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Are we supposed to be tipping much less than I thought in California?

I just fully realized what this whole "no tip-credit" deal in California means.

See here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/complianc...

This is completely insane. In this piece, it says that waiter's wages are minimum of $10.55:


And that is the minimum amount REQUIRED to be paid to all servers??

So when I dine out in SF, it should be fine to tip closer to 10% than the 20% I have been?

But this applies anywhere in California really. Why are we, as diners, tipping 20% when our waiters are getting guaranteed high hourly wages?...

I thought the justification for tipping high was that waiters had to makeup their minimum wage, and then exceed it with tips to make good money. But in California, that's not true.

So have I just been a gullible fool in tipping 20% average in California??

Can anyone explain this further to me? What do you guys tip on average?

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  1. Minefield of a post - but wading in.

    1. Insane hardly. States and local government can set their own minimum wage as long as it meets federal guidelines. The minimum wage in some areas of California (has it become all areas?) is yes, around $10.00. For a typical restaurant server with a 20 hr (optimistic!) shift per week it comes out to $200 a week.

    2. Business owners cannot get around paying the minimum wage in California, by putting the onus on their customers to make up the difference. (which for various economic reasons makes sense - while food service is a low margin business it surely isn't the only low margin one - and why restuarants should get a special exception i've never understood)

    3. As a personal thing, I never was tipping to subsidize the minimum wage! That was never the justification for tipping. It was tipping for personal serving, because personal serving is difficult and variable in ways other types of professions are not.

    4. I tip somewhere from 10 - 15% for food delivery, and 15-25% at restaurants. My understanding with tips, at $10 an hr, most in the food service industry with one job make about $18,000 a year (which is why they try to take multiple but it's hard because the various jobs don't have to take into account the other schedules)

    3 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      to add another point to all the valid ones you raise:

      the inescapable high cost of living in san francisco, makes all this talk about living on the minimum wage (especially if you don't even have full time work, health benefits, etc) absolutely idiotic.

      1. re: westsidegal

        So, you would live outside of the city then...

        1. re: BacoMan

          how familiar are you with the rental rates in the suburbs of san francisco and with the costs of commuting in san francisco?

          it appears that you don't have much knowledge about the area.

          let's put it this way: i moved from that lovely city because the cost of living was strangling me.
          by comparison, los angeles, where i live now, is an out and out bargain.

    2. When did 20% become the "standard" for tipping in restaurants? I have always thought 15% was standard.

      2 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        Generationally, it's edged up (people under 40 tend to tip 20%). I'm not sure why (the receipts that print tips at the bottom and include 18% as the lowest number? recession? income inequality?)

        1. re: DavidT

          People in the service industry usually tip 20%.

        2. What I usually do is ask the wait staff for his/her 1044 from last year so I can tip according to his/her station in life.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PeterL

            Peter I think that's too intrusive so I just ask them what they made.

          2. You can tip whatever you want, that's the nature of a tip.

            But if you don't tip 15-20%, you'll look cheap compared with the average SF diner. You could leave a note explaining how you subtracted for the lack of tip credit and any surcharges, in which case instead of cheap you'll look crazy.


            21 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              So people actually do tip less in SF on average though. That makes sense given the rather high hourly wages waiters are earning there.

              I'm just a bit baffled, as everyone has always said maximizing tipping is important because waitstaff have to make up to the minimum wage with their tips.

              I now don't feel nearly so much pressure to tip 20% minimum, that's for sure.

              1. re: BacoMan

                I keep hoping someone will jump in here and explain the whole "tip credit" thing. I don't understand how it works. Sounds like the server's hourly wage is reduced by the hourly amount of tips so that it equals out to the minimum wage plus whatever tip amount that exceed the minimum. Is that right? And if so, how do we know who gets what? I've always understood that tipping in restaurants is to make up for the low wage. And I don't think highly trained wait staff should only make minimum wage. I'm even more confused having written this so hopefully it makes sense.

                1. re: c oliver

                  "I've always understood that tipping in restaurants is to make up for the low wage. "

                  Me, too. But this is FALSE in California. What you are thinking of is precisely the tip-credit.

                  So in the majority of the US states waiters are paid something like $2.13/hour by the restaurant. If they make less than the actual minimum wage (which differs by state, and even by county), the restaurant has to make it up.

                  So example #1:

                  Restaurant pays waiter $2.13 an hour, and the waiter only makes $5.00 in an hour for their shift. The minimum wage in the area is $7.25 though. Therefore the restaurant must pay the waiter an extra $2.25 for all of their hours.

                  Example #2:

                  The restaurant pays the waiter $2.13 an hour, and the waiter makes $15 an hour in tips (so, $17.13 total per hour). In states with tip-credit's the restaurant is allowed to deduct the difference between the waiter minimum ($2.13) and the minimum wage ($7.25), which in this case is $5.12. Basically, the restaurant saves $5.12 per hour on the waiter by not having to pay them up to the minimum wage.

                  Example #3:

                  The exact same as #2, but now we're in California. The waiter makes $15 an hour in tips on average, but there is no tip-credit system, so no matter what, the restaurant has to pay the waiter $7.25 an hour regardless of how much they make in tips. So the waiter in California makes $7.25 + $15 = $22.25 an hour compared to the $17.13 that he would make in most of the others states.

                  So basically, in California, we do not have the system of most of the country. The same system that people have been telling me my whole life was why we needed to tip so high all the time (20%+ minimum, etc...).

                  Imo, waiters in California should be fine with a tip much lower than 20%. Especially in places like SF, where the local minimum they must be paid is $10.55, AND there is a mandatory 4% service charge on all checks. (And in fact, as Robert's article illustrates, tips in SF are lowest on average in California of the major cities, so my logic would appear to have some sense behind it).

                  1. re: BacoMan

                    It's also possible that Californians go to informal counter service-type places more frequently (I don't usually tip 15-20% for a burrito at a taqueria). Additionally some cheap ethnic restaurants appear not to have quite the same tipping ethos. There's a pho spot I frequent that didn't even bother to give me change once - I think the bill was $9.05 or so and I gave them a $10 bill, figuring I could take the quarters in the change and add a dollar to tip ~$1.50. After waiting a reasonable amount of time I gave up and left, assuming that they figured I had meant to pay only $10 and that that was in line with what they were used to customers tipping.

                    Unfortunately, I have never seen Zagat or anyone else doing a study of tipping explain their methodology in detail.

                    1. re: bigwheel042

                      Crazy. I always tip 20% at those pho places...or thai places, etc...

                      To go burritos and such, yeah, that's usually much less though. But for sit-down dining where someone takes your order?

                      Interesting idea I guess.

                    2. re: BacoMan

                      If the waiter made $50/hour I'd still tip my usual 25% if the service is good.
                      How much he/she makes is irrelevant and none of my business.

                      1. re: latindancer

                        >If the waiter made $50/hour I'd still tip my usual
                        >25% if the service is good.
                        >How much he/she makes is irrelevant and none
                        >of my business.
                        do you tip for good service in Europe?

                      2. re: BacoMan

                        I'm sure this is a dumb question, but: Who ends up with the 4% service charge, the waitstaff or the owner?

                        1. re: SimSportPlyr

                          Traditionally, restaurant surcharges are the property of the restaurants while tips belong to the service staff. But it's a complicated issue that may involve the wording on the menu as well as various court decisions in different states. And if the restaurant charges a service charge for "parties of 6 or larger", why would you penalize a server assigned to a table with six people by not distributing the service charge?

                            1. re: nocharge

                              noncharge, your 'why would you penalize...' question is rehtorical, right?

