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Stating 'Suggested Gratuity' on the Menu - Good Idea? (or not)

As I mentioned in other posts, my son is a manager, trainer and server at a national chain here in Canada.
MY GF and I were in his restaurant last night and 6 young men (perhaps late teens to early twenties) were thoroughly enjoying the all-you-can-eat diner at one of his tables.
We were watching and listening to my son very carefully and he was friendly, provided prompt service, etc.
Their bill was about $150 and the tip: $6.
My GF's theory is that maybe these young men just do not know what a 'reasonable' gratuity should be, assuming that you are satisfied with the service.
She is suggesting that maybe the chain should implement some sort of polite and obviously well thought-out suggestion in a predominant location on the menu.

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  1. Many places put a suggested gratuity percentage on the check and I have seen it on some menus. This doesn't necessarily mean that people will follow it. Not having been there I can't vouch for either party, but either the group ran out of $$ for a proper tip or they just don't know.... don't know which is more sad.

    1. There's no harm in suggesting. Your girlfriend is awfully charitable, though. It's hard for me to imagine that someone can survive to "dining out without parents" age and still remain ignorant of tipping customs. Unless said parents were also miserable tippers.

      1. "6 young men" probably haven't a clue about appropriate tipping.

        On the other hand, putting the "suggested gratuity" in writing, could mean I don't tip at all.

        I really resent a "national chain" restaurant telling me how much I should subsidize their employees because the restaurant is too worried about the profit line to pay their wait staff even minimum wage wage.

        11 Replies
          1. re: KiltedCook

            So you would punish the server because you don't the corporation's practice? Ouch.

            1. re: KiltedCook

              The servers *are* paid minimum wage which (in Canada anyway) is less than 'non-hospitality' staff.

              1. re: allanc

                I was curious to see what the difference was, as I've only read various US wages here on Chowhound. In Ontario, min wage is currently $9.50. Min wage for servers (if the restaurant serves alcohol) is $8.25. So, $1.25 less for servers.

                Not taking sides, just FYI

                1. re: allanc

                  In Alberta minimum wage is minimum wage no matter what your occupation is. It differs by provinces.

                  1. re: Bryn

                    FWIW, in the UK, minimum wage is minimum wage. Job is irrelevent.

                    (currently stands at £5.73 per hour for aged 22+ - with lower rates for younger people)

                    1. re: Bryn

                      Yes, my mistake.
                      The minimum wage varies by province.

                    2. re: allanc

                      Here in the US a business is only required to pay minimum wage for a 40 hour "full time" employee. Part-time employees can be paid as little as a company wants to pay them. Most wait staff are deliberately kept to 30 hour weeks and paid something on the order of $3-$5 per hour

                      1. re: KiltedCook

                        I don't believe that's true. The difference is between employees who earn tips and those who don't - the tips are supposed to lift that person's hourly rate to minimum wage. So someone who works 10 hours a week at McDonald's is entitled to the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, while someone at a table service restaurant is entitled to $2.13/hour.


                        1. re: KiltedCook

                          That has nothing to do with being part-time or full-time. The government classifies jobs into various categories to which different laws apply. Serving falls into a different category than the vast majority of part-time jobs that are required to pay minimum wage.

                          1. re: KiltedCook

                            The minimum wage is set by each state, though it cannot be lower than the federal minimum wage. Tips may be considered part of that wage, but an owner is required to make up the differnence to full minimum wage if the tips are not sufficient to equal that, though that happens rarely. In Maine, minimum wage for directly tipped employees (getting tips from the public vs from other employees) is 50% of the regular minimum wage.

                      2. I dont know, it sounds like just cheap A** kids. As a server your son better get as used to them as he does the big tippers! That being said, I see a suggested % gratuity on a whole lot of menus(albeit I do not live in Canada and I am just assuming the universally accepted practices of 15-18% for good service apply north of the border as well). So much so that I just think of this as SOP.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: nkeane

                          He is used to it (after about 6 years with the chain) but he certainly does not enjoy it.

                          1. re: nkeane

                            wow. i would take 15% as in insult. i live in the northeast part of the u.s. 18%- 20% is included for larger parties, and most people generally tip more. 15% for good service? thats actually almost mean, depending on the establishment, style of service, and training / education that went into your experience (i.e. food, wine, pairing, environmental sustainability, allergy/ dietary restrictions/concerns...). and by the way, the supplemental $2.85/ hour is just that. supplemental. in case over a 2 week pay period a server ended up with less than minimum wage. the paychecks i receive are always for $0.

                            1. re: stephanierose

                              I usually use 20% as a baseline and go up and down from there based on service but I think I tip heavier than most. To call 15% an insult is I think out of line of most people's expectations.

