Question of the week: Would you still tip if you knew restaurateurs, rather than wait staff, pocketed your goodwill?

You’ve had a lovely meal at a restaurant. Everything went swimmingly: the food was fabulous, the ambience spot-on, the waiter/ess was courteous, knowledgeable, efficient, and endearing. So you leave a decent tip. But would you have done so if you knew the restaurateur was pocketing your goodwill, not the individual/s who served you?  The Age had has shone a spotlight on the “big tip swindle”. But is it a swindle? And do restaurateurs have a legitimate right to divert tips into the cash register?

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24 Comments

Filed under Food Issues, Question of the week, Uncategorized

24 responses to “Question of the week: Would you still tip if you knew restaurateurs, rather than wait staff, pocketed your goodwill?

  1. garry Lee

    No I would not be at all happy, I am not a tipper at the best of times, however if I am a happy diner and the waitstaff, and the food have been above my expectations and I leave a tip I expext it to go to them. I have been where they are.

    • I have been there too, Garry, and would have been mightily peeved if my tips didn’t head in my direction. But i also don’t want my tip to go straight into the pocket of the person who served me … after all, others in the business would have contributed to the tip-able meal.

  2. I heard the story of the tip jar where all tips are collected for shared distribution to all staff, kitchen and front of house. I can see logic in it as no one would tip is the food wasn’t good but when I’m tipping to reward good service it doesn’t work for me. I would rather slip the wait staff something in that case.

    I’ve also heard if the tip jar being used to fund the end of year staff party.

    I would be unhappy if I thought that the money was going to the restaurant owner.

  3. I think it depends on what you are tipping for. People tend to tip for a variety of reasons, whether it be for good service, a good meal, or perhaps just because you’ve occupied the table for longer than expected. Because it’s not clear what a tip may be intended for, I guess it’s fair if it is split between all restaurant staff. After all, it’s not fair if just the waiter gets a tip because the chef did a good job. But in those restaurants where the tips are all collected by the restaurant owner and not distributed to the staff, that is unacceptable.

    I think tipping in the US is frightfully confusing. When we lived there, we were told about the 15-20% rule. Except, maths is not my strong point and I always had difficulty calculating 15%. Plus, I was never sure if alcohol should be included in the total. One time, we were in a hurry to leave and I generously rounded up the total. The waiter came to ask me if the meal was ok. As it turned out, it was so-so but I instead told him it was great (we didn’t have time to discuss what was wrong with the meal). The waiter then tapped his fingers on the table and said that we needed to add another $2 to bring it to 15%!! WTF?! In the US, tips are intended to compensate the wait staff for their low wages and I find it unfair that the consumer has the onus of rectifying this.

    In Switzerland, tipping is not expected because everyone is so well-paid. The restaurant staff are likely to earn as much as you are! But expats and tourists don’t know that so they often tip generously. It goes without saying that the restaurants love their non-Swiss customers ;-)

    • Agreed – everyone in the restaurant should get a share of the tips, if the overall experience lives up to expectations. I tip with that in mind … but must admit i’d usually be highly disappointed if i thought the tip was going to the individual waiter … or worse still, in the owner’s pocket and not being shared out. I guess i should start asking where my tip is going. Thanks for dropping by!

  4. I have worked as a waitress before and where I worked the tips were divided 70% to the waitstaff and 30% to the kitchen. Our boss didn’t take any, though I’m sure there are other places where practices vary. I’ve had customers hand me a 5 dollar or 10 dollar note personally, my guess is because they want to make sure it went to only me – I just throw it in the tip jar anyway because I’m happy with our equitable system (and I hope they understand and don’t mind if they see that). On quieter days when it’s just the boss and me rostered in the restaurant, I’d get the full 70%, oh joy!

  5. Laura

    I’ve worked as a waitress and now own my own business, so here’s a few things that need to be considered in this conversation, which I think people may not realise:

    1. if tips are made throughcard and not cash – business owners MUST pay TAX and BANK FEES on them. Staff do not pay tax or fees on their tips.
    2. sometimes the business owner works in the restaurant themselves – as managers/waiters/chefs/cleaners etc. Should they be entitled to a portion of the tips as well? If not, why not?
    3. often it is NOT CLEAR what people are tipping for, as Thanh mentioned. Is it for the food, the service, the ambience, the overall experience? If they are not clear on what the purpose of the tip, is it ASSUMED that it is for good service? If so, WHY?
    4. how does an owner balance the issue of a waiter who makes good tips because they provide good service, however is messy/dirty/does not follow due process “behind the scenes”? Should they merit all of their tips?