                            2. re: SimSportPlyr

                              Actually, I believe, in SF, it is the back of the house (cooks).

                                1. re: BacoMan

                                  The SF surcharge goes to the house. It's promoted as a way to offset some recent mandates in the areas of providing employee health care. The only issue has been whether some restaurants have misrepresented the surcharge, e.g., by not paying out enough money for healthcare if the surcharge was represented as a healthcare surcharge. Easy solution: Just call the surcharge "SF mandates" and it could cover just about anything including garbage collection.

                                  1. re: nocharge

                                    It was discussed *extensively* last year on the SF board.

                            3. re: c oliver

                              <I've always understood that 'tipping in restaurants is to make up for the low wage'>

                              Says whom?
                              I don't care how much their wage is…
                              My tipping is for service.
                              Nothing else.

                              1. re: latindancer

                                I'm just saying that in many countries "service" is included and one would normally just leave some 'small change.' Unless it superior then add more of course.

                                1. re: c oliver


                                  My foreign friends think I'm slightly insane for leaving the tips I do.

                              2. re: c oliver

                                There's nothing about the "tip credit" idea that includes the concept that consumers should individually adjust their tips to help ensure that waiters hit the target of making minimum wage, but not more. The tip credit idea assumes that consumers tip however they tip, which can be highly variable from one period to the next.

                                Fundamentally, the tip credit is designed as a way to lower the minimum wage so the restaurant industry can keep wages lower. The argument behind it is that since waiters earn tips, owners shouldn't have to also pay full minimum wage.

                                When the law was originally passed, Congress agreed that this minimum wage could not go below 50% of the Federal Minimum Wage. Then in 1996 because of lobbying by the restaurant industry, Congress let that agreement lapse, and the current tip minimum wage is 29% of the federal minimum wage. With the Federal minimum wage potentially going up again, this issue is also coming up again.

                                There have always been issues with reporting of tip revenue. I know someone back in the 1980's in CA who was forced by her employer to report higher tips, so that he wouldn't have to make up the lost income -- on threat of losing her job. But she spent years making less than minimum wage because she wanted job security.

                                The tip credit is fundamentally about giving restaurant owners the ability to pay restaurant workers less money. There's no morality clause which says that tippers should contribute to this by adjusting tips to ensure that restaurant workers don't move out of lowly-paid status.

                              3. re: BacoMan

                                Per Zagat's survey, people in SF tip on average 18.4% vs. 18.5-18.7% for other West Coast cities.

                                I'd say that's well within the margin of error, especially given that they don't ask whether that's before or after tax.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston


                                  Thanks for this.
                                  I didn't think tipping customs were any different in SF than the rest of the west coast.

                            4. These owners don't expect to get goods from wholesalers at less than the cost to produce them. They don't expect electricity, gas or water at less than it costs to produce it. That wouldn't be sustainable in the long run.
                              Why do they expect to get human labor at less than the cost it takes to produce that? That labor model isn't sustainable. There are the costs of rent, food, raising a family, healthcare, taxes, making a reasonable profit for your labor, etc.

                              32 Replies
                              1. re: Antilope

                                Because of the tipping system? And the ability to make far more money in tips than is possible with a basic wage?

                                1. re: BacoMan

                                  If this system is so good, let's introduce it to other retail locations. Make sure to tip the clerk for your groceries (add 20%) and tip the greeter at Walmart.

                                  1. re: Antilope

                                    <tip the clerk for your groceries and tip the greeter at Walmart>

                                    What service are they providing?

                                    1. re: latindancer

                                      You don't consider someone bagging your groceries a service?

                                      1. re: BacoMan

                                        I tip them when they'll take it…most can't or won't.

                                        I don't consider a greeter at Walmart a service.

                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                          Grocery store workers are mostly unionized. Since they can strike when they don't feel like their pay is up to snuff, at a moments notice, without any regard to anyone else, I don't feel tipping them is appropriate.

                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                            Not when they are making $18 an hour to bag my groceries!! (YES, that is what baggers in L.A. make, thanks to their UNION!!!)

                                            1. re: PotatoHouse

                                              Are you absolutely sure about this, PotatoHouse?

                                              I usually market at a nonunion store so my visits to the union ones are minimal.
                                              I had no idea.
                                              They're also receiving benefits?

                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                Yes, I was an over the road truck driver and I was in L.A. in the late 1990's when the baggers went on strike because along with their union-mandated $18 an hour wage, they didn't want to have to pay anything for their health care insurance.

                                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                                      Not sure what you're implying......

                                                      But as bagging groceries is about as unskilled as you can get while working retail, I am aghast as well....

                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                        Why are you aghast at people making a living wage?

                                                        1. re: Papuli

                                                          Hmmmmm, $18 to put groceries in a bag....no skill required.... Perhaps if they didn't put raw chicken in with the produce I wouldn't feel like it was an inflated wage.....

                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                            But why is it a problem for people to make a living wage?

                                                            1. re: Papuli

                                                              I have no problem with people making living wages. They are all around me in my city. What I have a problem is people making inflated wages for doing unskilled labor.

                                                              1. re: Dirtywextraolives


                                                                The real issue is that everyone who works 40 hrs/week should be earning a living wage (not just union workers), and the scale for more skilled types of jobs should scale up from there.

                                                                The idea that people can work a 40 hr/week job and still need taxpayers to pay for food stamps and other government subsidies is ridiculous.

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                  The idea that people can work a 40 hr/week job and still need taxpayers to pay for food stamps and other government subsidies is ridiculous.
                                                                  Completely agree with this statement and a very simple, basic solution exists: government needs to let all of us keep more of our own money.

                                                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                    Let's do the math.

                                                                    Someone working 40 hours a week earning $8/hour, and who is allowed to keep 100% of their taxes, is making $16,640 per year. That's $1,386.67/month. My 1 bedroom apartment costs $1,150/month, and that's because I've been in a rent controlled building for 10 years. (Market value starts at $1,600-$1,800). 2 bedroom apartment starts at $2600. And these are crappy mid-century dingbat apartments, without dishwashers and central air. These are not luxury flats.

                                                                    Just looking at rent alone, I don't see how this person could possibly afford to live in Los Angeles as a restaurant server at this minimum wage.

                                                                    Now, if that same person were making a minimum of $18/hour and allowed to keep all of their taxes, then we're talking about an actual, honest-to-goodness living wage ($37,440 actual cash to spend, or $3,120/month). But then we have that pesky problem of roads and bridges collapsing, inability to pay for police and firemen, and our educational system deteriorating further.

                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                      Thanks for offering to do the math for me, it was never my best subject. Are you available to help my kids with their homework?

                                                                      I'm not sure what your point is, and if you really want to get into a brass tacks socio-political economic debate on Chowhound with me, I'm up for it but somehow I don't think that will fly with the moderators here.

                                                                      But here's my simple response, without getting too political about it. Lets just keep it local and leave the feds out of it for a minute....If the LA city and county, along with the Einsteins up in Sacramento would allow my family to keep a bit more of our hard earned money....that would leave a lot more money in my pocket to spend in my community. And I would be able to leave a much bigger tip for the waiter/waitress on an $80 bill for lunch for four people. I do not under tip nor stiff my waitstaff. I used to be one of them, so I am extremely sympathetic to their economic plight, and the increasing cost of living here in LA.

                                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                        I understand your perspective. It's great in theory, because it empowers each individual to affect change. But in the end, your generosity is just one person's effort.

                                                                        In order for that system to work effectively (to the point where a livable wage for everyone is ensured), *every singe customer* needs to contribute their fair share. With human nature being what it is, that's just not going to happen.

