n an Op-Ed Piece in today’s NY Times author Steven Shaw argues that restaurants should abolish tipping and adopt a European style “service charge” much like Thomas Keller, the celebrity chef, is doing at his deservedly world famous establishment Per Se.
“…Mr. Keller is right to move away from tipping – and it’s worth exploring why just about everyone else in the restaurant world is wrong to stick with the practice,” Shaw writes.
Shaw argues that tipping makes no economic sense. He cites a Cornell Study that indicates gratuities are often based on a customer’s perceived emotional connection to their server -irrespective of the quality of service provided. “Indeed, there appears to be little connection between tipping and good service. The best service in the Western world is at the Michelin three-star restaurants of Europe, where a service charge replaces tipping” Shaw states.
The author goes on to explore the weakness of the current tipping system such as the “upsell” where waiters, eager to inflate their tips, constantly push higher priced items like expensive bottled water and “quiet understated service often goes unrecognized.” He decries “pooling”, a system where all gratuities are lumped together and distributed to servers at the end of the shift which, in his words, “has gutted whatever effect voting with your tip might have had on an individual waiter.”
Shaw goes on to write that servers are being shortchanged by the current tipping system. He opines that servers (who feel this job is a transient one anyway) are trading in the long term benefits of a less compensated salaried status (retirement benefits, health insurance, vacation pay) for the possibility of pocketing extra cash under the current system. Shaw concludes that restaurants would do well to stop treating servers as “pseudo contractors” and provide a living wage, thus ensuring a waiter’s loyalty. In his words “waiters loyal to the restaurant will perform better and make customers happier than waiters loyal only to themselves.”
While Mr. Shaw’s article is well written and offers some good insights into the restaurant world, his pronouncements belie the fact he has probably spent little time in the trenches as a waiter. Here are the holes in his argument. …
Shaw cites the lofty example of uber restaurants like Per Se and expensive Michelin rated establishments. While these restaurants are excellent at what they do, they do not represent the majority of places that the average American diner can afford. Do you have any idea of the effort involved in obtaining three or four stars? These places operate on a much higher plane than your neighborhood trattoria. With their financial backing, public relations machines, (think Food Network) and fame, establishments of this caliber can afford to pay their servers a living wage and benefits.
Please don’t be fooled by the words “service charge” either. It’s still a tip. The only difference is that you are legally obligated to give it. And what’s more – do you think that the server will ever see that money? Gimme a break.
Now places like Per Se, which tack on 20%, probably give that money to the wait staff. But they’re PER SE. While it might be true the patron’s tip is based on how much they personally like their server, Shaw’s position would remove the customer’s monetary feedback entirely. Plus, water always seeks its own level and greed is rampant among restaurant owners. Sensing profit, restaurateurs will establish a service charge but start paying servers a flat hourly rate, thereby pocketing the difference. This obviates the consumer’s ability to reward the server. You’ll understand what I mean if you’ve ever shelled it out for a wedding reception. The establishment charges an 18% service charge on top of the bill but only pays it’s waiter between $10-$15 dollars an hour. Where does the rest of that money go? Right into the owners pocket! Now you might say that’s the way it works but hold on! There’s a restaurant in NYC that adds a “service charge” of 18% for parties of six or more. The waiters pocket that money. However, when the Christmas season arrives and the restaurant starts booking multi-thousand dollar office parties – they switch the servers to a flat hourly rate and keep the difference. That’s cynical and greedy. And that’s exactly what will happen if every restaurant in America adopts a service charge.
Far from improving a customer’s dining experience the service charge will ruin it. Why? Because if waiters are making an hourly wage they won’t care what kind of service they give. And, since waiters will definitely be under compensated they won’t be happy and what will that do to the “emotional connection” patrons have with their server? It will destroy it – making customers miserable and causing experienced servers to leave the business in droves. The best way for a restaurant to make a waiter loyal and happy is to pay him or her well through tipping. In this age of corporate layoffs and CEO overcompensation do you think any young person (the usual age cohort for waiters) buys that nonsense about long term compensation after they saw their parent’s loyalty to companies like Enron and Tyco so richly rewarded? They don’t and they want their money now. Why? Because a lot of us can take care of ourselves.
