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Tipping in the UK

nanette May 22, 2008 02:13 AM

After a conversation on another board, I'm intrigued as to how much people in the UK are tipping when they dine out. A lot of us on here are Ex-Pats with notions of American tipping practice, which is typically much more than what people in the UK accustomed to doing.

Do you still tip to your American standard, or have you adapted your practise? If you are a natural Brit, how much do you usually tip and have you felt more increased pressure over the last few years to tip?

Personally, I’ve adapted. The level of service I’ve encountered here over the last 5 years typically does not warrant more than 10%, and in fact is rarely more than that expected. I have adapted the habit of tipping a bit more when out in a large group, but even then, typically 12.5% is added to the bill for service so there is little question as to how much you should leave.

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  1. zuriga1 RE: nanette May 22, 2008 03:21 AM

    Nanette, I share your criticism of having this post moved. I and others are getting very annoyed at the amount of deletions on the UK board. I'm very against censorship and what the heck... this is just for fun and not that serious. And how do any posters get to know anything about each other if one must stick to food all the time.

    I quickly adapted to leaving only 10% most of the time. My husband, who's British, is fine with that. As you said, more and more places are adding on a 12.5% to the bill... inflation?

    1. h
      Harters RE: nanette May 22, 2008 09:53 AM

      I also find it a disincentive when threads are moved off-board - but those are those site's rules and I have vowed not to criticise them. So I won't.

      Here's my take on the issue.

      I do not like tipping. I do not like paying a service charge. I wish it would become the custom here for it not to apply, as I understand the case to be in Australia, New Zealand, Japan (happy to be corrected). Service is an integral part of the meal - the cost of it should be included in the menu price. So, in terms of menu price, what you see is what you pay. Full stop.

      I do not see why ordering food in a restaurant requires this antiquated separate charge. I can think of no other industry where it applies.

      That said, it *has* always been the custom here so to answer the OP - no, I don't feel under any greater pressure. If anything I think there's less, as there are now more casual eating opportunities, than when I was a young man. Places such as pubs do not require a tip of any sort (unless, of course, it's a pub "restaurant").

      I am always much more content when a "service charge" is levied in the European style. Whether that finds its way into the pockets of the serving staff or the owners is, frankly, an irrelevance to me. There does seem to be a geography about this - everywhere I've eaten in London this week levied it at 12.5%. In Manchester, 10% is still generally the norm. If a traditional tip has to be left, I tip at the traditional rate of 10%.

      As an aside, like many of us, I regularly holiday in Spain. And, of course, leaving a few coins is a perfectly acceptable tip there (outside of high end restaurants). And, of course, one usually receives good service - it's a respected job and I think that's the key.

      Here, I find that good or bad service is not directly related to the tipping policy at a particular place but there is a general direct link to the "quality" of the place. Go to a place where the servers are fulltime employees on reasonable salary and you're likely to get good service. Go somewhere where they are part-timers on minimum wage and it's likely to be not so good.

      But, without hesitation, I'll say that I generally prefer the style and level of service in the UK and other European countries to that I generally find in America. The latter often feels false, forced and has more of an intent to get me quickly out of the place having spent as much as possible than ensuring I've had a good time and want to go back. For instance, I do not need (much less want) someone checking with me every few minutes if everything was OK and did I enjoy the starter, blah, blah, blah. To my mind, it is a mark of the place when they feel there is no need to do that - such as my visits earlier this year to Hibiscus and Lindsay House.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Harters
        PhilD RE: Harters May 22, 2008 01:36 PM

        We are half Australian so we often don't tip. Infact we will take the service charge off the bill if we think the service isn't service.

        Our English half hails from Yorkshire (short arms, deep pockets) so adheres to the rule that tips are for exceptional/good service they need to be earned rather than expected.

        IMO I think tiping in the UK has become the norm rather than the exception it once was However, when service is good we tip well.

        PS - we always tip cash as we don't believe tips on cards or the eftpos machines reach the serer (and if the do NI and tax are deducted).

        PPS - 100% with greedygirl, I am finding my posting more on the "other" site is more satisfying as the deletiuons/censorship are also getting to me.

      2. greedygirl RE: nanette May 22, 2008 05:18 AM

        Yup, the constant deletions are annoying, and are preventing us from becoming more of a community, imho.

        Anyway.... as a native Englishwoman I usually tip around ten percent. You may like to bear in mind the fact that my boyfriend thinks I am a typical Yorkshire woman (he says mean, I say thrifty). A lot of places now include service as a matter of course - it annoys me when they then also leave space on your credit card slip to add a little extra....