                                                                        I wish it were different, but we have 30 years of stagnant wages as proof that the the whole "trickle down" thing just doesn't benefit unskilled workers in any lasting or meaningful way. The trickle is all but dried up by the time it reaches them.

                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                          Taxes pay for civilization. The evidence of our short-sightedness on this point is all around us, from the decaying schools to the decaying climate.

                                                                          Laissez-faire sounds great in theory, but in practice is a disaster.

                                                                          1. re: Josh

                                                                            Ya, since there was no such thing as civilization before 1913..... Mmmm hmmmm.

                                                                            Funny how much $$$$ we throw at our decaying schools and yet, they are still......decaying. Wonder how that works.

                                                                            Yes, and the millions of immigrants who risk their lives to cross our borders think this place is a disaster too. Yup.

                                                                        2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                          Add about 1,000 more entitlements to that, including pensions for county workers, and you're on the right track.

                                                          2. re: BacoMan

                                                            <Too much for the peasants eh?>

                                                            Might want to try and stay on point Baco…it helps with credibility when introducing subjects to lawmakers.

                                                            I can't count the number of times the same bagger where I shop, who's been working the same job for over 10 years, needs to be continually told not to put soft items under heavy items. But, he's union so he's not going anywhere soon.
                                                            Yep. Insane.

                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                              It is on point.

                                                              You only tip in order to feel superior to the Plebeians who serve you.

                                                              And then you get upset when people actually make a living wage because it might elevate them above slave status.

                                                              I find it hilarious.

                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                <You only tip in order to feel superior to the plebeians who serve you>


                                                        2. re: PotatoHouse

                                                          I would like to see evidence of this $18 an hour claim. I asked my bagger yesterday how much he made and he said $11 an hour.

                                                          I also looked at the median salary from online sources and it was around $12 an hour in CA.

                                                          1. re: BubblyOne

                                                            <I would like to see evidence of this $18 an hour claim. I asked my bagger yesterday how much he made and he said $11 an hour.

                                                            I also looked at the median salary from online sources and it was around $12 an hour in CA.>

                                                            Yes, Potatohouse's "I was an over the road truck driver and I was in L.A. in the late 1990's" has been taken as absolute fact, and as if it is current information. Being a retail clerk used to be a comfortable living, buy a house, drive a decent car type job. But baggers always started at the bottom of the payscale, nowhere near $18/hr. In the early 2000's the grocery strike basically broke the union. The pay for any new employees was drastically reduced, and the pay for experienced employees practically frozen. Here is the near current payscale http://www.ufcw1167.org/pdf&#39;s/Sta... Everyone can sleep well tonight, baggers top out at $8.75/hr. Good luck paying for gas and rent and union dues with that!

                                                            1. re: aimeekm

                                                              Thank you. I asked my favorite checker (NOT BAGGER) today and she is making $20 an hour after 18 years.

                                                              I was also told that bagger jobs have the most turnover due to the low pay.

                                              2. re: BacoMan

                                                Are you defining "minimum wage" as a "basic wage"? No one can live on a minimum wage be it CA or ND.

                                            2. Old Cranky Native Californian Weigh In:

                                              Not only should you TIP 20+ percent in SF, but your waiters' wage should be ~$20+ per hour. Starting.

                                              It is a very expensive city.

                                              Imagine what would happen if, one day, all of the waitstaff just...left. ?

                                              18 Replies
                                              1. re: pedalfaster

                                                More AYCE buffets, excepting Saudi Arabia.

                                                1. re: pedalfaster

                                                  True. You probably saw the recent thread about cooks leaving SF because of high rents.


                                                  The average line cook only makes <$28k/yr.

                                                  1. re: pedalfaster

                                                    Then I could serve myself?...

                                                    $20/hour for unskilled labor seems remarkably high.

                                                    And where it is skilled (high end places), the tipping usually makes the wage far exceed $20/hour.

                                                    1. re: pedalfaster

                                                      Ya know, nobody is forcing these people to choose waiting tables for a living. Why do I have to subsidize their choice? I waited tables for awhile while still in school. I didn't make much money to live on. That's why I stayed in school to get a degree, so I wouldn't have to be a waitress or bartender my whole life. That's kinda par for the course, unless you get a job at a four star-five star place, you probably won't make enough to earn above the poverty level. So bartending & waiting tables is either a choice, like a second job to earn extra money, or a non choice because no other jobs are available at the time and you've got bills to pay. Therefore, it and most other minimum wage jobs are not meant to be career jobs, but a stepping stone onto a better job. Not everyone can be a CEO with a corner office making 100K a year. And a waitressing job is better than no job at all.

                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                        I guess we could have no more restaurants.

                                                        I dunno, I like eating out.

                                                      2. re: pedalfaster

                                                        The waitstaff choose to live in an expensive city.

                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                          Kinda BS though. SF wasn't always as pricey as it is now. Are people supposed to haul up stakes and relocate with every boom and bust?

                                                          1. re: Josh

                                                            We all make choices, Josh.
                                                            It includes where we live but I do understand your point. It's not as easy for some to leave an area they're used to. I've a few friends who could easily leave SF but they're stuck in their complaining and bitching about the high cost of living and probably will never leave.
                                                            San Francisco has always been expensive…I lived there many decades ago and it was high then.

                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                              No it hasn't. Where do you think its bohemian reputation came from?

                                                              And why shouldn't everyone make a living wage?

                                                              1. re: Papuli

                                                                Life is all about choices…

                                                                I'm pretty sure we both come from entirely different philosophies and perspectives when it comes to what people are entitled to. My list is short and very basic.
                                                                Let's just leave it at that on a CH board, okay?

                                                                1. re: Papuli

                                                                  LOL. You are stuck in the Haight Papuli. It ain't the 60's in the city anymore.

                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                    No, it's not. I know. I said it hasn't always been expensive. It is wildly expensive now.

                                                                    1. re: Papuli

                                                                      I know. I spent summers there with my much older sister when I was a small child from 1958 until around 1966. We lived in Petaluma but my parents lived in Sausalito when they moved to California in 1942 so their ties to the city were strong. They shopped there almost every other weekend and took my brother and I with us. The residential neighborhoods are so upgraded now compared to the late 50's and 60's. My favorite city.

                                                            2. re: latindancer

                                                              AND that expensive city is the city at which the patrons decided they wanted to dine.

                                                              not clear on why the patrons should be getting any kind of a free ride when they get the benefit of dining in SF.

                                                            3. re: pedalfaster

                                                              <Imagine what would happen if, one day, all of the waitstaff just...left. ?>

                                                              Then loads of people who don't live in this "very expensive city" would commute into it to take those jobs.

                                                              1. re: seamunky

                                                                sure, seamunky: they'd commute in from sausalito, silicon valley, walnut creek, berkeley, etc. to jobs that don't provide parking and have them leaving to go home at 11pm.

                                                                whoever is selling you drugs, i want to hook up with him.

                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  Yep, this was discussed a couple of months ago on the SF board.

                                                            4. As with most tipping flamefests, the end result is always the same. You don't get to decide what the cultural norms for tipping are in an area (eg tipping at least 15%, but usually 20% in San Francisco). You just get to decide whether you want to eat in restaurants or not.

                                                              If you decide you don't want to follow the norm but you still want to eat in restaurants, you will rightly be labeled unflatteringly.

                                                              And in much of California, let alone SF, you can't really call $10/hr a high wage.

                                                              34 Replies
                                                              1. re: sfchris

                                                                It's like people are purposefully not reading the material provided, or are not understanding it.