I pay for my own health insurance. I can do so because I’m adequately compensated under the current system. But if I start making $10 an hour I can’t. Eventually restaurants will be forced to offer it in order to attract lower paid workers. They will either pass that cost along to you the customer or lower the quality of their food. Besides, a lot of restaurants are independently owned and operated businesses surviving by the skin of their teeth. They need servers to operate as “pseudo contractors” because to do otherwise might incur labor costs they cannot afford to assume. If that happens they might go out of business. Then the only places left standing will be the preserves of the wealthy while the rest of us will be forced to dine in cookie cutter corporate places like the Olive Garden which has the fat bankroll needed to support their servers. Gone will be the corner Bistro with its red and white checkered table cloths. Gone will be the unique menus and quirky waiters – replaced by super expensive or dull soulless corporate affairs. The culinary landscape of America will be greatly diminished.
While I agree with some of Mr. Shaw’s points (I hate pooling tips, eschew the upsell, and appreciate quiet low key service) I have to conclude his approach is simplistic. Tipping is a valuable tool for consumers to reward or punish wait staff. It enables many small restaurants to exist. The service charge will wreak havoc on the restaurant business and turn waiters into low paid customer service wage drones. Just like the workers at another restaurant Mr. Shaw seems to admire so much…..Mc Donald’s.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Mickey D’s. I just don’t think that should become your only dining option!
You are dead on, of course. The reason so many foreign restaurants can use the service charge model is that they are able to pass health care costs (among others) to taxpayers because they are in nations with National Health. Of course, the harm that does to both consumers and providers of health care, by giving all the decisions to bureaucrats, is outrageous.
I think the noteworthy idea behind this is to make waiters less dependent on the tips. Less subjected to stories like i recall reading in your blog: Slow shifts in bad situations leaving people struggling to pull through…
I’m from Europe so I’m hardly as familiar with the whole situation in the States as you are. I only know that a system with higher wages and lower tips can work even for standard run-of-the mill restaurants. My mother worked as waitress for several years so I saw a bit of that side too.
I recognize the objections about feasibility though. Such a change is nigh impossible to put through on an individual level. I’d expect quite some confusion among customers when tips in every restaurant would suddenly be different. Also gauging a menu’s price would become a headache. It’s like instituting a ban for smoking in restaurants. Individually it’s a nightmare but if everyone has to do it, it works (or at least can work).
Assuming that average tips are 10%. What if wages would be increased by that and expected tipping be lowered by that on a nation-wide scale. A Satisfying dining experience should still cost about the same. Good waiters should statistically still get tips in the upper part of the expected range. Bad waiters would probably be a bit better off income wise but I sure hope a well run restaurant knows how to filter those out.
Are you serious, arkanabar? I’ll bet you any amount of money that you’d like that Waiter would pay less in taxes for universal health care than he currently pays for private health care. The tie between health care and your employer is the worst thing about this country and the sooner we catch up to the rest of the world, the better. I dunno about you, but I prefer government bureaucrats that I elect rather than corporate bureaucrats who have even less of a reason not to throw me under the bus.
I deliver pizza/menu item for a regional company in the mid-atlantic… so while I can’t relate to the whole waiter thing… I still do work for the tips, and I couldn’t survive on a strictly hourly basis. Even if I did make $10 an hour, it wouldn’t pay for half the gas needed to run around the three towns serviced by our one shop. So I say fuck that hourly wage.. unless they pay us what we’re entirely entitled to.
Hey daedulus, it’s quite obvious you have never been ill under a National Health Regime. Let me tell you, having been raised in Britain, it is awful. While you prefer an “elected government bureaucrat” to decide whether they will pay for whatever treatment you need, I prefer a Doctor. Under National Health you are no longer a person. You are ‘The Kidney failure” The “Heart” The “Lung” the “Car accident in bed 5”
Coming to America was the best thing I ever did. I know health care is expensive but at least it lives up to it’s name. Health CARE!
Sorry Waiter. I know I was off the subject there. I love your blog and can’t wait for your book. Just discovered your blog when I read about your book release in The Week magazine. I laugh out loud at some of your tales. You have an exquisite talent.
Nicely done, Waiter. I read that NYTimes piece with increasing rage, but couldn’t articulate my objections as pithily as you have.
I have worked in Hospitality for over 15 years in the USA as well as Australia. When the incentive for tips based upon my personal service to the guest is taken away I loose that extra effort that I would like to provide to the guest. I worked for individual tips as a server in Mom and Pop diners up to fine dining in SOHO NY and when servers tips are pooled then I loose that extra incentive to go above and beyond because at the end of the day my wallet doesn’t see the benefits of going above and beyond for guest.
