All costs should be visible. Pay waiters fair wage etc. by including all costs in price of meal. If the service/food is bad tell them and never go back again.

  • Fred Jones

    Obviously never worked in a restaurant Donald? Try doing a busy Saturday night service and tell us it wasnt hard! Because restaurants have to be careful what they charge our penny pinching, under appreciating nation they cannot afford to pay staff much more than the minimum, therefore if you think the workers made your evening an enjoyable one you should tip them. Either cash or direct, usually credit card tips get kept by the establishment.

  • Donald

    Carrying plates isnt exactly taxing. Why should waiters automatically get tipped? if the service is exceptional then of course that person should be rewarded. I must say reading that many establishments do not give the tips to the waiting staff reinforces my desire not to tip at all.

  • Bill Shat

    No one tips me for doing my job why should I tip them for doing theirs?

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