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Nov 19, 2007 04:23 AM

Unusual twist on mandatory tip

Unusual to me, anyway. I came across this on a menu recently:

"All guests seated in the dining room after 11pm are subject to a 19% gratuity on all food and beverage."

Can somebody shed some light on the rationale here? Is the assumption that many in there after 11 are going to be too impaired to tip decently? (This is one of the nicest places in Baltimore.)

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  1. I guess they figure if they are going to seat guests late and keep their wait staff, they need to ensure them a certain level of income.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Annapolis07

      I agree with Annapolis07, at that hour the crowd and 'menu' begin to change. Just also heard another take on extra service charges...Some restaurants are starting to charge an extra stipend for the table, plate and tablecloth...this is before the tipping, mind you. Don't think I like all this...What do you think?

      1. re: gutreactions

        'Some restaurants are starting to charge an extra stipend for the table, plate and tablecloth.....'

        This is AFTER 11:00pm or before????????????????

        I am hoping it is after 11:00pm, when I can sympathize that the staff wants to go home, but BEFORE? That said, I would want it in writing on the menu.

        Please tell me that restaurants are NOT now thinking of charging for water and bread and takeout containers and table and plates and tablecloth.

        Oh, boy, I find this too hilarious to even contemplate.

        GR, how do they communicate this? Is there a blurb at the bottom of the menu to so indicate?

        1. re: dolores

          Dolores, I think it stinks too...I believe the concept began in Europe...normally a restaurant in the U.S. would add these charges to the cost of a dish, a cocktail or a meal, part of their markup, but they are ever looking for ways to better cashflow. I know of one fellow who got his check (they were two people) only to find extra charges for their table and the plates (or tablecloth) on the bill...And this was before tipping! I have to research this before I begin divulging names though. Nasty stuff right?

          1. re: gutreactions

            GR, so unbelievable as to be laughable, to me at least. Does said restaurant THINK a patron would return for a second visit if they received an extra 'charge' for their tablecloth and plates?

            Yes, equal to what I have saying about the extra 'charge' for bread and water and takeout. For pity sake, build it IN to your overall costs.


            1. re: gutreactions

              But in Europe (or at least in Rome, which is the only city there I have personal experience with), the 'service charge' (sometimes described as the bread charge) is added because restaurant diners aren't expected to tip, in which case it evens out. If I was charged for ridiculous extras like the furniture, etc., and expected to tip, I'd let them know why I was never coming back... Or ask why I wasn't given the option to sit on the floor.

            2. re: dolores

              "i insist upon eating at a table with no linen, tyvm!"

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                By the way, I believe that when figuring the true tip left to the floor staff it should not include cost of the table, plates, tablecloths, bathroom sanitary products (you can leave out the tax)...just the food, wine and service as you see it...The tip is still the customers honest final appraisal...

                1. re: gutreactions

                  I agree -- I still would tip in this case (if in a country where it was custom to do so - although I did tip when in Italy since I was obviously a tourist). I just see all of those things as part of the service, which is what you're tipping for, ultimately. (And also why servers are paid so little w/ the tips expected to make up the difference -- that's a 'savings' passed on to the owner and part of the payment for service, in effect.) I wouldn't fault the waitstaff for the owner's ridiculous policy; I just wouldn't return and I would try to be clear about why.

          2. re: Annapolis07

            Do you mean that the restaurant management is ensuring their wait staff that they will make a certain amount per hour for working that late (reaching into their own pockets if the place is empty)? Or are they just ensuring that the tips they receive will be 19% of the sales at that hour?

            Seems to me the amount of sales would be more subject to more fluctuation than the percentage tipped, and that average tips would be in the neighborhood of 19% anyway.

          3. Given which Balto restaurant this is and having experienced the snottines of their staff and the general arrogance with which this emphire operates I would say that it's likely the charge is bc they want to encourage guests to continue spending money at the bar and not just occupy a table for the comfort of seating and nursing one's drink.Or they want to penalise guests who are merely nursing their drinks and not building a bigger check for their server.

            1. too outrageous for words. it's not that you arrive after 1100, but if you have a 930 reso and it takes more than 90 minutes you're stuck. So a server who had a bad service at a table for some reason waits until 11:01 to bring the check with the 19% in.

              So at 10:59 someone should hit a gong. Then everyone stands up and continues eating without being "seated". Take your time, order some more tapas and enjoy. Then pay like a real resto and tip accordingly.

              7 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Huh? Who on earth would wait 90 minutes to be seated? Most folks will not wait more than 20 minutes max before they're outta there.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Karl S

                  Sorry for the confusion, but read the writing carefully. It is not if you start your seating after 11, it's if you are seated, as in the physical act of your derrier in the chair. So if you sit down at 1045 and are still there at 1105, you're slapped with the 19%.

                  Jfood waited once 90 minutes for a reson in NYC when he was young and stupid and has not returned to that resto in 25 years.

                2. re: jfood

                  Does jfood know for a fact that "seated...after 11" would apply to checks opened before (but closed after) 11?

                  If it didn't apply to them, would that change jfood's opinion of the policy?

                  1. re: tubman

                    The menu says " all guests seated in the dining room after 11pm...", would imply the physical act of butt in chair. If it said "guests seated after 11pm..." would imply the act of a host/hostess seating a patron, in this case after 11pm would be charged.
                    Agree that the language is confusing. If the latter is the case then the wordage is poor.

