Do you believe in a tipping system for restaurants?
The problem I have with tipping, is that it only covers the front of the house (server) and not the back of the house (Chefs, bartenders, etc). In some restaurants in my city, servers make a lot of money off of tips in a mid-end restaurant while the folks that are creating delicious meals are working at or slightly above minimum wage. There truly needs to be equality in the hospitality industry. When there are a lot of customers the back of the house works harder for the same money and the front of the house makes more in tips! As for tipping, I think it is appropriate to tip for a delightful experience, only it should go to all that contributed to the delightful experience.
I certainly don’t believe in eliminating tipping. If it’s left up to the owners, they are going to pocket the money. I work as a cook in Manhattan for perhaps the most celebrated restaurateur in the country and was there when wages were barely bumped after going tip free. The change was subsequently walked back.
This is not directed at you, but I’m sick and tired of the food writing world’s fake tears over unfair wages for back of house workers. If anyone has the power to change things, it’s you guys. If state legislation needs to change, then please focus on getting it done. I bust my ass every day and feed these FOH folks while they stand around doing f*** all and get paid six figures while I bring home $650 a week. I work 2 jobs, 7 days a week to provide for my family.
If you don’t want to hear it from me, the below quote is from Roy Choy on a recent “Andrew Talks to Chefs” podcast when asked about the much hyped "restaurant reset" during Covid. I cannot express the issue any more succinctly than he does:
“Paying people minimum wage that work in the back of house or in the dishwasher area that are working 11 12 13 hour days making minimum wage with no benefits no health insurance no sick days no vacation days, and then yet front of the house which speaks English can come in and work 4 hours and make $1000 a night in tips. That seems unbalanced if you just put it on paper…because that’s the fundamental flaw in our system. We have a system that is prejudiced and a bit racist based on who can ascend to certain levels of jobs and it’s partly our fault for providing our guests and our customers this old European kind of model as if we’re living in f***ing Brigerton or something.”
I have been a food server/captain for over 30 years. And I always get a kick out of this subject every time. If people think it is easy they should try to do it for a few shifts. It is the only position in the restaurant that relies on every other department to be successful! If there are no dishes we can't serve the food. If the food is bad you are the front line for blame. Some kitchens one ticket takes 3 minutes and the next 30 and when it takes to long you get blamed, and timing service becomes hard. If the hostess seats you all at once you are in trouble (I have never worked where this does not happen, even when they try not to). If the bar is busy and the drinks take awhile the customer will get upset. Also, drinks are different in different regions. And, bartenders are not consistent with there pours and recipes so they can vary during the course of the night. If you have a Sommelier they can be hard to find and wine lists are always incomplete and missing bottles, and out of stock menu items are not always listed on the 86 list. If your busser is hung over they may not want to help too much or even be around for that matter! Runners some times put the food in front of the wrong position number and do not know it. No manager wants to deal with complaints-ever! Many will not come to the table even when you have lost credibility by things you cannot control. And, this can be happening at multiple tables when the POS system goes down. If you don't get the right #'s on the credit card voucher while doing it manually some places make you pay even though it is not legal! The pressure you handle in these situations is very high and it is why drugs and alcohol is consumed more than in average jobs. I have worked at places where you tip out as much as 60% to the support staff. And, they expect good $ even when the perform poorly. I understand many places do not have this much support staff but many high end places do. I never had a problem taking care of the support staff. But, the bottom line is that the waiter (captain) is the front line for any problems and the support is not held liable. Lots of back of the house people might not have the personality to deal with these situations properly so they chose to work out of the public view. The owners are many times trying to get there hands on this $ to lower their labor costs although they say that it is not true. Also, in right to work law states food server wages are low ($2.33 here). Cooks get health benefits lots of time and front of the house people are kept part time intentionally so they do not get them. I know that I have have been talking about $ the last few lines. Where ever I have worked all my life my top priority has always been the care of the customer not the $. That is why I have always done well. I have always had many times more call parties than the rest of the staff as a result! And, I have relationships that have lasted decades as a result. These people have followed me where ever I worked. They tip me well not only because of the great food but because of the great service as well! Matt
I think I would prefer all the fees you suggested just being built into the cost of the meal, but I recognize that I earn a comfortable living and have friends in the industry, both of which make me tolerant of higher prices. However, if I were broke and thought a meal was going to cost $10 and the fees and taxes made it cost $15, I might not be too happy about that, either. Disclosure is essential - surprises are no bueno.
I think one of the food system's biggest problems right now is addiction to cheap food, and that's hard to kick because people found other things to spend that money on. If these fees are the only way to address the labor end of that equation, I can get on board. Then we just need to fight the cruelty and environmental damage issues.
Thanks for answering my question!
The origin of why people have to tip is reason enough to do away with it. Servers should be paid a minimum wage and only receive tips on the basis of their service alone. As it currently stands, I feel almost forced to provide a tip because of how poorly they are paid and only vary it based on their service. I shouldn't feel forced to provide a tip at all if they don't deserve it.
As a consumer, I would prefer reading a menu like I shop at Walmart. The meal/item costs what the label says it does and tax added to the end total. Knowing the wait staff is paid a fair wage. I think thier job should be motivated by the same thing most workers in any Industry are motivated by. A job well done, maybe a pat on the back, possibility of a MERIT raise and promotion. If that raises my steak price 10 dollars at least I know that ahead of time when I see the menu.