                                                                No one is suggesting that waiters ought to make $10/hour. You really think waiters at Benu would make less than the SF minimum of $10.55 an hour based off tips if there was a tip credit in place?... They currently make 7x that if they wait on a single table of two per hour in tips alone (20% tip on $185 menu x 2 = $74)

                                                                Meanwhile, a tip credit helps restaurants with the backend expenses, and allows or lower priced menus for consumers, more risks to be taken by restaurants that are just starting up, etc...

                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                  It doesn't really matter. You don't get to decide the culturally accepted tipping percentage which is expected for good service. You also cannot change it by posting to Chowhound.

                                                                  You can only decide that you will not eat in restaurants in protest. It's really that simple.

                                                                  1. re: sfchris

                                                                    Seems to me like there ought to be some kind of backlash.

                                                                    Culture is not immutable, but rather capable of change.

                                                                    Did you know that?

                                                                  2. re: BacoMan

                                                                    I wonder how much they really make. I know at the top end its a team effort so more than one person serves each table and they tip out to bar staff and kitchen staff but lets do some maths:

                                                                    $10.55 an hour, 40 hours a week and 48 weeks a year = $20,256 a year

                                                                    Two four top tables a sitting, with lunch and dinner each day.
                                                                    Average per head spend say $300 (menu plus wine, water, coffee etc). So each table is $1,200 a sitting, or $4,800 a day for the two tables at lunch and dinner.

                                                                    So at 20% the tip is going to be $960 a day or $4,800 a week, and for 48 weeks that will be $230,400 a year.

                                                                    Plus their minimum wage that's $250K a year - if they tip out at 50% thats $135K a year.

                                                                    I recognise this is only at the top end but I wonder what the maths are like a lower cost places. If you change it to $50 a head, 3 four top tables not 2 ($600), 4 turns a table (2 at lunch and 2 at dinner - $2,400), so $480 a day in tips at 20%.

                                                                    So $115,200 plus $20,256 means earnings of $125K before tipping out. if they tip out at 50% thats approx. $78K a year

                                                                    These numbers seem high - what is wrong with my assumptions or the model?

                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                      I think that realistically, few servers in the restaurant industry make $250K per year. However, somewhere in the neighborhood of $100K might be doable if you are at the right place at the right time.

                                                                      I know some bartenders that are probably at about that level. They work at a bar that has a crazy after-work crowd towards the end of the work week earning tips about as fast as you can open a beer bottle. In addition, the bar is located in a hotel with one of the strongest hotel unions in the country. So they make considerably more than minimum wage to begin with, even before considering tips, have full benefits, and have the right to retire with a pension after 15 years on the job. But that's probably quite a bit above average for the restaurant industry.

                                                                      1. re: nocharge

                                                                        About 10 years ago, I was told that a server working three dinner shifts a week at the Slanted Door would earn about $60K annually. A desirable job for college students.

                                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                          Sounds possible. On the other hand, few restaurants are as successful as the Slanted Door and getting a lucrative gig there may not be trivial or representative of the restaurant industry in general.

                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                            melanie: tell me, is the Slanted Door the kind of restaurant that would actually be hiring college students?

                                                                            somehow this doesn't make sense to me.
                                                                            every restaurant i know that allows their people to work full time and get paid anywhere near $60k, has CAREER people in those slots who are not going anywhere as long as they can do the job. (in LA, one such place would be Musso and Franks).
                                                                            they don't hire college students who, presumably, are less experienced and are planning to move on after they hit their peak.

                                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                                              Interesting question. I used to know a guy who worked there, but I don't think he is there anymore. Otherwise, I would ask him. The thing with the Slanted Door is that it's probably San Francisco's highest grossing restaurant meaning that there will be a fair amount of tip money floating around, which in turn will mean that the restaurant probably will have a pretty good selection of job candidates to choose from for server positions.

                                                                              However, one of the restaurants where I'm a regular and has a 3.5-star SF Chronicle rating (the Slanted Door has 3) has a food runner who is an undergrad accounting student at a local university.

                                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                                a runner is not a server.
                                                                                in many restaurants the servers "tip out" the runners.
                                                                                the runners, bussers, et al get a much smaller percentage of the tip than servers.

                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                  "a runner is not a server"

                                                                                  Absolutely true, but the student in question is a couple of years away from graduating and I wouldn't find it inconceivable that he could get shifts as a server before then. But to your original point, yes, this place doesn't hire college students left and right.

                                                                              2. re: westsidegal

                                                                                Yes, if they're experienced servers. Many are, and are on the 10-year plan to get through school. My info on the Slanted Door was from a member of management there.

                                                                                One of my friends told me that his waiter at the now-closed Masa's was a med student at UCSF and made $70K working less than 40 hours a week.

                                                                            2. re: nocharge

                                                                              Agree on the $250K as I though tips would be shared so that maybe the gross take but it needs to be shared across the team etc.

                                                                              I also thought 40 hours a week was high and could see many staff (especially students or resting actors) mixing their shifts with other activities. But its still could be a pretty good hourly rate and a reasonable take home.

                                                                              Given that the higher end (and the OP was about high end places) staff earn so much from tips I wonder if the tipping at this level is our of synch. I can see 20% being standard on a small bill but keeping the percentage fixed for a $500 bill seems over generous with the rewards getting out of synch with the value given. After all at these earning levels you can't be accused of underpaying...!

                                                                              The cost of mid to high end dining in the US is getting pretty high (I say this as an infrequent visitor) I wonder if we will start to see a tipping point when the costs get to the point the tip is impacted.

                                                                              One other (controversial) question is whether people do tip the same percentage for expensive meals. I know many people say they do, but are these regular diners or is this a once off.

                                                                              Or is there some form of reporting bias with no-one daring to say they tip at a lower percentage for higher bills. Seeing some of the vitriolic comments on tipping threads for those who admit to lower tipping I can see why no one owns up (after all lots of surveys about personal things see people over reporting what they do)..

                                                                              If this is the case then overall earnings would be more reasonable.

                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                I've had very few very expensive meals but tip the same 20% because the service I get for a $300 meal is and ought to be exquisite. And the tables 'turn' less frequently so the server is going to be 'serving' fewer customers each shift.

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  Agree fewer customers but I suspect the higher price more than offsets this in terms of revenue per server t the higher end thus the tip take is higher.

                                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                                    So are you saying that you also think that 20% is correct. And, FWIW, we went to 20% from 18% cause it just seemed stupid math. It's not a huge amount for us but if it's multiplied by many diner it makes a difference for the server. Despite the few high earners, there are few making a whole lot of money.

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      To me (not from the US) it seems high. If I am paying a $600 bill (for two) I assume that includes a component for staff costs so adding $120 on top for the server seems excessive.

                                                                                      In comparable high end restaurants in other countries if the bill is this high (and it rarely is) it generally includes service costs and there is nominal tipping. Comparatively the bills in these countries at the lower to mid end of the market are often higher than the US (before the tip) as wage costs are higher.

                                                                                      So there seems to be something odd happening at the high end of the market in the US if tipping is generally at the 20% level declared by many.

                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                        First of all :) our $300 meal was for two! And I agree that the US is sadly out of pace with most of the world. But that's a problem that we're not going to solve here on CH.

                                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                                          Think of a tip in the US as similar to sales tax. In most parts of the world, the likes of VAT are included in any price tag. In the US, sales tax, which may vary by county, is typically added to the price tag price when you pay for something. Just the way things work and you have take that into account and budget for it. If you can afford to pay $600 for a meal for two, you should be able to afford to leave an appropriate tip. If not, go to a less expensive place.

                                                                                          1. re: nocharge

                                                                                            Your final comment is big IMO. If you can't afford the tip, you can't afford the meal.