                              1. re: stephanierose

                                In Canada 15% is reasonable, not hugely generous but certainly not insulting. I don't know about Ontario but in Alberta servers get no less than minimum wage (currently $8.80/hr).

                                When I'm someplace where I don't know what the "usual" gratuity is, the % added for large groups (printed on most menus) is useful for establishing a baseline for OK service.

                            2. I could be dead wrong but I am guessing that the initials of this chain might be MG?

                              If so, I have witnessed this behaviour from other diners at this (or a similar establishment), including my own office gang, very much NOT young or inexperienced, just cheap and insensitive on this one occasion.

                              Some of the folks around our casual office lunch table tried to justify leaving a minimal (3%) tip on the basis of its being a buffet. True enough to knock maybe 5% off a 20% tipping plan, but what about the drink orders, the coffees, the constant attendance to cleaning off used plates and replacing cutlery? What about bringing the bill (or 6 bills)?

                              I can see a slightly diminished tip at an all-you-can-eat place, but not leaving it out altogether the way a couple of my otherwise worthy colleagues were suggesting.

                              So, YES, if printing it on the bill is what it takes, then print away! This, IMHO, is a much better alternative than simply increasing all the prices so that I end up paying YOUR tip!

                              I rather suspect the $6 tip on $150 tab was probably from one young man who tried to uphold the honour of the whole table of cheapskates!

                              1. It sounds like the kids were just being cheap. In that age bracket, many people work as servers and I seriously doubt that they'd have no clue how to tip correctly. They may have spent all they had on the meal and didn't have anything left on the tip, or they just decided to be jerks and leave no tip.

                                I don't really think there's a need to include a suggested tip on a menu. I think it's a little bit insulting to suggest to a client base that they're to stupid to know how to tip correctly.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: queencru

                                  This post is a bit old, but:

                                  "I don't really think there's a need to include a suggested tip on a menu. I think it's a little bit insulting to suggest to a client base that they're to stupid to know how to tip correctly."

                                  I work near a major hospital. Many of our clientele are Asian and barely speak English. After seeeing their gratuities for quite a few years, I highly doubt they have any clue about tipping in the US. I think they're literally ignorant of the tipping protocol.

                                  We don't put a suggested tip on the bill, but the servers often wish we did!

                                2. The solution is for the manager to inquire with them as they departed what was wrong with the service.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    "Gratuity", in my vocabulary, means a gift, which is never mandatory, and I would consider such an intervention by the manager to be overstepping his bounds. If it is mandated then it should be called a "service charge" or something like that. I do feel an obligation to tip, and I usually tip 20% pretax unless the service was bad, but mandating a tip rubs me badly. The upside, if there is one, is that the imposed amount is usually 15-18%, and I feel no obligation at all to make up the difference.

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      Note my wording. When a manager sees a significant undertip, she is right to wonder if her server has been negligent and service, and it is perfectly appropriate to ask if there were any problems with the service.

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        Your wording was to ask them "WHAT WAS WRONG with the service," which sounds like a snarl to me. "Was there anything...?" would be more polite and well within bounds, though these were kids, and likely to be intimidated by any such approach, especially if they had thought a dollar or two was quite generous. There are still plenty of grownups I know (including some relatives) who were raised tipping ten percent and consider that to be THE rate now and forever, and I'm sure they've taught their kids the same.

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          jfood's with Karl S on this one. Jfood has no problem asking for feedback and backing the employee. That is exactly what the MOD should be doing.

                                          There are two answers that this request could prompt:

                                          1 - Everything was fine and the MOD could mention that the gratuity indicated differently, or
                                          2 - There were issues and this would give the MOD a chance to make it right

                                          Jfood wishes more MODs would take an active role in being a Manager versus a smile.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            Agree with what you're saying...they should ask and correct...however i'm not so sure about the follow through telling the customer that the gratuity indicated differently. Could come across as a "dig" or being petty. Sure, if the person is humble enough to realize a mistake or something, great....but you'd risk losing a customer over that one IMHO.

                                            And let's face it, if someone's the type to be deliberately stingy over tipping, they aren't likely to change their ways just because someone at the restaurant points it out. It might even have the opposite effect.

                                          2. re: Will Owen

                                            I am not aware of anyone who thinks *4%* (that's what the $6 tip was) was ever an acceptable tip level in the USA-Canada for full table service. That tip level indicates (i) serious service problems (in which case, the patrons should be raising it with the MOD, and the MOD is certainly duty bound to investigate if he becomes aware of it) or (ii) ignorance.

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              I was a manager at one of the biggest chain restaurants around, and one of the top rules was to NEVER mention the tip, no matter what. Any server that said anything, in any way, was immediately terminated. And there were lots of times guests left a quarter for a tip, so all they could do is bitch about it later to us.

