Upward trend in tips?

I don’t want to generate too much of a controversy but I’m reading this article on eater:

And I’m starting to find it a little bemusing that the default is 20% for them (restaurant workers) and eater’s statement that if you can’t afford it, don’t eat out. From what I can gather, the article pretty much asked the people that work at said places for the minimum or default on tips. At that point, I rather just have the restaurant ram a default fee and call it as such rather than opting in for tips.

Eh… not a fan of this article. At what point does tips creep up to 25% becoming the “gold” standard? Does it stop?


When I’m visiting foreign countries, I research the tipping protocol there - not assuming that it will be the same or even very similar to my own. So, when visiting America, I’ve been tipping at around 20% for some while. Of course, I don’t get a calculator out and tip 20% to the exact cent, so a rounded figure will often be a tad less or more. I assume the percentage increases over time because the need to increase workers wages outstrips restaurant owners’ wish to increase menu prices - if menu prices increased in line with wage inflation, the American “going rate” rate for tips would still be around the 10% it was when I first started to visit.

Add a 20% tip to a bottom line price adversely affected by currency exchange rates and eating out in America has become a very expensive option. Certainly something we noticed on the trip earlier this year.

By the by, I am always very appreciative of those places, in America, which have moved to a “service included - no tip required” or an added percentage service charge in place of old fashioned tipping. It seems to me to respect the employees much more in similar fashion to how we do it in Europe.


Interesting, I have no qualms with the article until it get’s to the second to last group. The “Fast Casual Counter Service 20%”. There was a restaurant chain called Noodles here in the North East (all current locations in NJ are now defunct to my knowledge) this was their method. You ordered at the counter, they give you a # for your table a runner brings your food. My first visit I tried to tip and they returned it telling me they were not allowed to accept tips.

I do believe that in most of these types of establishments they are not considered “servers” and might not be subject to the artificially low servers minimum wage. I don’t dine to many of them, but even at the Chinese buffet I go to, where the server only brings a beverage and clears plates I still tend to tip 15/20%. (side note about 10 years ago there was a sweeping raid of Chinese restaurants in my area claiming the servers weren’t being paid or being paid literally slave wages, whatever that amounted to. They were working off their costs of immigration to the US and has to work for “free” for 2-3 years to settle their debt.)

I wouldnt tip in such circumstances - not even in America. Surely such employees do not fall into the “minimum wage isnt really minimum wage for you” category?

By the by, you don’t mention the legal status of the Chinese workers, although I note you mention “slave wages”, so I’m guessing these may have been illegals. Similar situations crop up periodically in the UK where it is generally regarded that “modern day slavery” is a criminal offence. Our worst disaster was the deaths of 23 Chinese people picking cockles in Morecambe Bay (about an hour’s drive north of me) - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25914594. But there are other industries where slavery is rife - restaurants, agriculture, nail bars, car wash.

Hot ticket topic for me…

All five of our children worked in the restaurant sector here in the U.S. at some point in their lives. I’ve listened to scores of horror stories involving Servers, Bartenders and FOH Managers. Some of these included being insulted by a table full diners; victimized by Dine & Dash customers; being propositioned by convention junketeers on an expense account; those who start out a meal with: “Do you know who I am?” This fact alone made us very generous tippers whenever we dined out.

Guess what? Management, for the most part doesn’t give a damn about the hassles incurred daily by their hard working staff. That’s a qualified statement based on an extremely small sample size.

20% on an $80 meal bill is $16. That server tip is customarily split with bussers, food runners and bartenders. Depending on the venue, that tip take home, might be just $8. The Draconian Federal Tax Code has been updated several times recently to assure that Servers are taxed on tip income dictated by a formula that is a fantasy.

Earning a living wage for a FOH employee is a truly daunting task.

OTOH, hospitality industry Service Charges are, in my opinion, onerous, and a new scam…


Well my question is for those that aren’t in countries that do not tip, how do they afford it? Its not like wages are drastically increasing in other countries, most things seem pretty stagnant from the few articles I’ve read.

Agreed, I prefer an inclusive charge versus what seems to be an onerous, however at the same time, for the added percentage service charge, at what part is it considered reasonable? 15? 18? 20? I typically see 18% service charge on large groups. But now, where do we calculate that service charge, before or after tax? I think its fair to calculate before tax but most places seem to add the charge (or gratuity calculations) after the total with tax included.

I found that portion especially striking. I mean, do these places do more than say a McDonald’s worker? Do you tip at the Costco food court (can’t say I ever have)? At that point, I wonder if you tip UPS/Fedex/USPS since they deliver you items. Eh… probably going off topic there, but tipping culture is odd.

Well… should it not be split? Its not like they’re not part of the whole operation.

Don’t most FOH employees out earn the cooks in the back?