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                              Affordability isn't the question. I am challenging the logic of many who pushed back on the OP. One of the arguments about tipping is that servers are so low paid ($2 an hour is often mentioned) its only fair that diners tip to make it a living wage. But the reality seems to be in mid to high end places the servers are doing pretty well already - based on the posts here.

                                                                                              So isn't reducing the tip percentage with higher minimum wage levels logical?

                                                                                            2. re: nocharge

                                                                                              <Think of a tip in the US as similar to sales tax>

                                                                                              How so?
                                                                                              There's absolutely no similarity, whatsoever.
                                                                                              One involves CHOICE and the other is IMPOSED.

                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                It's very simple. In most of the world, you go to a store or a restaurant and when you pay, it's what the price tag said. In some countries, you may leave a little on top of that as a tip in a restaurant.

                                                                                                In the US, typically sales taxes are added on top of the price tag or menu prices. As are tips. You are right that while tips, by definition, are not mandatory, people tend to be obsessed with decorum, which would be to leave a tip that would be larger than in many other parts of the world. Part of the cost of dining.

                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                  Imposed legally. Via democratically held elections.

                                                                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                                                                    Different taxes, by different methods are enacted.

                                                                                                    Yes, they're imposed legally AND the majority of taxes aren't enacted by votes directly from the people.
                                                                                                    That includes fed, state and local.

                                                                                  2. re: PhilD

                                                                                    The cocktail servers at my friends bar easily take home 300-500 night in tips, 3-4 nights a week. The other 3-4 nights they clear an average about 2-250. In the height of the season they can easily take home more than few thousand a week. The waitstaff in the main dining room make even more. However the season is really only 5 months longso many of the regulars head south or the ski resorts in the off season and do the same. Many of them have been doing this 20+ years. It's grueling work but they love the lifestyle.

                                                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                      <<However the season is really only 5 months long>>

                                                                                      i.e. this is not the sort of job that someone who is trying to responsibly support a family would want to rely on. . . . .

                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                        Who said anything about family? Though many were/are married/partnered. They love the lifestyle (they do work 11 months out of the year just in different areas) and are very well paid.

                                                                                        The ones that do have kids are usually local teachers, coaches and the like. Working in a seasonal business when school is out is great way to "responsibly support" a family when you live in a very expensive tourist destination.

                                                                                        ETA: the bartender in our high end local restaurant just had her second child. When she had her first child she found she could make more $$ and work less hours bartending than her nursing job. It also allows her stay home with her kids during day saving on child care costs and giving her time with her kids (priceless). The 3-4 nights a week she works her husband is home. Works for them and their budget.

                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                          It leave them 7 months a year to do something less strenuous and still earn a living.....my understanding that is how a lot of seasonal workers manage things.

                                                                                      2. re: PhilD

                                                                                        To start with, I don't know how many servers work 40 hours a week.

                                                                                        I've got one friend at a high-end place and his shift is 5 nights a week but only 6 hours each.

                                                                                        The other, upscale chain and he comes in at 6 and is sent home when things slow down- so he may only work 4 hours a night.

                                                                                        1. re: BubblyOne

                                                                                          i have had several roommates who were servers.
                                                                                          none of them were EVER given 40 hours a week or even close.

                                                                                          the ones that worked for the Darden chain, not only weren't ever given full time work (NONE of the servers in the entire restaurant were allowed to achieve full time status), there were always add-on tasks that increased the amount of time they really had to spend at the restaurant ( but it was time for which they were not compensated).
                                                                                          for the most part, they were terrified of being given even fewer hours than they already had and would not risk retribution by management.

                                                                                          also, there was also UNCOMPENSATED time that they were required to be "on call" which meant that they were unable to commit to working those "on call" hours at another job, be it another serving job or a babysitting job or ANY other job.
                                                                                          also, those "on call" hours prevented them from making any kind of progress IN SCHOOL. the CA junior college system is overcrowded. if a young person manages somehow to actually get into one of the classes that they need to graduate, they HAVE TO BE ABLE TO ATTEND. being responsible to arbitrary, unpaid, "on call" requirements prevents this.

                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                            A cocktail waitress at a restaurant I used to frequent was fired merely for showing up on time, meaning the time her manager had told her to come in every day. The manager felt that not showing up much earlier than that showed she was not enough of a "go-getter" to be employed by the restaurant, which is no longer in business.

                                                                                          2. re: BubblyOne

                                                                                            Not saying they do, and the number of hours worked really only drives the base pay. Working a shorter more intense shift may actually push the earnings per hour up as the tables turns and tip take from the volume of meals/drinks could be the same - just in a shorter timeframe.

                                                                                            And does your friend at the chain work another job during the day or are they studying?

                                                                                          3. re: PhilD

                                                                                            Based on the servers I know in LA that work at mid-range restaurants, and a server I knew that worked at The Restaurant at Meadowood, your assumptions are spot on.

                                                                                      3. I agree that it is reasonable to consider whether there is a tip credit. In Washington, servers make minimum wage of $9.35 an hour before tips. I don't expect most people to live on $9.35 an hour, but I'm also not sure waiting tables merits that PLUS 20% of the bill. If a server makes $20-25 an hour, great. Do they need to be making more than that? There is a movement in Seattle to have a $15 minimum wage, and restaurateurs are freaking out. I hope it will encourage honest conversations about how the restaurant industry really works.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                          I especially like your last sentence. I don't think anyone would argue that our system isn't the best way.

                                                                                        2. I could give a rat's ass how much wait staff makes or doesn't make. It's their choice where they work and it's really irrelevant to me what their wage is.
                                                                                          I tip high on the total bill (25%) and above for good service and low (10%) for below average service.

                                                                                            1. "I thought the justification for tipping high was that waiters had to makeup their minimum wage, and then exceed it with tips to make good money. But in California, that's not true."

                                                                                              I think this is the problem. The purpose of a tip isn't to subsidize the server's wages. You are basically rewarding them for the service they provided, with the standard being 15-20%. Excellent service should warrant a higher tip. You are rewarding the server for the service provided - the better the service, the better the tip. Sure, you can tip 10%, but if you're a regular somewhere, they won't be clamoring to serve you.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                my justification is this:
                                                                                                i WANT to do this.
                                                                                                since i've had enough money to ACTUALLY do this (for over three decades, now) i've noticed that i am definitely treated better at the restaurants to which i return.
                                                                                                makes me want to continue to do it.

                                                                                                i don't need any more justification than my own personal desire.

                                                                                                1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                  Of course, the problem with statements like this erupting through this thread is that in many, many of these tipping threads one argument people make against low (or even average) tipping is "but they make below minimum wage!" - so yes, there is at least one large group of people on this site who say exactly that.

                                                                                                2. I live in Southern California and I usually only tip 15%. Less if service was sub-par. I don't care what the server makes that's between him and the owner. I tip because of the service.

                                                                                                  1. At this point I'd rather tip the line cooks who make crap while creating the star of the show.

                                                                                                    143 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                      Bellachefa: have you ever really tried to tip the line cooks?
                                                                                                      i've OFTEN tipped people who normally don't get tipped.

                                                                                                      i've tipped box boys
                                                                                                      i've tipped bussers
                                                                                                      i've tipped plumbers (yes, i know that the plumber is probably making more than i am, but i don't care because i don't see this as charity or welfare)
                                                                                                      i've tipped cabinet makers
                                                                                                      i've tipped gardeners
                                                                                                      i've tipped electricians (yes, another case where i've tipped someone who makes more than i)
                                                                                                      i've tipped wood refinishers
                                                                                                      i've tipped flooring installers
                                                                                                      i guess you could characterize holiday gifts to chefs as tips.

