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?