Call me a capitalist but I love being rewarded for my efforts and not seeing it all watered down into a pool that averages out everyone like we are all equal. Because people are not all equal as far as service is concerned and we would be better off if we left that special dynamic of personal tips up to the guest/s to decide.
I think that the major reason why waiters like the tipping system over a fixed salary is because they don’t think they can negotiate a reasonable salary. Their solution is to guilt and/or bully the customers into paying the majority of their salary, separate from the main bill. By making it seem normal to pay 15%, no 18%, no 20%, they try to guilt people into paying a lot of money and making up for the people that do not tip. It’s most brutal for dating men who have to conform to obsolete customs by paying the entire meal and then have to pay a huge tip to prevent coming off as cheap. This arrangement is very good for customers who do not tip, who are effectively subsidized by the do-gooders. To try and combat this, waiters try to retaliate by giving bad tables, bad service or even tainted food to bad tippers. Of course, this means that it is very difficult for an unhappy customer to ‘punish’ a poor waiter. He is probably punishing himself more than the waiter, especially because in 99% of the cases a low/non-existent tip is considered unfair by the waiter and may result in retaliation. After all, a poor waiter is not going to notice all the mistakes he makes. If he did, he wouldn’t make them. So only tips above standard really make sense if you want to influence the waiter. In that case, a service charge with a completely optional tip makes a lot more sense. Then a tip really means something.
Secondly, I don’t understand what makes a waiter different from a cook. Somehow it’s normal to expect the cooks in a restaurant to produce a quality meal, even though we know that the quality of the food depends on the individual cook. So why don’t we pay less for the menu items and give a tip to the cook if the food is prepared well? One counterargument could be that you don’t have your own cook, but a tip pool for the kitchen could be a good motivator (a line cook doesn’t want the rest of the kitchen angry because his food gets send back repeatedly). It seems to me that the real reason is that cooks are seperated from the customers, so they can’t use guilt or bullying effectively. Of course, waiters could decide to be loyal with the cooks, dishwashers and other salaried employees and fight for fair salaries for all (perhaps through a union). However, I think that they are selfish and are ok with low salaries for salaried employees.
In the US the insurer decides what treatments get paid for, not the doctor. I’ve seen and read about absolute horror stories when insurers don’t want to pay for various reasons and people have to choose between treatment and bankruptcy (medical bills are the no. 1 reason for personal bankruptcies in the US). I could go on, but this is indeed off-topic.
I am serious. I may wind up paying less with a government run single-payer system, but I would expect FAR less in the way of health care — assigning any good or service to the public sector doubles the unit cost of production. Health care would end up rationed, as it is, de facto, in England and Canada.
I’m serious about preferring the current system of tips, too. That’s why I put this post on my blog.
I am European and have lived in the US (am currently living in Italy). We don’t tip here, there is an automatic cover charge for each diner, a tip is not expected. I really don’t understand the tip culture. I think it creates so much frustration and hostiliy (even if only in the mind). The guest feels coerced into having to provide a tip, otherwise he’ll appear a cheapskate. But, why do I have to subsidize your salary? If I get a roofer coming to the house, I don’t have to ensure they make the minimum to survive by adding a tip to the work they do… if I go to the hairdresser, I don’t have to tip them so they can pay the rent… if I get a massage, I pay the fee and don’t have to pay a tip…. I don’t tip my mechanic for fixing my car. Mind you, I said “have to”, of course I can chose to, but that’s exactly the point: with the tipping system the way it is in the US, the guest doesn’t have a choice, he is almost forced into tipping, he’s made to feel bad if he doesn’t. And the waiter is frustrated and hostile when the guest doesn’t live up to his end of the “deal”. Min wage should be applicable to everybody, if you earn a tip because you do a good job, then great for you, but I don’t feel that it should be up to me – the guest – to raise your pay to min wage with my tip. You don’t work for me!
I don’t understand why customer’s feel “they are subsidizing my salary” if they are tipping me as a server? As a customer you would not be “subsidizing” my salary the tip is my salary. As a server I work for you the guest for the one to two and a half hours you would spend dining as a in the restaurant. After reading some of these responses I can see that the average person has no clue what it takes to be a server, bartender, or hostess, and the dynamics that are involved.
