Photo: Flickr via smitherines
A pair of Zagat writers got into something of a debate this week over one of the most contentious questions in discount dining: Should you tip on the full value of a meal if you’ve used a coupon?
Kelly Dobkin went up to bat for servers getting stiffed:
“It’s kind of annoying that servers only get tipped on food cost, it punishes servers who happen to work at affordable restaurants.”
James Mulcahy was in the consumer’s corner:
“True, but it’s not my fault that I end up paying $10 for a meal that should have cost $20.”
Their banter went on for a while but still, there was no answer to the central question. To find one, we tapped into a few experts for their take on the debate. Unfortunately for dealhounds out there, it seems Dobkin’s got the winning argument.
The National Restaurant Association’s Annika Stensson sympathizes a little with cash-strapped diners but maintains the tip should be on the full value.
“Gratuity is by nature voluntary, so it’s up to the guest to decide how much to tip at any occasion,” she told Your Money. “That said, it is common practice to tip on the full amount of a meal that has been discounted. The tip is intended as a “thank you” to the restaurant staff, while it’s typically the business that applies the discount – the staff performs the same service no matter what the final check is.”
Of course, we didn’t expect anything less from an organisation designed to support the restaurant business. But even companies that profit from pumping deals to consumers back up Stensson’s argument.
Photo: Mandi Woodruff/Business Insider
“We think that you should tip on the full amount,” said Gil Harel, co-founder of BiteHunter, an app that aggregates group deals. “If it’s not good service you can tip less, but if it’s good service, tip on the full amount. The server is making an effort, so he shouldn’t suffer from the fact that you’re having a great meal and also saving money.”
CouponSherpa’s Luke Knowles agreed: “Most wait staff expect customers to tip on the full value of their meal even when they use a coupon. That’s why they show the full-price before the coupon is applied on your check,” he said.
And for the final blow, we turned to Business Insider’s jobs reporter Vivian Giang, who recalled a summer spent working at a gastropub where coupon-toting customers constantly stiffed servers.
“People were splitting up their tickets so that they could combine their groupons — often using two or sometimes three at the same time,” she said. “Then they would only tip on the discounted meals when it was often $25-$75 more. The servers would discuss this with much distress.”