Ontario Restaurant Tipping

BlogTO has an interesting piece that restaurant servers are complaining that Influencers are not tipping gratuity after getting complimentary meals and drinks in exchange for creating social media content (see HERE). Some Influencers argue the meal was an agreement with the restaurant to provide for free in exchange for promoting the establishment, thus the restaurant should pay the gratuity. Some restaurateurs are saying servers should just suck it up since the goal is to bring in more customers which mean more gratuity to be had later. Servers of course just want the gratuity.

Interesting issue with 3 sides. What do you think? One aspect is of course the idea of tipping in the first place - which is mostly a North American thing - has gone too far now expecting 20-25%. Here in Ontario, the argument for tipping was that servers were paid below minimum wage. But this is no longer the case and regular minimum wage law now also applies to servers as well. So that argument should no longer be valid.

That being said, tipping in Ontario is the norm and so on this topic re the Influencers, my two cents, and probably unpopular opinion, is the Influencer should not pay the gratuity for a meal that they are marketing for the restaurant. If anyone should pay (and there’s argument that servers should just “suck it up”), it should be the restaurant owner that hired the Influencer in the first place.


I’ve once seen similar here in the UK. Tipping is much less a “thing” here - folk are paid at least national minimum wage and often more than that. Plus any cash tips or added percentage service charge. And have full employment rights, just as any other worker in whatever industry. A study I’ve seen in recent weeks suggests that only about 30% of customers still tip and, that amongst the under 30s, it has all but died out. We knpow a local restaurant owner quite well, as we are regulars, and asked him if that was his experience. It was.

My only experience was a couple of years back, pre-pandemic. We were at a restaurant which levied a voluntary10% service charge, in place of old fashioned cash tipping. A nearby table was occupied by a couple who I deduced were bloggers - not least because when they’d finished eating, they asked to speak to the chef. I couldnt hear the full conversation but he clearly waived the bill. The couple left without leaving any cash tip.

Now, i think I’d take the view that, if a restaurant is inviting folk to eat for free then they have a duty to do right by their staff.

It’s a similar, although different, issue to when a restaurant discounts its menu - say on a midweek evening. One side of the coin says that tips should be based on the full price, yet the other side of the coin says that it’s increased business so the staff probably walk away with more cash tips in their pocket, even though the individual tip has been lower. Tough call.


If the chef is hiring these people, the chef should be in charge of renumeration.

Ah, influencers. I’ll bite my tongue on what I think of them, but the word brings this article to mind:



They got a free meal that they’ll post on a free website, the least these freeloaders can do is tip. SMDH


Influencers often get comped dishes. They should be tipping 20 percent or more, and tipping 20 percent of the retail value on any dishes they receive free of charge.

AFAIK, most influencers are cheapskates.

I have a few friends who own restaurants. It’s ridiculous what some influencers expect.


It is not far enough. Tips should be about 100% of the meal.

Like all occupations, there are good influencers and bad influencers.

I tend to agree - if the owner hired these people, the owner should be 100% responsible for making sure their employees are compensated fairly. After all, in that case this influencer is ALSO an employee, albeit a temporary/contract one.


Influencers? Does anyone pay serious attention to what they recommend? To me, they seem little more than flacks for commercial enterprises. In short, admen/women. With professional restaurant reviewers now an extinct species, I get my best tips from friends whose tastes seem similar to mine.


I follow a few IG accounts that have “influenced” me to try out a new restaurant because they have similar taste in foods as I do, not sure if that makes them “influencers” in the true meaning? And those that I do follow, I’m pretty sure the pay out of pocket for all meals because they like to support local businesses.

They do, especially the famous ones.

On the other side of the coin, there are places that give you ridiculous options in terms of percentage on the payment terminal where little to no service is provided.

My latest experience was at Ramen Buta-Nibo where the server showed us the table and explained the ordering process through your phone + QR code. After that, they’re basically delivery bots until you ask for the bill.

The worst place was Superfresh where they show you the table and explain the phone + QR ordering process. With the wide variety of items, there was no server to be seen (we were wondering where they were hiding) when we wanted to ask questions about the items. Then the delivery bot (ops, I meant human server) just delivers your plates… no checking in on your meal / whether you wanted more drinks because everything was done via their web app. And even better, all payment is done on the phone (because it starts a “tab” on your credit card) so no one even comes to give you a bill at the end. Best part of this? Minimum tip suggestion is 18% for this service. I don’t know, but this feels like a 0% tip McDonalds service because McD’s even delivers to your table number.


Ramen Buta-Nibo.? Superfresh? They sound like the kind of joints I’d never walk into - though they both seem to get decent reviews, for what such clunky reviews are worth on sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. I prefer to deal with human beings taking my order. As for tipping in such places, I’d go immediately to the choice that allows you to tip a specific amount, thereby absolving you of tipping, irksomely, on the 13% HST. You can always signal your annoyance with such practices by tipping 00.