It is obvious that people who don’t understand the “tipping” system are foreigners or they are not diners, or they are just simply down right cheap. In regards to the “foreigner” I’ve met and worked side by side with many foreigners at restaurants and are some of the best servers and bartenders, because they “get it” and that’s why they are here in America which is the job opportunity, and the amount of money to be made. In regards to the “diner”, dining is an experience and if you’re not a diner of course you don’t understand the tipping system, because you get what you pay for. As part of the restaurant or bar staff it is the server or bartender’s job to help create and give the right experience to each guest which they all expect. Just listen to the theme song of Cheers. Thus you tip your server because they helped provide this experience to you and the did a good job. That’s why you choose to go out to dinner on some nights, and not to McDonalds where you wait for your food to be taken from under a heat lamp placed on your plastic germ infested tray and then proceed to shuffle off with your empty soda cup which you fill yourself then to your plastic vinyl padded booth while you enjoy your paper wrapped meal under florescent lights. In regards to the customer who is cheap well it’s not that you don’t understand the tipping system you don’t agree with it because well you’re just cheap end of discussion on that one.
I am a career “professional” server and bartender I enjoy it, and it is what I do best. I’ve made a great living at my profession. Most diners will return to a restaurant because of the “service”. As far as a restaurant paying me by salary and doing away with a tip because someone wrote some dumb article he obviously did not research well enough and suggested that it would be in my best interest as a servers because of health care etc…blah, blah is a bunch of crap, because as Bourdain put it “I can take care of myself”. I pay for my own health benefits, and have learned to manage my money to fit my lifestyle.
I can tell you this much it has been my professional experience as a server and bartender that those who seem to have a problem with the whole “tipping” system are also the most unreasonable customers and are very hard to please as a matter of fact 95% of the time impossible to please, and would never hesitate to expect and ask for something free or voided off of their bill because they were not satisfied with something.
And to that customer who feels pressured when tipping, concerned they may come across as cheap, come on! Really?! You’re going to blame the server and the service industry for your feelings of guilt as well. Well maybe you’re feeling guilty or cheap, because you are cheap. I appreciate any amount of tip I get and never take it personally if it isn’t as much as I expected nor would I jump to any conclusion that my customer was just cheap. Trust me when a customer has tipped me little or nothing at all because of my service they have never failed to let me or my manager know. So when I receive a tip that doesn’t seem the amount I deserved with no complaints, I always like to believe there was something else going on that I wasn’t aware of. Maybe that customer didn’t bring enough money because they didn’t expect to spend that much or they brought the wrong card who knows? It’s called decency. My customer’s happiness is far more valuable than a 10% tip as opposed to an 18 or 20% tip, because if they are happy they will come back, and guess what tip me again.
By the way since when is it wrong to “sell” a better tasting, better quality of wine to a customer? If you know anything about wine you would know that certain wines bring out certain flavors when paired with certain foods. Why all of a sudden because it is a server or bartender selling you something we are trying to rob you. It’s the exact same thing when you go buy a computer, a car, or get your nails done. People sell its part of their job. Most diners count on the server’s knowledge and suggestions and do not see it as though we are bullying them or trying making them feel so guilty that they leave a substantial tip, but of course those are “diners”. Besides beggars make people feel guilty for not giving them a hand out not servers because we work for our tip, and if you feel guilty well that’s because you probably should. That’s why it’s called a tip and not a handout.
Maybe if you stopped to realize that the server or bartender who is serving you is working for you for that one to two and half hours you might feel better about tipping. Every state implements a minimum wage. And if you’re being served by someone for one hour you should at least pay them for that one hour, and if you don’t agree go to Mickey D’s or some other fast food joint where you will never be expected to tip, and help yourself.
FYI…Aapje your tip does go to the cook. At the end of the shift each server tips their “KITCHEN” staff, bussers, bar, and hostess a certain percentage of their total tips.
And to Birgitt I worked with and become very good friends with two Italians straight from Italy one was started as a server, and the other a sus chef. They both “get it”, and appreciate the “tipping” culture here in America. They told me themselves that is why they are living in the U.S.A. now, because in Italy there was limited opportunity for either of them. The server eventually moved up to management, and the sus chef became the heach chef. You will be happy to know they have both partnered up and opened their own restaurant since which has been so successful that it is rumored they have plans to open a second one in a very famous star studded city in Southern California. As a matter of fact the Chef is now top contendor on a prime time hit reality T.V. show called “Top Chef” and is also a private Chef to William Shatner. I couldn’t imagine two people when starting out possesing that much drive, vision, and work ethic ever being undeserving of a tip. As a matter of fact the server was the best server I’ve ever worked with, and the chef he’s a TOP CHEF. Something as small as a tip is one step closer to a better life. GOD BLESS AMERICA!