                                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                          I think you need a tipping intervention!

                                                                                                          I've tipped the sushi chef, I've sent a pitcher or beer or shots of tequila to the line at the end of a night, I've sent cash, I always bring out beverages and cold treats to the gardening staff. But I would never tip the plumber, who charges about $90 an hour or the electrician or the landscaper who sends his staff. Do you also tip the building inspector who comes to survey the plumbing and electricians work?

                                                                                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                            "Do you also tip the building inspector who comes to survey the plumbing and electricians work?"

                                                                                                            Monies paid to the building inspector go under a different name.

                                                                                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                              <I think you need a tipping intervention>

                                                                                                              I don't think a person should be judged for doing things that help to make their lives work.
                                                                                                              I've not only tipped my plumber but I've given away cases of wine for his party that he was planning. He's an outstanding plumber and what turns out to be a really good man. I tip just about everyone who takes care of the things I'm unable to do, for whatever reason.
                                                                                                              To have a relationship with a skilled worker that I can rely on and I feel is loyal to me is invaluable.
                                                                                                              A tip shows an appreciation, a complete acknowledgment of the hard work they do…the skill I'm unable to do and a simple 'thanks'.
                                                                                                              Once again, and I repeat, I could really care less about how much money a person makes….my tip is given for service.

                                                                                                          2. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                            This is definitely true.

                                                                                                            The reason that tip-credit is so great is that it, at least theoretically, allows restaurants to pay the cooks higher salaries since servers are taken care of by tips.

                                                                                                            But it IS weird. When I tip at a coffee shop for example, I tip because of the labor that goes into pulling a good shot of espresso. It feels very weird not to be able to tip the guy that cooked the perfect plate of carrots...but rather the person that just brought the plate of carrots out to me.

                                                                                                            1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                              So, ARE you working on the political aspects to get this changed?

                                                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                Yes, the tip credit that California lacks in its minimum-wage law definitely hurts the pay-scale relationship between FoH and BoH. One of the approaches to address the problem is mandatory service charges that management will have more leeway to distribute between FoH and BoH without violating laws. But not every customer appreciates a mandatory service charge.

                                                                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                  Tips are basically mandatory service charges. Diners would get used to them.

                                                                                                                  Maybe more people would complain when they got poor service though I guess.

                                                                                                                  There's already a mandatory 4% service charge in SF right?

                                                                                                                  (And what about that btw? Should one not deduct that 4% from their overall tip?...)

                                                                                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                    Tips are not mandatory in a legal sense. The word "gratuity" implies that something is voluntary by its origin and "tip" and "gratuity" have generally been considered synonyms. Service charges are a whole different ball game. If a service charge is clearly stated on the menu, the restaurant could call the cops on you if you fail to pay it since it would be an implied part of the cost of the meal. If you fail to leave an actual tip, the worst legal consequence you would face would probably be a waitress running after you on the sidewalk screaming at the top of her lungs insults about what a cheap bastard you are. Something like that might be embarrassing. And you might not want to go back to that place again.

                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                      I guess it's important because the majority of dining is not repeat business...therefore the majority of diners currently don't tip?

                                                                                                                      1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                        Whether dining is a repeat business is very much an interesting question. I think it varies. I dine out pretty much every night and most of the time, I go to restaurants within a short walking distance from where I live and where I would have the added benefit of being considered a regular.

                                                                                                                        1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                          So you obviously always tip, and it would make no difference to your dining life whether they switched it to a service charge or not, right?

                                                                                                                          Would you figure the majority of people eating out at not like that, and thus don't leave tips (as they have zero legal incentive, and won't be returning to the restaurant anyway)?

                                                                                                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                            Why is this so important to you?
                                                                                                                            Just curious.
                                                                                                                            The custom is to tip after a meal.
                                                                                                                            I've traveled to SF many times after living there and I can honestly say the people I know who live there, dine there, travel there and tip there are like me.
                                                                                                                            We tip for good service 20% and more.
                                                                                                                            We'd never think NOT to tip this way, no matter how much the servers are making. We like tipping…it's our pleasure.
                                                                                                                            Tip, don't tip….it's YOUR decision, YOUR choice.
                                                                                                                            Isn't it nice to think we still have some choices left instead of some silly legislator telling us what we HAVE to do according to his/her very subjective perspective?

                                                                                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                              No. It's not.

                                                                                                                              1) It's a pseudo-choice, not a real choice (no reward for doing it, but serious punishment for not doing it). I'd rather have a clear definition of what I need to pay, than leave it up to arbitrary social customs.
                                                                                                                              2) Making things legal would prevent the few assholes from leaving 0%.
                                                                                                                              3) Service charges would give more money to the chefs who are about 95% responsible for how much I actually enjoy my dinner.

                                                                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                I tip the chef and so do most of the people I know.

                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                  Really?! Nobody I know has ever done so. And when I was a cook/chef, nobody ever tipped me.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                    I think it's sort of silly to presume you know why people tip or don't tip.
                                                                                                                                    I tip because someone gives me service that I otherwise wouldn't receive without them. It's a gift from me to those very hard working people
                                                                                                                                    The gesture is between me and the person and nobody really knows what I've left…it's nobody else's business.
                                                                                                                                    I respect your perspective on things and it'd be nice to continue to discuss this topic without provocative assumptions.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                      Latindancer - the trouble with that view is none of the empirical evidence backs it up. Tipping levels don't really influence the level of service.

                                                                                                                                      Its also interesting to observe people from the US in non-tipping countries. They are really uncomfortable not tipping, and I would hazard a guess, that tipping is so deeply ingrained into a persons psychology that the behaviour is automatic rather than a discrete choice.

                                                                                                                                      There is nothing wrong with that as that's how the US restaurant system works, and people are happy. However, it is worth being mindful of the tactics restaurants employ (and I mean the business not the server) to increase the tip take and thus their employees pay without direct cost to them. I, you, others are all psychologically manipulated by marketing strategies/tricks and restaurants employ these tactics as much as supermarkets - see the articles about how to structure menus and were to place the high margin dishes to sell more of them - http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandsty...

                                                                                                                                      So no, tipping is not really about free will - its far more complex than that.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                        the trouble with that view is none of the empirical evidence backs it up. Tipping levels don't really influence the level of service.
                                                                                                                                        Maybe not the first time around but on subsequent visits it sure does. Even in non tipping countries. I tip 20% in Europe and South America. By the 2nd and 3rd visits, service is several notches superior to the first visit. One waiter in Rome remembered me 7 months later and remembered what wines I ordered the first time around. At busy bars, tipping well on the first few drinks will ensure little to no wait for subsequent drinks.

                                                                                                                                        Is it possible to get great service in non tipping countries simply by being a regular and not tipping? Sure.

                                                                                                                                        But if you tip 0-10% in the US, I doubt the waiters will provide you with the same level service as another regular who tips 20-25%. Why would they?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                          I think I said much of that in my reply to no-charge - especially about low tipping in high tipping cultures.

                                                                                                                                          But it is still interesting that a regular who doesn't tip high (me) and regular that tips high, in non-tipping countries gets better service once they become regulars. To me that indicates high tips are not the primary mechanism at work here.

                                                                                                                                          That said in very touristy areas outside the US all waiters love all Americans because they tip so freely - even when it isn't the custom - after all they aren't stupid. But that doesn't mean they don't treat other people well - especially if they like them.....you don't have to buy love.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                            That is a great point.
                                                                                                                                            I am not a regular at any restaurant. I always tip well, anyway. I almost always get good service. It has *nothing* to do with tipping. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

                                                                                                                                            Sometimes, just being a polite, appreciative, good customer is enough to get good service...who da thunk?