        1. s
          smartie RE: nanette May 22, 2008 05:30 AM

          I am a Brit in the USA. I already knew that the Yanks tip from 15%-20% before I lived here having visited numerous times. In a way I resent the American habit because the menu price is not the end price once you add tax and tip it's really another 25%+ on the price of dinner which initially looks reasonable.

          I am not a mad fan of tipping. People should be paid a decent wage. We don't buy a clothes and then add a % at the register so I am not sure why it became a habit at a restaurant.

          1 Reply
          1. re: smartie
            greedygirl RE: smartie May 22, 2008 06:50 AM

            I agree with you. We once went to a reasonably gourmet place in SF where we miscalculated the tip a little and were asked (in a rather snippy fashion) whether we had a problem with the service. It was hard not to say that we were just not used to a culture where waiters earned most of their salary in tips.

          2. t
            treb RE: nanette May 22, 2008 04:28 PM

            For me it depends on the country, if service is included in the bill, then nothing extra unless the person was outstanding, then I usually, discretely, hand it to them personally, you know don't need greedy managers lifting it or sharing with others.

            3 Replies
            1. re: treb
              zuriga1 RE: treb May 22, 2008 11:20 PM

              So much of this is cultural and habit. We always tip in cash here or in Europe, but back in the States I revert to putting it on the credit card which is usually the norm there unless it's a very small bill. American servers are paid so poorly and depend on tips, but it shouldn't be that way in any country.

              As for the censorship, perhaps it's my American brashness, but I will try to refrain from complaining. I had an email from one person who has left the 'other' board because of it, and I was saddened to see that. She said the same as you, GG.. that the sense of community never comes to pass because of it. Maybe we need an egroup. :-)

              1. re: zuriga1
                Harters RE: zuriga1 May 23, 2008 03:50 AM

                I read what I assume is meant by the "other " board - certainly I see Phil's postings elsewhere - but am not a member.

                It always strikes me as a bit too much "industry insider" in comparison with here where folk seem "ordinary punters". That said, there seems to be a lot more fun debate going on over there, about my own region specifically and food matters in general.

                BTW, have we going through a particularly bad patch for deletions on the UK board. I found it a big problem earlier in the year but not so much of late. Perhaps I'm just being a good boy?


                1. re: Harters
                  zuriga1 RE: Harters May 23, 2008 06:26 AM

                  I think people meant the UK/Ireland section when they wrote, 'other board.' Yes, quite a few deletions, but I see the Team's raison d'etre. For example, people like myself and JFores tend to wander off and compare or discuss similarities and differences between London and NYC. It's often hard not to do that.

            2. The Chowhound Team RE: nanette May 23, 2008 05:22 AM

              Folks, we wanted to address our rationale about why this thread was moved, and ask you to continue any further discussion of how the site is arranged on the Site Talk board. (There's a thread already going, at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/498385 )

              Our regional boards have a narrow and specific goal- to share tips on where to find great chow locally.

              The regional boards on Chowhound are the useful resources that they are precisely because there is little, if any, discussion of food media, home cooking, or general questions that are appropriate for the General Chowhounding Topics or Not About Food boards. Over the years, those topical boards were created to ensure that 'hounds had boards where they could discuss such areas of interest, without diluting the wonderful resources of our regional boards. At the end of the day, we strive to be a community of Chowhounds, and we hope that UK posters will participate in the topical boards, and offer their perspective on discussions of a more general nature. Yes, discussions on those boards tend to be more America-centered, but regular participation from non-American posters will help change that, and broaden everyone's perspective on an issue.

              Again, please add your further thoughts on this on the Site Talk board. Thanks.

              1. p
                peelmeagrape RE: nanette May 23, 2008 12:45 PM

                I hope it's okay to piggyback on your question to ask, more specifically, what people think about tips on drinks in bars/pubs in the UK. I was quite perplexed about what to leave when I ordered a club soda and lime, which was £2. Uncertain and to avoid leaving something petty-looking, I left £3 (ie. a £1 tip). What do others do?

                1 Reply
                1. re: peelmeagrape
                  Harters RE: peelmeagrape May 23, 2008 12:59 PM

                  Tipping is generally not required or expected in bars or pubs.

                  You might, particularly if you are there for an evening or with a crowd, occasionally invite the server to "take for their own" when you are paying for a round. Or, when they tell you how much, you might reply "And yours". You'd expect them to take 50p or thereabouts. It would certainly not be expected that you would tip on every round.

                  I can't recall the last time I tipped in a pub just for drinks.


                2. s
                  Sinicle RE: nanette May 23, 2008 07:11 PM

                  On a recent trip to Scotland we tipped the 10% after discussing this with several "local" folks and this seemed OK with the staff. In some hotels, a 10% service charge was added. The "rules" in Scottish pubs are different and we could never get the hang of telling the bartender to have "one on us," when we were just having one!

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