I never thought about how the restaurant itself would probably pocket the service charge. Good point.
Just one note on pooling tips. I worked on a beach where the tips were pooled for our outdoor beach service, but not in our upscale restaurant, which opened in the evenings when the beach closed. Working a double meant on the beach in the day and in the restaurant at night. I actually really loved the pooling tip system – it wouldn’t have worked for the fine dining in the evening, but it was perfect for beach service. I’ve heard so many customers complain when asking someone who’s not their waitress for something only to hear – I’ll get your server for you.
Now, first thing – customer shouldn’t ask someone who’s not their waiter, second thing waiter should never let their table get to a point where customer has to ask someone else, and third thing is that waiter #2 should just tell you what your customer asked for, rather than being rude to your table – but it invariably happens at one time or another and I can’t control the quality of service coming from fellow servers.
In the pooling system no one feels like they’re getting short changed on a section or that they’re covering other tables that they shouldn’t. In specific situations it can create a team feel amongst the wait staff that actually improves customer service. The specific situation I’m talking about is a casual beach bar that was very busy – we weren’t going for fine dining and the pooling system really worked. It was OK to ask anyone of the waitstaff for anything that was needed, and although you were assigned specific sections, people sat themselves so you didn’t worry about helping out your team mates if their section became over run with people. Maybe my feelings are biased by the fact that I worked with a great team, but they’re my feelings nonetheless.
Wouldn’t have dreamed of having it in the evenings though – we were giving a different dining experience, no different in service quality, but more so in personal experiences with your individual server and the type of service we were offering.
I’m sorry but I can’t stand the argument that tips encourage waiters to do their job well, and put the customers needs first. Every other profession does that without bribery because it’s their job! I always tip well but I completely agree with the system proposed by that restaurant.
Tipping is so engrained in American culture that most Americans cannot envisage a day without it. Yet most of these same people would never consider tipping the guy at McDonalds, the hardware store, a car dealer, or someone who sells them a tv. It’s just a cultural thing. I find the whole concept of forced tipping distasteful. I live in Australia. In non-American countries you tip for good service if you feel like it. It is extra, not essential. I always tip because I feel like it and appreciate good service. I also tip knowing that when I return to the retaurant I will be treated well. However, I know that my waiters would still have a good wage if I didn’t tip at all. This argument that restaurant owners would go broke if they were forced to pay people more is complete garbage. All they do is increase the price of their food. It’s not rocket science. Assume a waiter of an evening looks after 6 tables in total for a total spend of $1000. Under the American system a tip of 20%, or $200, is expected. To allow the waiter to live. Imagine, however, that no tip was expected, but the food cost $1200. The owner then pays the waiter $200 dollars. The waiter gets the same amount of money, the owner gets the same net amount, and the customers are out $1200 – which is what they were always out! Also, to say that this removes the incentive for good service is incorrect. Good service is rewarded by a tip. A real tip. One the customers felt like paying, not were forced to cough up.
This American concept of paying workers slave wages and expecting them to make a living on the generosity of strangers is belittling and degrading.
Pay the staff what they deserve. It’s the civilised thing to do.
you constantly poke fun of corporate chain restaurants like they are beneath you and the servers give bad service. Im sure some of the servers give better service then some upscale restaurant waitstaff.
Tips aren’t bribery! If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to go out for a meal. Period. People who don’t tip are just cheap. 100% of the time.
If you recieve bad service, take it up with management and adjust your tip accordingly, but I gauruntee you are looking for ways to not tip because servers try to do a good job. That’s why they are there. If you are a jerk and start snapping your fingers the minute you sit down and complaining that you know the owner(which you invariably don’t) and want a better table, expect your server’s attention to be focused on customer’s who are polite and just happy to have a night out. THAT’S why you are looking for a reason not to tip. You probably sent your dinner back after you ate ALL of it and demanded a refund too, right??
I have a tip for all the waiters and waitresses out ther, FIND ANOTHER JOB!
wow, I had a really good comment to make, but Kat and Sav made it for me. Tipping is purely cultural, I’m a vet nurse, I give GREAT customer service, I’ve never been tipped!!!!
oops, ps I’m an Aussie
Look, it’s a cultural, social and economic thing. And I think those who say the house would take the “surcharge” as profit off the top are totally right. It’s a souble edged sword. Everyone wants more than what they’re paying for, and if you say you don’t, you’re a lying sack of shit.