                                    2. I used to go out after work with coworkers who were mostly young. Everyone would try to split out the bill and pay just their tab - but somehow we always came up short. The last one to leave would be stuck with a shortage. I think people would forget some of their items, forget to add in tax, and just be a cheapskate in hopes someone else would over-tip. I got to hate going out with them because I would end up feeling bad for the server and covering for everyone. I prefer just splitting the tab evenly between the number of patrons to help eliminate error, but most young people I dine with don't like to do that.

                                      I like the newer thing I have seen where right under your total on your receipt, there is a little tip chart, saying what your total would be if you tipped 15, 18, or 20 percent. It never says you have to tip that amount but it is just a "handy tip calculator" (hint hint). Since I am math-challenged I actually like it.

                                      1. bah--this is an old issue
                                        most restaurants have a standard 18% tip for parties of 6 or more (stated on bottom of menu), which upsets many
                                        all you can eat usually attracts those who don't tip
                                        waitstaff in the US is paid less than minimal wage, with the remainder (ie tip) supposed to pay the difference, plus some

                                        1. I have started to see on many of the bills a preprinted tip range at the bottom of the slip.
                                          It shows the calculated tip at 10-15-20% as a guide for those poor at math.
                                          I don't feel at all insulted by that. I think it's a non-intrusive way to suggest leaving
                                          a tip of some value within your comfort range. (I'm a 20+ tipper)

                                          1. I work at a privately held well-known and respected small chain restaurant. You'll see that the menu says they stand behind their food and their service and a minimum gratuity of 15% is appropriate.

                                            I believe, in part, it is listed on there because if a server is left a tip under a certain low percentage, the manager will come over and ask about it. A bad tip reflects bad service and they want to make sure the guest was happy, as well as inform people of what's a normal tipping procedure. Of course, some people don't care, other's truly don't know. I've had a table ask me what a gratuity was.

                                            The receipt also prints the Quick Tip Guide on the receipt, showing you what 15, 18, 20% of your check would be. Between the menu and the receipt, you'll still get people who just don't tip. There's no changing that. But, as a restaurant who wants to keep their good staff, I feel you have to try and educate people on their behalf.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Azizeh

                                              jfood has no problem with the "suggested gratuity" phrase or the easy math of 10-15-20%.

                                              Why is stating the obvious upsetting to people?

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                I think some people believe that this makes the assumption that tipping is mandatory. It has to be noted that not everyone on the boards lives in the U.S. where alot of places pay servers much less than minimum wage, and therefore tips even the playing field.

                                                I tend to be a good tipper, but i'm not sure how i'd feel about the statement Azizeh makes about about the "minimum gratuity of 15%" based no the fact that they stand behind their food and service. It's great that the're so confident, however everyone's infallible. Makes it sound like you have to pay no matter if the service is crappy.

                                                Here in Canada, a lot of the debit machines in restaurants either have the message come up on the little screen, asking whether you want to tip "yes" or "no" buttons followed by the message advising to let the check-out person know the $$ value to input......OR, some places have the screen asking you if you want to tip Y/N, followed by $$ or % question , with screens allowing you to input a dollar amount, OR with percentages it's 0% 10% 15% and 20% choices (some place's machines bypass the Y/N question and just show the percentages...hence the 0% )

                                                I don't mind this system at all, and find it helpful at check-out time. I kinda don't like seeing it on the menu though, partly because food hasn't even been ordered yet.

                                            2. This is a touchy problem and, JMO, but I can see logic in both sides of the argument.

                                              I'd prefer not to see any suggestions of what I should leave for a gratuity, but then I'm old enough and experienced enough to know how to tip fairly according to the service I received.

                                              But the fact is that, like it or not, it is the established standard in the U.S. for the patron to pay for the food AND subsidize the owner's staffing costs via the device of the gratuity, and there are those customers who are stingy, for whatever reason. I have to say I respect *any* manager, in any business, who will *politely* take up for his employees, his most important asset, when they are not being treated properly. And a party of six leaving a four-percent gratuity for a server who has done a good job is not proper treatment.

                                              For that reason, I can understand the logic of a restaurant offering with the bill a table with tip percentages noted. I would really need it to say something, however, like, "These calculations are offered for your convenience only. Please feel free to acknowledge your server commensurately to the service you received. If you found the service to be lacking today, however, we ask that you notify the manager, so that we may address your dissatisfaction. Our highest priority is to please you."

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Normandie

                                                I would really need it to say something, however, like, "These calculations are offered for your convenience only. Please feel free to acknowledge your server commensurately to the service you received. If you found the service to be lacking today, however, we ask that you notify the manager, so that we may address your dissatisfaction. Our highest priority is to please you."

                                                Perfectly stated.

