Tip left for good service at my local Coco's. ...

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Amy Pataki’s recent article  indicating that the standard tip in Toronto restaurants is now 20 percent has been circulating the web and the water cooler and there are more than quite a few disgruntled reactions. My reaction – as if!! Okay, I’m dating myself but it is a bit presumptuous in my book. We would all like to think that tips are based on the quality of service but in the restaurant industry there is a minimum standard…of the amount of tip apparently. Shouldn’t there be a minimum standard of service associated with this?

I dine out more than the average person and I’ve received average service, great service and exceptional service peppered with some bad. With this new “standard” I need help clarifying what the level of service needs to be to warrant a 20 percent tip. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge proper tipping. I know how important it is to servers because they are paid less than minimum wage and some have to share tips with other servers, busers, kitchen staff and management (this I don’t understand). Traditionally, tips range from 10 – 25 percent with more for exceptional service. TripAdvisor has posted a helpful guide to tipping in Canada that indicates 15 percent is customary but I think it  I would clarify that its the average amount. (Remember this is supposed to be based on the level of service you receive, right)?

How do I calculate the tip when my server:

  • is so busy working multiple tables and rushes through my ordering
  • is inattentive
  • forgets to bring items to the table
  • spills, water/wine/ food on the table or me and doesn’t acknowledge it or clean it up without being asked
  • is extremely slow moving when the restaurant is not very busy
  • is rude or acts like they would rather be anywhere else but serving at the restaurant
  • does not know what is on the menu, tells you the dish you ordered is really good, but it sucks
  • is part of a group servicing my table and one talks about you to another server within earshot…and its not complimentary

In these instances, I usually just gripe in my head or to my dining companion but  I still tip the 15 percent (grudgingly) and don’t go back to that establishment unless the apology is sincere or someone convinces me I should give it a second chance. I can’t just suck it up anymore if I have to increase my standard for this type of behaviour.

In a follow up Toronto Star article, a comment is made by Rachenbaumer stating, “…most Toronto restaurants charge exorbitantly high prices for wine and spirits (plus tax), even though LCBO and agents’ prices are only a fraction of their cost. Wine prices by the glass are often ludicrously high.” Tips are calculated on the food and beverage cost but I never thought about the alcohol mark up.

Things that make you go hmmm.

My point is  this…someone, anyone – diners, servers, restaurant owners -please convey to me what level of service I should expect for me to make 20 percent MY new standard.

On the other hand, I probably shouldn’t even dine in New York where this is already the norm.


3 thoughts on “Who deserves a 20 percent tip?

  1. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge proper tipping. I know how important it is to servers because they are paid less than minimum wage and some have to share tips with other servers, busers, kitchen staff and management (this I don’t understand).”

    Yes They do make less than minimum wage, and they do have to share their tips. They tip out the food runners who drop your food at your table, usually something like 50 cents a plate, they tip the bartenders around 10% for every alcohol drink you order, but usually don’t tip the kitchen staff who get paid more.

    So when you tip 15%, more than a third of that is going right out of their pockets. 20% is standard because sadly restaurants do not have to pay a living wage like they do in Europe. In the US, severs have to pay tax on 14% of their total sales, which means if you tip them less than this, and with the people they have to tip out, they are actually losing money serving you. On top of that, many don’t receive pay checks at all since taxes on their tips gobble up what would show up on a check.

    The restaurant owners set the alcohol prices, and they will always be higher than what you can buy it yourself for. It doesn’t take a lot of logic to figure that out. The car you bought is cheaper for the dealer to buy from the company that it is for you to buy it from the dealer. That’s how they make their money.

    Bad service is bad service, and should be brought up to management when it happens instead of griping in your head. It’s rare that I’ve had bad service, but it happens.

    If you are too cheap to tip close to 20% for good service (not exceptional out of this world service which should get over 30%) than perhaps you should learn to cook for yourself, instead of harping on these hard working people.

    • Thank you for your detailed comment! But, if you read the blog closely, I am not being cheap. I am saying for 20 percent as a standard tip, GOOD service should be THE STANDARD. I always tip 20 to 25 percent for good service and more if its exceptional. Also, I am a very good cook but also enjoy eating out as it does support the wages of others.

  2. That’s good to hear. I think a lot of people forget how hard a job like this really is. There are so many factors in a good dining experience, not least of which is the food, something beyond the wait staffs control. Some restaurants even purposely under staff the wait staff to save money, leaving these people with too many tables to properly attend to.

    I guess the thing is, if you have a bad experience tip less or tell a manager, but if you are tipping 15% these days you are cheap. I’m glad you go above and beyond, but there are just so many people with their tipping mentality stuck in the 80’s.

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