Sounds good — and I hope this mini drama (and extraordinarily “first world problem”) won’t impair your enjoyment of the lovely room — and, I want to emphasize again, the truly lovely and friendly service. In the meantime, looking forward to hearing your report!
We ran into this in two restaurants in Paris last month and I think one of them was Petrelle. We just ignored it assuming it was software and not the restaurant.
Last Spring in a lovely high end restaurant in Biot, the waiter actually asked if we wanted to leave a tip. I said that we were aware that service was included in the bill. The waiter then attempted to lecture us about why we should leave an additional tip. Needless to say, we did not although we have in the past left a little extra as a token for exceptional service.
I emailed the restaurant and received an apology. In this case it was a "rogue’ waiter. Unfortunately, this is going to be happening more and more. My answer will always be “je suis desole, mais service compris”.
You only leave a pourboire for exceptional service?
I leave a pourboire for service that’s decent (6/10) and up.
I’m shocked you would ask the restaurant for an apology when you hadn’t lost any money.
You may be shocked; however, we were shocked to be “hustled” in a restaurant of this caliber. It left “a bad taste in our mouth”. I never asked for an apology. I wanted the restaurant to know what one of its employees was doing. An employee of a restaurant of this caliber should not be asking for tips.
We subscribe to and read the Times. We also make our own decisions.
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Due respect, but the numbers in this link are obviously wrong. Well, at least some of them.
There is zero chance that the highest waiter salary is 25,000 Euros.
I’d also be quite surprised if there was anyone working full time as a waiter in France who earns only 500 Euros a month. Let alone in Paris, let alone in the kinds of restaurants we typically discuss on this board.
That said, while I now put zero faith in any of the numbers in that link, I must say I was quite surprised to “learn” that female waiters (waitresses) earn 25% more than male waiters in France…
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Just a few things.
Depending on the place, a full-time salary for a waiter should be somewhere in-between the SMIC (minimum legal salary), about € 1,400 or slightly more, and around 2,000 in normal conditions (I’m not speculating on the high-end restaurants, I have no idea how much FOH workers are paid there; I only know that there’s a persistent conflict between kitchen team and FOH team, the latter being generally much better paid than the former).
I hope everybody here has integrated the fact that in France the 15% service charge is mandatory, it’s the basis of the waiter’s salary, which is also mandatory, as it should be universally. It is by no means to be equated to a tip. Totally different. Tips are optional and extra. Therefore tipping shouldn’t be considered, as it is in the US, a way to remunerate the waiter as a replacement to a minimally decent salary from the owner of the place. Salary is taken care of. Tips are never mandatory. And they are given when you’re happy with the service (that goes from the waiter having simply done their job as they should to being extatically happy with the experience).
This should be evident to everyone here by now, but I’m not sure that’s quite clear yet.
Thank you for writing this. This is how I treat tipping in France and elsewhere in Europe, too.
Jake D, yes, please tell us about where you ate in Normandy and elsewhere.
I was beginning to wonder if my husband and I are the only people on HO with an interest in restaurants outside of Paris.
These are monthly wages, yes? Yes, and not the “highest” salaries, but the minimum? Still…This is why I tip because I don’t have a good handle on what waitstaff earns (albeit the service is included in the bill).
Thank you! And if I may go further into that marronnier (that’s how, in the press, we name ever-recurring topics which never seem to reach a definitive conclusion so they are regularly pulled out as if they had never occurred before), when you’re getting a “tipping prompt” printed on an addition, I’d suggest that you don’t pay any more attention to it than I usually do (i.e. = zero) and manage your tipping or not tipping the way you would have done without the existence of a prompt.
The reason may be a poor mastery of the paperwork or of cash-register software; it may be something that some “chef consultant” without many credentials but with a lot of commercial chutzpah (there are literally swarms of them around chefs who are beginning to gather media attention) has advised the chef pretty much at random, only to justify their employment; it may be that, for some reason, the management truly believes it’s a fair thing to do — however, considering the French reality of salary on one hand and tipping on the other hand, I tend to see that sort of prompt as a non-event.
Indeed, suppose you’re getting a prompt on the check: that doesn’t mean the service charge is absent, since it has to be there anyway. That only means putting in print something that usually is never printed or mentioned in France, and no matter who, behind the counter, thinks it’s cool, it’s pretty meaningless, really. Also, it is not any sort of scam since it only refers to tipping (which remains optional), not to service charge. It’s only totally useless and that’s probably why it is still so rare in France.
The scam really occurs when anyone at the restaurant (generally some uncouth waiter who would probably get fired if the boss heard about it) creates a confusion in the foreign customer’s mind by implying that tipping and service charge are the same thing, or that they have to be tipped because there’s no service charge (there is, even if it’s not printed on the check).
Of course, asking for a tip is a no-no, but I think this is clear for everyone here.