                                                1. re: Normandie

                                                  "subsidize the owner's staffing costs via the device of the gratuity"

                                                  I'm not sure why people keep thinking that. I've noticed that places in the US that have $2.50 minimum wage for servers are way cheaper than places in Canada with $9 minimum wage for everyone.

                                                  1. re: hsk

                                                    correct. the menu prices in the u.s. are lower, as are the servers' wages. the menu prices are far higher in canada, in order to subsidize the canadian owners' staffing costs. servers in the u.s. are part time independent contractors who are paid by those who employ their services (the customer) as well as at a base rate paid by the restaurant owner. this system is similar to other retail sales systems in which salespeople are paid a percentage commission. the problem occurs when the customer refuses to tip, for whatever reason.

                                                2. I'd suggest that whatever is culturally appropriate for your country should be OK.

                                                  In the UK, it is commonplace for menus to say something like "a discretionary service charge of 10% will be added to the bill". It is then entirely a matter for the customer to pay or not pay it.

                                                  1. We live in a very small town just off the Blue Ridge Parkway with an economy that is highly dependent on tourist dollars from early spring through late fall. Not only do we get American tourists who are used to the custom of tipping but we get a huge number of European/Asian tourists who are not. At the diner in town (only place available for breakfast and they do a fine one) I watched the waitresses seethe in frustration over running their butts off to provide great service only to receive no tip. Most of them are locals with no travel experience and didn't realize what the problem was until I pointed out that in many places abroad tipping is not usual because wait staff is paid a living wage. They now understand why but it doesn't alleviate the problem. Another restaurant down the road doing dinners only (family style or ala carte option) has somewhat solved the problem by stating in the menu that "Wait staff is paid $2.15 an hour and a minimum gratuity of 15% is customary and appreciated." It's my personal quirk that seeing this in menus annoys me but I do understand why it's there and I've suggested to the diner owner (who is a family friend) that the next time he prints up his menus he includes that line in them for the benefit of his wait staff. It's not there to aggravate the locals but to educate our visitors to the custom and reason for it.

                                                    1. Sure why not? I have this done at US restaurants. And some credit card machine will calculate suggested tips at three levels, 10, 15 and 20%.

                                                      1. I do not think there is a problem posting this as long as it says "Suggested Gratuities", so that way people know they aren't being forced to do anything. I encountered this at a Ruby Tuesday's in Norfolk, VA on Hampton Blvd. The bottom of the receipt had the suggested gratuities of 15%, 18%, and 20%. However, I always do the math myself anyway, and I discovered something that should make customers BEWARE. What Ruby Tuesday's claimed was 15% was really 18%; what they claimed was 18% was really 22%; and what they claimed was 20% was really 25%. While no one was forced to pay anything, the unobservant customer would be duped into thinking that they don't have to do the math. This is the kind of dishonesty that needs to be crushed.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: SauronHimself

                                                          could it have been the percentage based on the post-tax and your calculations could have been on the pre-tax.

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            Possibly, but no one should have to calculate a tip based on the post-tax rate. That tax is going to the government and the idea of giving 18% on that is ridiculous. Sounds like Ruby Tuesday's is being a bit disingenuous here.

                                                            1. re: queenscook

                                                              you will find many threads on this subject. many, including jfood, tip on the total, including tax. there is no clear right-wrong answer

                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                OK, guess I came to this party late.

                                                                I would never think one would tip on tax, which varies by city and state, and has nothing to do with the restaurant or the server. If one wants to be more generous, there's nothing wrong with that, but I still see it as tipping a percentage of what the restaurant is charging me, not the govt.

                                                                1. re: queenscook

                                                                  jfood thinks people always get tangled in their underwear on this one. Example:

                                                                  Bill is $100 and tax rate is 10% for a total of $110.

                                                                  Jfood leaves $20. What oercentage did he leaves? Answer...who cares...server got $20. Think dollars not percetages since the server spends dollars not percentages.

                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                    Fine, except servers also use percentages to determine what to expect they can spend, and can get mighty resentful if their expected percentage is different from the customer's method.

                                                                    This, btw, is the server's problem to remedy - they can more easily change their expectations than those of their customers.

                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                      if servers are concerned about percentages versus nominal dollars then they need to focus on the following words...""This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private."

                                                            2. re: jfood

                                                              I don't think pre and post can make that big a difference. Assuming a (really high) tax rate of 10%, then 20% on 10% is only another 2%. That's pretty much why I think all this fuss about pre and post tax is kind of silly. In most cases you're talking about a dollar or two in any case.

                                                              Edited to add, for some reason this showed up in the wrong place. Was meant to show up under the subthread about Ruby Tuesday. Oh well.

                                                          2. to bet back to the actual original topic -

                                                            i have no problem with more information being given out, including listing what 15 and/or 20% tip runs.
                                                            the more one knows the better.