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On United States Tipping Policies

Around the globe, restaurants' gratutity policies vary; here's what our consultants think works best.

By Sarah Ann Noel - September 15, 2017

As an international consulting firm based in the United States, we often encounter cultural and business practices in the States that don't align with the practices of many other countries around the world. In the restaurant industry, one such practice is that of gratuity. 

Condé Nast Traveler, in their Etiquette 101 Tipping Guide, breaks down how tips around the world vary according to country, region, and scenario. That means, what's appropriate in the Middle East may not ring true in Asia; or, if you're expected to tip for a meal, that doesn't necessarily mean the same is standard for a service. It's best to research a travel destintation ahead of time to understand the culture and expectations--and the same is true of the US, where our gratuity expectations are comparatively high and strict. (This is immihelp guide is useful for breaking down US tipping guidelines.) 

Perhaps the scenario where the discrepancies are most apparent is dining. Currently, we have a consultant in Europe, trying different restaurants in the Mediterranean region. There, tips are not expected, and instead, wait staff is paid a higher wage. In the United States, most servers make below minimum hourly wage, earning most of their income, instead, via gratuity. A server in an average American restaurant can expect to make between 15-20 percent for a job well done. 

However, as cultures seems to globalize, there are many establishments testing out different systems for paying their employees. Starbucks, for example, offers a higher hourly wage, plus benefits, to their employees. And while there is a tip jar (even a digital tip jar), it seems most employees don't see much pay-out from that. In the last few years, we've also seen higher-end restaurants try to implement a higher wage and ban tipping. According to Money magazine, they did so happily

The problem is, banning tipping is difficult in the United States. It's counter-cultural, and our citizens have grown accustomed to paying above the prices they see on the menu. A counter-cultural move doesn't only effect the guests either; it has a severe impact on employees. Our restaurant consultants have found that the switch doesn't typically work in American dining establishments.

"We certainly don't recommend it," says National Restaurant Consultants president, David Kincheloe. "Most servers hate it because, ultimately, it gives them a pay cut."

It is always important to have your employees' best interests in mind because you count on your wait staff to build a great restaurant experience--on the business side for you and your employees, and in the house, for your guests.

If you have more questions about how to best establish tipping policies in your restaurant, contact our consultants for further advice. 

Photo by Taylor Davidson on Unsplash