Does America’s tipping system in restaurants make sense?
Many experts are stepping forward and saying “no.”
In a recent TED talk, Canadian restaurateur-turned-professor Bruce McAdams argues that the “relationship between tipping behaviour and quality of service is very insignificant.”
Most people are used to tipping a certain percentage and that number will be their norm no matter what kind of service they received, he said.
The amount of the check also affects how much tip is left, which “makes no sense,” writes Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn at Esquire, writing, “Did a server work less because I ordered a $40 bottle of wine than if I had ordered a $400 one? … Is it less hard to work at a roadside diner than Le Bernardin, where the check averages are approximately 10 times higher?”
Brian Palmer at Slate says that not only does the tipping system not make any sense, it’s also just “bad for the consumers.” Servers know there’s a higher chance they’ll get a bigger tip on a bigger check, so they may push for more expensive items on the menu. Or they not want to serve customers from certain ethnic backgrounds who are stereotyped for being lousy tippers. Or they may rush customers out quickly to make room for new diners (and more tips!). Basically, they may adjust accordingly to serve only the people they think will be the best tippers, he writes.
In his TED Talk, McAdams says that tipping also creates an unfair compensation system for workers in the restaurant business. For example, cooks and managers often play just as big of a role in a customer’s experience, but may not get the monetary benefits the wait staff does.
On the other hand, servers typically get a lower wage than other workers in the industry, so they rely on tips to balance out their pay.
Like it or not, tipping is has become a social norm in America, and it may be difficult to implement changes without some resistance.
Restaurateur Danny Meyer tells Serious Eats that he tried implementing the service charge, but was persuaded to stick to the tipping system by his staff:
“We looked very hard at this policy fifteen years ago. We were going to call it ‘hospitality included.’ We felt people who worked in the dining room were apologizing for being hospitality professional[s]. I felt there was a resulting shame or lack of pride in their work. My assumption was that it was fuelled by the tipping system, and I was troubled by the sense that the that tipping system takes a big part of the compensation decision out of the employer’s hands. So we brought up the ‘hospitality included’ idea to our people. To our surprise, it turned out the staff actually enjoyed working for tips.”
Phoebe Damrosch, author and former server, suggests in her Op-Ed in The New York Times that America should adopt a European-style service charge in lieu of the current system. She explains:
“The service charge shifts the focus from the money to the experience. Instead of worrying about how much money she will take home that night — and upselling and groveling her way to that goal — a waiter can worry about doing her job well: making people happy at whatever price and pace they prefer.”
What do you think of our current tipping system? Tell us in the comment section below.
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