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I don’t go that far, but if one of us at the table ever has a free meal (coupon or some such), I do tip about 30% of the regular cost of the free meal.

To Steve’s question - I think the influencer should tip based on the regular cost of the meal, as they normally would. OTOH, I agree with the general sentiment here that these folks seem to be cheapskates, so maybe I should say “they should tip based on the cost of the meal as a regular kind, generous person would”. But if the influencer does not, then I definitely agree the owner should shell it out.

I do think the tip expectation has gotten a bit out of hand, at least in US (can’t speak to Canada very well). Fifteen used to expected, then 20% was the expectation, and as Steve mentions some are now setting their expectations at receiving 25%.

I tip a sliding scale. If service is good and the meal is over about $40 per person, I’ll tip 20%. But cheaper meals I tip more heavily as a percentage basis and don’t think I ever tip less than $5, say for a $10-12 meal.

There’s one Mexican place the kids and I love where the dad running the joint keeps prices really low ($5 - $6 lunches if you’re drinking water) because he serves lots of immigrant workers. I do tip them at 100%.


The thing is, you don’t know they are “influencers” until after the fact.

At least for the “real” influencers you don’t.

You are correct. It won’t be surprise me if 25% soon becomes the norm. 20% is pretty much the norm now. Same here. There you go. As you said, you tip more in certain places.

It’s definitely regional, generational and depends a lot on your circle. I tipped exactly 15 percent after 13 % Ontario and Fed sales tax until I started doing group dinners with Chowhounds in Toronto around 2006. A few of them always tip 20 percent after tax, and I started doing 20 percent unless I’m unhappy, most of the time. I barely drink, and tipping 20-25 percent seems to improve service if I become a regular.

I have had a taxi driver get angry because he wanted a bigger tip. He didn’t help get the suitcases out of the trunk at the airport , and kept the meter running while the car was stopped while people were opening their own doors to get out of the car. He still got a 10 percent tip. Rude guy.

I have only seen one waitress become angry, when I was out with some friends who were cheap and trying to divide the bill to the penny, and the bossy one made an error. I corrected it by adding more.

I have topped up other people’s tips when I’ve been treated on the downlow and the tip is too low for what’s considered normal. I’ve also dropped off tips later occasionally.

New Yorkers tend to tip better than Torontonians. Montrealers tend to tip less than Torontonians.

I know some people in the States who tip 10 %.


Going back to the OP, if a restauranteur has arranged a free meal with anyone, then they should ultimately be responsible for ensuring their serving staff get appropriately compensated. If the influencer or anyone else does the tipping, then fine. If not, then the restauranteur should address the lack.

Whenever we have a free meal (e.g., gift card/certificate for a restaurant), we always tip as if we had been paying normally. Thus even if the entire bill is covered, we ensure that tip is included.

In terms of what amount, we have some variability. We don’t tip lower than 15% before taxes as we know that servers are often not well paid. If something is really problematic with service, we prefer to speak about it directly - simply tipping low doesn’t give any useful feedback. Also, some problems with service aren’t just with the server and sometimes it is not entirely clear who is at fault. For example, a staff might call in sick and they can’t get anyone to cover the shift, so the servers are stretched amongst too many tables. Should we tip lower because of that circumstance?

We do tip higher for exceptional service, often 20-25%.

One irritation had been that the machines always calculate the suggested percentage tips based on the total after tax. We always used to tip on the pre-tax total. However over time we have gotten lazier and stopped caring about this, reasoning that if we can afford to go out to eat, we can afford giving the staff a bit extra. And we know their industry has been hit particularly hard due to the pandemic.


Yes we should NOT be tipping on tax and this is a big irritation! The difference is not small and it adds up especially for a busy restaurant.

For example, here in Ontario, for a $100 dinner, the after-tax is $113 (+13% tax). If you’re tipping 18% before tax, the tip is $100 x 18% = $18. But tipping after tax, that’s $113 x 18% = $20.23. Thus, you are actually paying 20.3% tips instead of 18%!

Calculating the same for a 20% tip, it goes up to 22.6% if you’re tipping after tax by pushing that “20%” button on the credit car machine. Of course you can always press “Other” but that’s a multi-step process and meanwhile the waiter is standing & waiting right behind you!

This is not insignificant and restaurants are benefiting off patrons using those machines with set percentages for tip payment.


I use the other amount or other rate a lot lately.

I’ve started tipping by rounding up to an even number at coffee shops, at bakeries and for take-out.

It still ends up being 10- 20 percent for takeout, depending on what it is and whether I’m a regular, since I don’t do much table service anymore.

My tip for baristas is closer to 10 percent and my tip for bakeries is a token, somewhere around 5%-8%.