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                              I believe that is true, and if you are not a repeat diner there is no adverse consequence of not tipping well as you are not going back.

                                                                                                                                              So not logical, but I suspect its emotional, people like tipping and like tipping well (good for them). Its a cultural norm so people are psychologically programmed to do it, and by doing so helps with self esteem.

                                                                                                                                              I if wonder if higher tippers get higher levels of personal satisfaction and better self esteem. So are high tippers altruistic or is it actually selfish behaviour because it makes them feel good...? (Note: using these terms in terms of psychological behaviour not as value judgements).

                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                Well, for me, I feel good about it. I am happy that I can afford to be generous. I hope that the server is happy with my tip. I hope it makes them feel good about their job.

                                                                                                                                                It is both cultural and psychological. I do this knowing I will never return to the restaurant. So, for me, it is feeling good about what I do in my day-regardless of what others do, regardless of the outcome or future consequence to me. But, that is how I live my life in general. Karma...and all that :)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                  I if wonder if higher tippers get higher levels of personal satisfaction and better self esteem. So are high tippers altruistic or is it actually selfish behaviour because it makes them feel good...?
                                                                                                                                                  Or are low tippers trying to make themselves feel better about tipping low...somehow trying to justify their actions and convince themselves they are less selfish or somehow more aware of the human psyche and themselves because they tip less? And does this need for self justification mean that they know on some level that tipping low isn't fair and is selfish and that they're just trying to rationalize their behavior?

                                                                                                                                                  The game can easily be played both ways.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                    Well I don't tip low - I simply follow he norms that I am aware of in the country I am in so I am not trying to justify lower tipping. I am just challenging some of the logic used to justify tipping which doesn't seem to make sense - its an interesting subject.

                                                                                                                                                    I would also challenge ".....they know on some level that tipping low isn't fair and is selfish.." given servers earn good money from tips across a range why isn't it fair...? Who is losing...? Economically it's the high tippers that lose as they only gain a marginal additional utility as a result of higher tipping whilst the low tippers achieve roughly the same utility (and the research data supports this).

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                      >>Economically it's the high tippers that lose as they only gain a marginal additional utility as a result of higher tipping whilst the low tippers achieve roughly the same utility (and the research data supports this).<<

                                                                                                                                                      Unless of course they tip high to genuinely help out the waiter or establishment. Especially in a country that is worse off economically. Calculating minimal utility gained between tipping high vs low as a justification for tipping low seems to be the selfish thing to do doesn't it? You're not getting anything more in return so why tip more? Not my position but I can understand the logic. But why try to twist it and say it's the high tipper who is being selfish when they tip more?

                                                                                                                                                      >>given servers earn good money from tips across a range why isn't it fair...? Who is losing...? <<

                                                                                                                                                      The waiter getting the low tip from the low tipper is losing. If everyone tipped low, then they wouldn't be earning good money across the range.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                        "Not my position but I can understand the logic. But why try to twist it and say it's the high tipper who is being selfish when they tip more?"

                                                                                                                                                        If someone tips more in order to feel better about themselves, that is a psychologically selfish action, i.e. taken to promote their own self-interest (their own sense of well-being).

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                          If someone tips more in order to feel better about themselves, that is a psychologically selfish action, i.e. taken to promote their own self-interest (their own sense of well-being).
                                                                                                                                                          By that logic any altruism, community service, or volunteer work is selfish if one derives pleasure from it? Anyone who is generous with friends and family is actually selfish because they are doing it to make themselves feel better? Helping an old lady across the street makes you selfish if it makes you feel good? What a silly argument.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                            I agree you can spin in circles a bit with these terms but in behavioural research they do have specific meanings. And its true seemingly altruistic behaviour may actually driven by selfish goals (not necessarily conscious decisions though).

                                                                                                                                                            So you may contribute to the community by working on a litter drive, but unconsciously you understand that a neat neighbourhood boosts house prices. And being generous with families helps ensure your genes continue succesfully into the future by supporting future generations - its a biological theory seeks to explains certain behaviours.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, if one were cynical enough one could certainly interpret every act to be selfishly motivated.

                                                                                                                                                              It's a bleak and rather sad perspective though. No such thing as caring, gratitude, or love...just utility and selfish gain.

                                                                                                                                                              And the sort of "selfishness" exhibited by someone deriving pleasure from helping others is very different from the selfishness exhibited by someone who is only concerned about personal gain.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                                Porthos - I suspect you are using "selfish" in its negative common usage way. I am trying to use it in a non-emotive scientific way i.e. it is not a conscious behaviour and therefore there is no moral context.

                                                                                                                                                                The altruistic bi-product of the selfish behaviour is simply good for the community.

                                                                                                                                                                However, you could argue this is similar to a symbiotic relationship where the community good is essential for the individuals well being.

                                                                                                                                                                Now lets turn to how many angels are dancing on top of that pin ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                  I understand your case for the "scientific" (more philosophical really) usage of the word. But again, that clinical usage does not distinguish between selfish act leading to altruism and selfish act leading to self gain only +/- at the detriment of others. That distinction is important because there is a moral difference between those two types of selfish.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                                    Totally agree with the moral difference.

                                                                                                                                                                    Parking in the disabled bay to avoid the rain as you run into a restaurant is selfish for self gain and bad. But helping the disabled people into the restaurant is altruistic - and its nice the bartender notices comps you a drink, and the waiter seats you at a better table - it's totally altruistic.

                                                                                                                                                                    But is it totally altruistic - if you are often rewarded for your altruism (even if its a nice smile from the waiter) is there not some benefit to you...? After all nice guys don't always finish last.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                      What if there is no comp and no one sees? And let's assume that wasn't the motive for helping someone else in the first place. Does that make it a purely altruistic gesture then? Or is the simple feeling of having done something nice also considered "selfish" because it is "personal emotional gain"?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                                        The good feeling can be enough.

                                                                                                                                                                        But as my wife says the old proverb "what goes around comes around" when she does a good deed (which is often) implies the postponed benefit of a good deed has been recognised for a long time (and equally the bad effects of being mean and nasty).

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                          Good deeds aren't like stocks or investments. To expect some sort of reciprocal payment for a good deed is naive and obviously not altruistic or selfless by definition. So in your example, I agree, your wife is not truly being altruistic.

                                                                                                                                                                          Not everyone who does good deeds or tips high expect some sort of reciprocal compensation in return though. Some do it out of a sense of fairness or good will or truly wanting to reward/help someone. There is no expected compensation in return. Sometimes the good feeling you get is all and is enough.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                                            Isn't "a good feeling" a personal reward...?

                                                                                                                                                                            I don't argue that there is a conscious expectation of some sort of reciprocal reward, I think a lot of it is unconscious. A lot of altruistic behaviour is habit that has formed as a result of positive reinforcement lost on the mists of your memories.

                                                                                                                                                                            And certainly on the spectrum of human behaviour there will be some who are 100% altruistic as there are some 100% selfish - but my suspicion is that much altruistic behaviour does give some benefit to the individual even if they don't consciously connect the two.

                                                                                                                                                                            There are some examples in posts of really big generous tippers, ones who really don't think about it but just do it . Nice altruistic behaviour - yet each example includes the fact they get preferential treatment, always get a table, are looked after, they get free drinks. And I would hazard a guess that such behaviour is also boosting their ego and they get a lot of satisfaction from this display of their wealth and success.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                            <But as my wife says the old proverb "what goes around comes around" when she does a good deed>

                                                                                                                                                                            So you're wife's doing good deeds to, hopefully, guaranteed something good in return? Like kharma?
                                                                                                                                                                            Not everyone, including me, gives for this reason.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                              Its a turn of phrase - she doesn't do good deeds because she expects things - she just does them. I shared it simply because its an old proverb and they generally have some factual basis i.e. nice people are liked.