The server’s basic job is to be polite and make sure yor food and drinks get to the table. That’s it. Not much of an experience, hm? No compliments to the missus, no suggestions or expertise on wine. No fan fare. Just “Here’s your wine, here’s your food, here’s your bill.” The experience, as many servers have pointed out, is what the tip is paying for. And yes, if someone sells me a television, I don’t tip, but if the stock boy offers to help me load it, I’ll certainly give him something for his trouble.
To the nurse: I’ve never tipped a nurse cash, but I do usually send a small floral arrangement, box of candy and a card if I feel that a nurse has been particularly kind. I race motocross, so I’ve had the jarring experience of waking up, thousands of kilometers from home, alone in a hospital bed. The nurse who calmed me down was named Liz. I sent her flowers and a thank you card, for going above and beyond her job discription.
Just tip, God damn it. If you don’t believe you should, then stay home and stop reading waiter rant as clearly you don’t get it.
I completely disagree, I worked at tons of different restaurants for years, and the last two years I’ve been working at a private country club. While most waiters in MA get $2.63/hour plus tips, we make $5/hour (lunch) and $4/hour (dinner) and we get an automatic 14% of the entire final price of the check. I prefer this method so much more, and maybe it’s because I truly believe in making the members have an enjoyable dining experience or maybe it’s just the threat that they’ll be back and so I shouldn’t leave a bad impression, but I always try and give my highest caliber of service. I don’t slack off or get lazy because I genuinely enjoy bonding with the members and joking around with them, or whatever their mood seems to entail for me to change my approach. Sometimes however, I get SLAMMED and am running around for the life of me, and it’s because of how management has arranged the reservations for the night (95% of our diners are all done by reservation so we know who and when our tables are), so even though I try my hardest (one time I sweated through my work shirt so grossly that I ran down to the locker room and changed into a spare) I at least know that I won’t be penalized for it being a busy night.
Keller is an idiot. maybe good food but he should pay the back of the house out of his pocket not try and change an American tradition and force the wait staff to pay his crew.I wish him the worst of luck in this desperate attempt to take advantage of his celebrity so cheesy owners can pocket more profits at the expense of the wait staff.
P.s To Alice. Find a new life.
I live and worked as a waiter in nj for over 8 years, decided to venture out to nyc to make more money as a server… ventured out of nj only to find a lousy tipping culture in nyc, surprised….all the lousy tippers were foreigners. Once I heard an accent, other than American, I knew my tip that night/day would be close to nothing. And its funny, the people that tipped the worst happen to be the people that demanded the most (and were foreigners). I learned there after where my service would be appreciated.
Needless to say, I am back in my hometown… where people actually get the concept of tipping…. When I travel to a foreign country I make it a point to “recognize” the culture of that country and to –> respect its culture. I wish foreigners would do the same in my country.
Do you still feel the same way about this post after writing Keep the Change? I’d be curious to know if that changed your opinion at all!
I love this blog but I can not get my head around the arguement that if you paid waiters a living wage, a)restaurants would go out of business and b) waiters would be less inclined to give good service.
In Australia, the minimum hourly rate for a casual waiter is just shy of $20. We are also paid penalty rates of time and a quarter for Saturdays, time and a half for Sundays and double time and a half for public holidays.
Some restaurants will place a surcharge on the bills on Sundays and/or public holidays to help cover the extra wages (usually 10-15%).
Restaurants work out the price of their menu items based on the food cost, the wage cost and ancilliary costs, but in an average size, independent business, you might pay $15-20 for an appetizer (entree in Aus) and $25-45 for an entree (main in Aus).
Our incentive to give good service is that we get to keep our job. If we don’t, we are all replaceable!
Tipping is always appreciated but never expected. However, when we do recieve a tip, it means we have done our job exceptionally well.
I’m not saying your way is wrong and ours is right, but the fact that i have been doing this for 18 years and have managed to do reasonably well financially, is proof that a living wage can work, both for employers and staff.
As an Australian travelling to America, I did a lot of reading on the tipping thing, and when I was there I always tipped, probably higher than expected.
And let me tell you. I had the worst customer service I’ve ever had in my life at virtually every restaurant. Being there for a few weeks, I ate out a lot, and there were probably only three times where I thought a tip would be even remotely appropriate. I get far better service in Australia where there is no tipping expectation.
Who knows, maybe it’s just because the servers heard my accent and decided I wasn’t going to tip. Maybe that’s why the foreigners don’t tip well, because you give them crap service.