If everyone in the restaurant is being paid a fair wage and the manager is doing thier job of making sure everyone is doing standard good service then it works like most industries. No one knows for sure what anyone else is paid and there are no jealousies or frustration between boh/foh. Wages are secret and everyone does thier job. If they do a consistently bad job then they get wrote up and eventually fired if needed. Then the pressure is put on the manager, head of wait staff, boh manager, etc to motivate and get the best of his people rather than putting all the stress on the wait staff to deal with issues and complaints.
Example, waitress is paid 15 an hour. Boh puts out wrong meal, boh takes the heat from the manager and either pays for it or is written up. Server doesn't lose anything bc not her fault. Same for vice versa. If Server gives bad service and customer complains but food was good then server gets the warning or talking to from manager. Hopefully in both cases the manager helps or coaches the employee to do a better job but documents it for future patterns and only writes someone up for consistently bad performance.
In all this scenario, tips are not needed and a sign posted to let customers know. Maybe even a simple 3 question survey on the check to ask about food or service or cost to find out what works.
Me as a european HATE this tip thing. It deeply annoys me. And in some restaurants they put the tip (15-20%) already on the bill. Why restaurants are not forced to write the whole price on the menu? It is soooooo horrible to calculate in your head while ordering how much the food REALLY costs. By the way: in Japan for example the waiters are offended if you leave a tip.
I'm appalled at how many comments on here are for either eliminating tipping, or adding some ridiculous sum like 3% on all bills. The history of the service industry has always including tipping to make up for the mostly poor wages the servers receive. Paying those low wages helps to keep the restaurant owners in business, and tipping helps the servers to make up for that, so it's a win for everyone, until you start adding in the cheapskates of today. I have a tipping system that I always go by, and by no means would anyone consider me wealthy. The basic tip I will leave is 25%, and that includes if the service was poor. But it has been my experience that service is usually very good, so in that instance, I will tip anywhere from 30-45%. During holidays and extra busy times where the servers are swamped, I will sometimes tip 50%.
Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group in NY tried the no tipping model and it failed. He switched it back to a tipping model. In my opinion, the best talent won’t work in non tipping establishments UNLESS it’s a ticketed meal experience like Demi or other high end restaurants that don’t take reservations - tickets only. I’ve worked in the industry on the training side and overwhelmingly servers and consumers do not like the built in tip model - they do however understand it for large groups of say 8 or more. And those events are easier on the servers as they are usually pre fixe menu. For transparency sake we eat out almost every night and never go to establishments with built in tipping. In the no tipping built in service charge model the owner of the establishment can use that revenue anyway he/she sees fit. In a tipping model the tip belongs to the server who worked for it. I understand the wage gap between FOH & BOH, but there’s always the opportunity to change one’s career path and move to FOH or another avenue.
You should also check out the journal articles written by Cornell University researcher Michael Lynn who is an expert on tipping. http://www.tippingresearch.com/ Michael makes several appearances in the freakonomics podcasts that I mentioned in my other post if you want a quick overview of some of his articles.
Freakonomics has a whole series of podcasts on tipping, you should check them out. https://freakonomics.com/podcast-tag/tipping/
I think that restaurant owners should pay all its employees, whether traditionally tipped or not, at least the federal, county, state, or territorial minimum wage, whichever is higher for all hours worked, and time and a half the regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 a week (overtime pay); Eliminating tip pools and adding a note in the menus that the restaurant does not have a tip pool and pay at least minimum wage to all workers. Therefore, there is no tipping pressure on the customer but they can tip server at the customer’s option. If the customer still wishes to tip the servers, then the server should keep all the tip. That way, the customer does not share the burden of paying a server’s wages. Let the server’s employer do that.
Tipping is terrible. It allows owners to avoid proper compensation of their workforce. It also creates an opening for bad customer behavior, as well as making some people overcompensate for the assholes who they know aren’t tipping right.
I believe the hidden fees should go away and be included in the cost of the meal. The same space that is used to explain the automatically added service charge can be used to explain why prices might seem high. It amazes me how many people don't know which is larger, a 1/2 lb or 1/3 lb burger. The added on service charge just feels like false advertising to me. The tipping system has always been a halfway broken system and is getting worse as less and less people seem to be tipping out their helpers (expos, bussers, host, etc).
The one positive to the tipping culture is that it encourages staff to work the busy hrs and weekends. We would all love those days off but as many know that is when restaurants make the majority of their money. You could have structured pay where if you work the weekend you would get paid more but I doubt it would reflect the amount of extra stress and work in a way that tips currently do.
All of this doesn't even begin to touch the pay gap between FOH & BOH, owners pocketing service charges, need for transparency to staff on where those charges are going, the majority of states where FOH is not required to be paid minimum wage, etc.
This fellow says, more clearly that I ever could, how I feel about tipping:
I was a chef for 25 years. I helped degenerate gamblers and drug addicts feed their addiction through my hard work nightly without compensation for MY hard work. Something has to give. When I sit down in a rest. The tip meter is backwards clock starting at 20%. It ticks backwards the entire time. I ask pointed questions about pooling for cooks, their personal sitch, etc etc….
I rarely tip below 20%.