    Now I’ve probably stirred the pot a bit here, but I want to be clear that I ALMOST ALWAYS leave a tip when I go to a restaurant and quite often when I go to coffee shops. However, here’s how I do it:

    - I ONLY leave a CASH TIP – firstly so the business owner isn’t affected by tax, fees etc and ALSO because it is healthy to keep cash moving through the economy.
    - If I have not had good service but my food is fabulous, I ask who the tips are shared amongst. If the kitchen doesn’t get a look in, I DON’T leave a tip.
    - If I’m unsure who is receiving the tips, I ASK who the tips go to. If it doesn’t go to who I think deserves it, then I DON’T leave a tip.
    - If a restaurant owner has been the one to look after me, I STILL leave a tip. They’ve worked just as hard, in fact harder, than the employee and I still believe they are entitled to some recognition of their hard work. If their staff are entitled, why not them?

    • Excellent comments, Laura. I agree the owner deserves to share in tips, if they’re running a good business. And i must admit, i hadn’t thought about the issue of leaving tips on a card … i’ll be leaving cash tips from now on.
      When i leave a tip – and i usually do – it’s for the overall experience … that being the food, the welcome on arrival, the service, the ambience etc – so i’d like as many people to share in it as possible, including the owner. But you have raised another interesting point, which is how do we know where our tips are going, unless we ask? From now on i’ll be asking that very question. If i’ve had great food and mediocre service, and the kitchen doesn’t get a finger in the tip jar, the tip i leave will reflect that. Food for thought, Laura. Thanks.

  6. I’m happy for it to be shared amongst all staff or at least the wait and kitchen staff.

    I would be (am) concerned that restaurants are pocketing tips made via credit card and not recompensing staff. We are often in the situation of paying a big bill via credit card for a group of us (say $600) so that’s a hefty tip on credit card (between $60 – $100) that the restaurant would be pocketing and not sharing. We have had this debate often in the group so now we pay on card and generally leave money on the table for the tip. (I would like to think that some of it’s oing to the kitchen….probably not though)

    Of course, this is all predicated on good food and service. If it’s not good, don’ be expecting a tip from me. I also won’t tip just because someone makes me a takaeway coffee in the morning.

  7. I’m with Laura and Rachel–I’ve always tipped thinking the $ is going to the server, but unless I ask, how do I know if that’s true? Also…I have many actor friends here in the US who always leave 20% (considered the top amount) because they’ve been servers themselves and sympathize with how hard servers work. They’re under the impression that it all goes to the servers. Maybe all of these friends have worked for restaurants which allowed servers to keep 100%…?
    mcproco.wordpress.com

    • I think the trick is to start asking who gets the tip. That’s what i’m going to start to do.

      • Marisa

        Agreed. This discussion has been illuminating. Now I know I’ve been making assumptions that might be false.

      • Laura

        Well to be honest, it wasn’t until I had my own business that my eyes were opened to a lot of these factors but I think that it’s good to know and we should be sharing with our friends. Everyone know customer service can be a tough job but I think business owners more than often get short changed because everyone thinks they are rolling in profits and taking it easy, but it really is tougher than people think. So I think a shout out is deserved for all the great people in hospitality – they deserve to be given a break (and tip!) from time to time!!

      • You’ve raised some excellent points, Laura, and thanks for getting the discussion going!

  8. I always tip for good service. Having said that, I have never considered the kitchen staff before! Now, having read through these comments, I will make sure to check that my tip is divided amongst all the people who made my experience a great one.

    • Another point to consider is perhaps if we should be tipping at all – particularly in Australia where restaurant staff are on award wages … should we be supplementing their take-home pay? Who supplements ours? Restaurant staff may not be on the highest wages in Australia, but then lots of other vocations are similarly low paid. Do we tip the cleaner at work, the shop assistant, the aged care worker, child care worker? The list goes on. We’ve created a culture of tipping in restaurants in this country … but is it even necessary in the first place?

      • It’s the same here in the US. I’ve always wondered why it’s traditional to tip wait staff, moving men and hair stylists…but not others. In French Polynesia, there’s no such thing as tipping. Interesting.

      • I’m reconsidering my whole tipping philosophy, to be honest. Unless someone can convince me of a very good reason to tip restaurant staff – while other services in life go un-tipped – i might just stop.

  9. A very interesting thread… I actually don’t eat out often enough to even contemplate commenting… and …. how can one make sure the tip is shared around, unless it goes into a tip jar?

  10. Marisa

    Wow, Rachel…if you decide to forgo tipping, please keep us in the loop as to how it goes. If I tried that in the US, I wouldn’t go to the same restaurant twice because they’d learn I didn’t tip and treat me badly. I’m sure we’d all be really curious to hear about your experience.

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