I hate to say it in general, I care more for the quality of food than service…

I think its important not to overthink this. There really isnt much difference between countries where there is a high tip rate (like the US) or a much lower tip or service charge (like the UK) or where service is included in the menu price (say, France). In all cases, employees look at their total remuneration package and (other things being equal) decide if they are being treated fairly or not. Restaurant workers are no different from employees in other industries - what they want and need is a reliable income that pays their bills. The make-up of the income doesnt really matter - it could come from hourly/weekly/monthly pay, tips, bonus, commission, etc. The important things are that it is adequate and reliable.

Your point about whether the tip is based on the before or after tax situation seems to regularly appear on American led forums. My recollection is that the general consensusis that it’s a “before” situation. But that would be the American situation (maybe Canadian as well ?) Here in the UK, a menu price already includes tax (at 20%) and the tip or service charge is always calculated on the full amount.


Not usually. It’s my experience that kitchen staff “usually” work a 36 to 40 hour week. And while kitchen staff pay is below median income levels almost everywhere in the U.S. most line cooks, sous chefs, et al, work the job, and view it as aspirational. Next position will be better in every way than current position…

Bussers, food runners, servers, and those that staff the hostess station, are generally limited to part time shifts, and specific meal service times.

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This is an example of mean-spirited government completely off the rails. And I do think its relevant to discussions in this thread.

Well, I’m more familiar with Hong Kong (maybe max 10%) and Australia for those countries that don’t really tip but I can’t say I’ve noticed a notable improvement in service when I compare it to home in California. So I really don’t think increasing the tip % is in regards to service. Rather, as a paying patron, I’ve noticed that the tip rate has been seen to be ever increasing the median tip %. (For those that are lazy and just select from the present tip%, I’ve seen it gone from 15/18/20 to 18/20/25). Its a little disturbing to see that even in boba tea shops (I can’t recall exactly where I saw such a high default, but… I’m tempted to say Boba Guys) and such.

Tips seem rather unreliable, I can’t imagine those number to be constant. All in all, it seems more like the onus should be on the restaurateurs end rather than a patron serving food to provide a reliable salary.

I meant on a per hour basis but I can see how FOH staff can receive less than optimal wages as well.

Actually that reminds me. I have seen a restaurant that offered optional tipping to both the front or back part of the house (though I was more bewildered at that thought and had little desire to pay even more for the above average meal)

Yikes, though I don’t want to wade into politics, I can see how that would be detrimental to staff wages.

I suspect not so - at least in America, where there is a cultural imperative to tip. I would guess that, over the course of a week’s shifts, the amount earned from tips will be pretty much the same week on week.

Tip income in , say, the UK will certainly be less reliable as there is no such imperative to tip. Cash tipping used to be the norm in several industries but it has died out as customers take the view of why should they be paying more, when they have already paid for their meal, etc. My brother in law is a taxi driver - he tells me that when he started maybe 10 years ago, most passengers would tip but it is rare to get one now (not even of the “keep the change” variety). In an increasing number fo restaurants, the reluctance of customers to tip has been met by restaurants replacing tipping with a discretionary service charge - means the customer has to actively ask for it to be removed from the bill and that rarely happens.

No need to pay tips in HK except you appreciate the great service. 10% compulsory service charge is automatically added on your bill.

In France, no need to pay tips unless exceptional service, all the price is as stated on the menu.

Problem comes when French are travelling, they are used to their no tips culture, and therefore very often being labelled as stingy tourists.

Mm hmm. That’s their story and they’re stickin’ to it. 'Cause it’s absolutely impossible to research how to tip in other countries and adjust your behavior accordingly.

While what you said can be true and applied to certain. But then why the US tourists in FR still tip generously? ! :smirk:

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But folk simply don’t bother to do that.

I use a particular Tripadvisor Spain forum where most contributors are also British. The subject of tipping crops up now and again. The almost universal answer from folk is that they tip at 10%,as they would in the UK - ignoring the fact that Spain is a low/no tip country. In similar vein, I have seen on UK restaurant forums that many American visitors to London used to continue to tip at their 20% - and will still tip, even though their bill has included a service charge (usually 12.5% in London, 10% in the rest of the UK).

IMO, people generally do what they usually do.


Very true.

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My tricky country, which I visit ever couple of years, is Belgium.

I don’t think there is a nationwide consistent tipping culture. So, I think those in the Dutch speaking north probably follow practice as in the Netherlands (around a 10% tip), whilst the southern French speakers follow the no tip practice as in France. Gets very tricky as the area I visit is on the divide between Dutch speaking Flanders and French speaking Walloonia. Even on a short drive you can cross from one to the other several times and, indeed, cross between France and Belgium several times. Restaurant menus are usually at least bi-lingual so I work on the assumption that whichever of the two languages is written first is the way to go for tipping.

Fear of seeming like cheapskates, I guess. Or maybe a conviction that our way is the “right” way. I’ve been a US tourist in France, and not tipping did make me a little anxious. But I powered through and kept hold of my extra money.

I believe some people need time to adjust to break habit.

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