Finally, a thought. In France, front of house gets tipped, generally on a minimal basis (because it’s extra gratification), but kitchen team never does. They are hidden behind the walls (when the kitchen isn’t the open type) and, except for the chef who comes out into the dining room to do his little dance, they are never seen and never get any extra. However, they are always paid less than the front-of-house team, and tipping doesn’t get into the equation. So, understandably, it is known that they bear a little grudge to the waiters and soms, and that has been going on for quite a long time in well-staffed houses. In small restaurants where things are less segregated and everybody keeps criss-crossing between front and back, and you may get your plate (or even your wine) from one of the cooks, I don’t think that conflict is quite as strong. So two conclusions may be inferred: 1. Printing a tipping prompt on the check may be an attempt to ventilate the tips among the entire team, including the kitchen, and 2. It might be a little sobering for heavy tippers to know that, in normal situations, only the FOH gets it on a regular basis and the kitchen gets nothing.
At any rate, when one gets that tipping prompt, it would be interesting to ask about who gets it and what, ultimately, “for the team” really means. If it means “team = FOH + kitchen”, it is no longer as meaningless as I wrote above.
You may read above what I wrote about FOH salaries: minimally, the SMIC (minimal monthly wage), currently €1,383.08 in France before tax, and maximally it depends on the restaurant, but I should imagine around 2,000. In either case, not enough to afford living in Paris intra-muros, but close enough to sustaining yourself.
I have no precise info about dishwashers (plongeurs), and of course the myriads of sans-papiers workers doing various chores on a more or less clandestine basis get even less than the SMIC. Totally illegal, but not inexistent.
Yes, this is the same in the U.S. Kitchen staff doesn’t overtly get tips, but many (maybe most) restaurants here now distribute tips so that all the staff gets some percentage of the “tip pool.” Still the waitstaff gets a much higher percentage (the kitchen is still not happy), but the kitchen often gets higher base pay here to make up for this.
I did read about what you wrote about minimum pay and looked it up online too! But “close enough to sustaining” was not the impression I got from all of the people who weigh in about how tipping is not “necessary” for waitstaff in Europe because they are “professionals” who receive both a generous salary and the “service” charge of 15% on top of that. My current understanding from these SMIC numbers is that waiters/waitresses earn on average about € 2000/month (€ 24,000) annually, a barely sustainable wage, and that this number includes the 15% service charge that goes to pay this base salary.
I’m not sure that hoping/trying to earn a tip/pourboire on top of the salary can really be seen as such a “scam,” “shady,” “a disappointment,” or somehow “offending.” That it has always been so seems a weak argument for thinking that people, working near or at the poverty line, shouldn’t have the age old practice of underpaying “servants” revised. Restaurants’ margins are slim, and the only way for them to take home more bacon is for the customers to recognize that needing or even expecting a tip is not bad manners. (And, of course, as a customer, you should not feel it “necessary” to leave a tip if your budget wouldn’t stretch for this! But I think if you can afford it, it is a nice way to appreciate good service, knowing that the server will be able to also enjoy something a little extra.)
Note that 2000€/month is a nationwide average – average in Paris is almost assuredly higher; average in, say, Lot et Garonne, is almost assuredly lower (as are restaurant prices and cost of living). Also, it doesn’t say which type of average – mean, median (or mode, which I doubt is the case).
Finally, even in Paris, the cost of living is much lower than in NYC or SF (energy is the big single item exception).
I appreciate these threads mainly because they keep people, including me, thinking about real life issues & what our own actions contribute to others’ well being. I don’t really expect answers, just varied takes. That being said, I recognize that I cant change everyone’s life situation and have to pick and choose where I wish to do so. My tip at a restaurant may not assist the back of house, even though they may not make enough to live well on, but my adding some tip for the waitstaff may help them &, probably just as much, make me feel better. I’d like to envision a restaurant world where the owners pay all staff a real living wage by calculating the cost of doing so and charging diners accordingly but, for many reasons, this isn’t going to happen. Not in NYC and not in Paris. So I rationalize and adjust my NYC 22-25% tip downward to 5-10% when in Paris & hope that I’m helping some people that I have face to face personal interaction with and that I’m not destroying a cultural norm. It’s the best I can do to keep myself reasonably content with my own behavior/contribution.
Thank you for my word of the day. French is a beautiful language.
I am always sensitive to just how tight budgets are for workers of all types in France, and will generally leave a few euros to 10%. I remember one server that served our table, who we chatted with quite a bit and was very open, said she commuted nearly an hour each day for affordability (and other reasons — but others were also commuting into the center, due to the higher cost of living)
In the Cote d’Azur, I do believe people have come to expect some level of tipping from British and American tourists, who all feel odd not tipping their usual quantity. But I have not run into any lectures, nor mandatory copertos (even in Menton), here in the South. But there is always a new meal to find this type of situation (and I imagine in the known tourist traps, this might happen)
Maronnier means chestnut tree. We use the word chestnut in the same way in English (although I think that use is rather old-fashioned, these days).
There is a gentlemen in Santa Barbara that has worked at restaurants all over town who has become very ill and a go fund me has been started that is all over my social media. That’s the sad part and maddening result of not having a social safety net in this country. Europe takes care of its citizens and I assume and hope that all those restaurant workers have health care.