                    1. re: steeltowngrl

                      I think "seated" refers to being seated by the hostess; "sitting" would refer to the broader class of patrons.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        Definitely, Karl S. "Seated" is active, transitive.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          Thanks Karl, a little reasearch this morning. Seated can be used as either a verb or adjective. In this case it is a verb and is, as you describe, the act of the resto on seating the patrons. If it was "all seated guests in the dining room" then jfood's scenario would hold.

                          - If the "19% surcharge/auto-grat" is only placed on tabs that are opened and closed after 11PM jfood does not have any issue with the auto-grat.

                          - If the percentage is placed on all tabs closed after 11PM but opened prior to 11PM then he has a huge issue with the policy.

                  2. The Jerry's Famous Deli by me in LA does this after midnight or so. But, that's a diner. I think they realize how badly drunk people tend to tip and want to ensure that doesn't happen. Maybe the fancy place you're talking about had the same problem? Hard to imagine.
                    Maybe they had a difficult time getting their staff to stay late and this is a motivator for people not to get fed up with the hours and quit.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

                      "I think they realize how badly drunk people tend to tip and want to ensure that doesn't happen"

                      Altho one shouldn't generalize about any group made up of individuals, my experience has been that drunks are good tippers, often ridiculously good.

                      1. re: FrankJBN

                        Really? Mine has been the exact opposite. But, I guess it can go either way... if you're too drunk to drive, you're probably too drunk to count. Up or down.
                        In a late night kind of place where people go after the bars, why else would they do the auto-gratuity?

                        1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

                          >> badly drunk people tend to tip ...
                          > ...
                          >Mine has been the exact opposite.
                          maybe their risk managers want to control variance.
                          19% doesnt seem high enough for this to be about bringing more money,
                          which i might suspect north of 20%. what is their autograt %age for large

                          i wonder if this is actually more productive than having a minimum bill
                          for prime time diners (i'm not saying more restos should do this, and i
                          understand there is a customer relations element, but just curious what
                          actually affects the bottom line more).

                          and of course there are time-based special charges for various
                          pay-per-view type events. these can get kinda weird for international
                          events ... $20 to go to a bar at 6am to watch a soccer match,
                          $20 for people staying in a bar after 2am [bar closing in CA] to watch
                          cricket world cup [went till dawn].

                          [ADDED: I assume there isnt some thinking-out-of-the-box, you-have-to-know-
                          inside-details type explanation like the resto owner wants to go home at 11pm
                          and wants to have all the post-11pm transactions in writing because he doesnt
                          trust his staff with cash transactions etc].

                          1. re: psb

                            I agree. After thinking about this more, it would seem safe to say that the policy is only in place because the restaurant--for whatever reason--has experienced challenges with the amounts that have (or haven't) been tipped late at night. That, by itself, makes this a smart business decision IMHO.

                            Whether you agree or not (and I don't) with the conventional wisdom that's often floated on this forum about "20% being the new 15%," on a $100 tab, 19% is probably within a buck or two of the average voluntary gratuity in an upscale big-city place. I'm not offended by being asked to pay a mandatory gratuity in the average range so that the drunks at the next table will have to do the same and not totally screw over our server. Just my 2ยข.

                            1. re: tubman

                              tubman - agreed.

                              if you're "worth your salt" you should be tipping 20% nowadays if you can afford it. and if you're dining at an upscale big city place, then yes, you can afford it. (the economy in serious trouble, please hold your breath...)

                              so i don't find 19% too awful... but i dont really agree with the reasoning. close the restaurant or don't seat me, before you force me into tipping.

                            2. re: psb

                              I think you might find that those "time-based special charges" are actually due to the exorbitant fees charged by rightsholders such as Setanta and others to allow showing of said sporting events.

                              1. re: cap

                                [note: i didnt mean to suggest there was anything unreasonable about
                                the pass-thru pay per view charges. as long as reasonably disclosed
                                applied fairly etc. in the case of the bar open past 2am, it was probably
                                also to cover the "babysitting fee" since the staff wasnt selling alcohol
                                after 2am. i believe MLB or the NFL went after a guy who lived in a
                                condo overlooking a stadium when he was inviting people over to watch
                                the game from his "domestic sky box". i vaguely remember this happening
                                in chicago.]

                          2. re: FrankJBN

                            agreed frank. maybe my personality is a little too warm... but often i spend like crazy when drunk. well not like crazy. but normally i tip 20% and it goes upwards of 25% if ive "had too much." when in doubt - round up :) it's not like i don't have enough money, and its not like the servers get paid well. so sure, why not?

                        2. Wow, that resto really puts the customer's money where their mouth is. They are essentially guarenteeing exceptional service all the time after 11pm. I do not agree with this, but 15% would be easier to swallow.
                          And I wonder if the waiters clearly disclose to the customer that the tip is already included?
                          I also think this thread should be split with Baltimore so that potential diners of Pazo can make an informed decision before dining after 11pm.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: steeltowngrl

                            I am surprised to read about this. I hope that by publicizing it here it does NOT inspire other restaurants to do the same thing. I'd expect to see this in New York, but not Baltimore. Sheesh.

                            1. re: Cheflambo

                              No, in NYC you just get sneaky bartenders who overcharge to make a buck. In the past 2 weeks I've had one bartender slip an extra $12 drink on the tab and at another place I got charged full price for half priced happy hour drinks - this place doesn't advertise on a menu or elsewhere about the happy hour special but I've been there in there in the past to know about it. In fact the last time I was there I pointed out to the bartender that I wasn't charged enough, unaware of the special. I'm sure both were just innocent mistakes.