                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                                            <no one sees?>

                                                                                                                                                                            This is the key. A purely altruistic gesture and NOBODY sees you do it.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                              But you know you did it - self esteem is a good motivator.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                        You are implying then that an altruistic act of any type is motivated by personal gain or secondary gain? May I ask how any of us who were not doing the altruistic deed could possibly know what the individual's motivation is/was?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                          Lots and lots of science and research. If nothing else by understanding why do things helps people to get you to do things i.e. product designers, politicians, and charities.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                            I am a Psychiatric RN. I understand behavior modification etc. ( in maladaptive behaviors etc.). Psychology has many uses I guess.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                              While I understand, fully, what you're talking about I'm not in the same frame of mind of those who'd be manipulated, psychologically, into thinking their personal income should be spread about 'for the better good'.
                                                                                                                                                                              My money is MY money. Everything about me is governed by ME. Other than basic laws, basic tax systems, etc., it's all my choice.
                                                                                                                                                                              I'll be the one who decides, and this includes tipping, where it goes and how I do it.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                >> I'm not in the same frame of mind of those who'd be manipulated,

                                                                                                                                                                                I have heard this message many times before, by my stepfather, who is self-determined, proud, patriotic, frugal (but wealthy), extremely savvy and Machiavellian businessman, and is proud of being immune to advertising.

                                                                                                                                                                                And this is what I've witnessed.

                                                                                                                                                                                The moment he realizes he's being manipulated, he shuts down and puts up an electrified fence with a 100 ft wide concrete barrier. There's no getting through that, and it happens often and suddenly, whether the message comes from traditional advertising, or someone he's having a casual debate or conversation with.

                                                                                                                                                                                What I've also seen is that when he does purchase things, he decides based on long-seated beliefs, feelings. He buys from American companies (though not necessarily American made products) like Wal-Mart and McDonald's. He loves supporting great American success stories.

                                                                                                                                                                                He sees himself as a patriot, and aligns himself with the traditional American values of independence, hard work, self-reliance and thrift. His only real "weakness" in terms of direct advertising messages is that he sometimes investigates companies that Rush Limbaugh endorses. But when confronted on this, he says "it is my choice to buy from Rush Limbaugh's sponsors. They have not influenced me to buy-- I have made my own decision to do this, because I have researched the company, and it is a good value." But the thing is, he has an emotional connection to Rush Limbaugh, and all of the things he feels Rush Limbaugh stands for (i.e. patriotism, self-reliance, etc.). It's almost as if it wasn't Rush-- it was a message coming from a trusted friend, who said "check out product X". And in reality, if Rush hadn't talked about this product, a) he may never have heard about it and b) he might have been closed off to the message, because it wasn't coming from a trusted source.

                                                                                                                                                                                So he says he's not affected by advertising, but really emotional connections are the downfall of us all. And often, its the subtle messages. The ones nurtured over long periods of time... "Wal-Mart as an all-American company", that are the most effective. Those are the ones that sneak through his electrified fence and concrete barrier, because he really believes he's come to these conclusions on his own. And that's the brilliance of effective advertising. It's not necessarily the immediate pitch-- it's the nurtured image over time that is most effective.


                                                                                                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster


                                                                                                                                                                                  Rush Limbaugh certainly has a loyal following, many of the people following him THINK they have a mind of their own but really? Do they?
                                                                                                                                                                                  Are they any different than the 'other side' of the political spectrum who follow their leaders/mentors with no questions asked? I suppose everyone has a need to fit in…whatever fits.
                                                                                                                                                                                  To some degree, it's just human nature to want/need to be connected with something where someone's directing the reins and justifying the behavior they're practicing.
                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm not political, have lived a long life and experienced many sides of the coin, lived a few philosophies and know a little about ethics, and this is where I am in my life.
                                                                                                                                                                                  I can assure you your stepfather is not alone.
                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm just not one of those people who have the need to be part of something/someone who tells me how to act.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                    >> I'm just not one of those people who have the need to be part of something/someone who tells me how to act.

                                                                                                                                                                                    You may not be vulnerable to a direct or overt sales pitch or emotional appeal, but little by little, ad messages disseminate into the culture. And even if you're not open to them, your friends may be. They buy products, like them. You see Product X at their house, and you like it. And then you buy it.

                                                                                                                                                                                    That's not serendipity-- that's all part of the deal. It's a calculated manipulation made by ad and company execs, and we are all participants in the ad game, whether we like it or not.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                      We're all surrounded/inundated by everything around us, including those ads.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Some of us perhaps are just a little more awake and able to discern what's best for us.
                                                                                                                                                                                      I certainly may like something I see at my friend's home…
                                                                                                                                                                                      It doesn't mean I feel the need for it. It may be wonderful and new and cutting edge and wonderful.
                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm pretty conscious and mindful…
                                                                                                                                                                                      But, then again, I work at it and understand the complexities of those very hard core ads and what they represent to an otherwise impulsive population that goes out of their way to find the 'newest' and the 'best'.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Do I have the need, because it's advertised as such, for a car that's fuel efficient and runs on something other than gas to get me from point A to point B? No.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Do I feel guilty for driving a car that's not fuel efficient and eco-friendly just because the ads tell me I should? No.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Am I a bad person because I don't drive one? No.
                                                                                                                                                                                      But the ads have given those who need it…moral high ground served on a silver platter.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Much like is illustrated by a few on this thread who stereotype those who tip high.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Those ads, and their manipulation, are welcomed by those who have the need to feel better about themselves and prove to others they're worthy of adoration.
                                                                                                                                                                                      The list is endless.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                        We are not just manipulated by ads. We all get manipulated things like: product placement in supermarkets; how things are placed next to the tills; baking bread smells in supermarkets; sales specials (that are not really that cheap); we eat the salty snacks in bars; menus are designed to push certain profitable items over others; the second cheapest wine on the list has the highest margin (as thats often what people choose); how a server suggest dishes; the relative pricing or things etc etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I, you, we are all intelligent and can avoid the obvious manipulation. But I really don't believe anyone can be immune from all of it.....its a big industry backed by lots and lots of science.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                            What do you think of the term "enlightened self-interest"?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                                                                              It's a good term - less emotive than selfish.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                          I am interested in the studies regarding altruism you are alluding to. Whose theories specifically are you referring to in regards to altruism?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                            There are lots and lots of them. It's a subject covered by biologists, behaviourists, anthropologists, psychologists, economists etc so if you search on "selfish and altruistic behaviour" you will bring up lots of very detailed papers that argue the subject from many angles.

                                                                                                                                                                            Here is an opinion piece from the New York Times that illustrates the topic: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/...

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                              I am curious because it is not recognized in any medical modalities/models then as anything other than theoretical?

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                How about Game Theory which is practically used in many areas...?

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                    "Economically it's the high tippers that lose as they only gain a marginal additional utility as a result of higher tipping whilst the low tippers achieve roughly the same utility (and the research data supports this)."

                                                                                                                                                                    You've got to be kidding me! Any data supporting such research would have to be based on pikers with no understanding of how to tip optimally. The kinds you would see on this site asking whether it should be 15, 18, or 20 percent.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                      The research is done by the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and covers a broad spectrum establishments. It looks at lots of things but established tipping levels and services levels were not linked. I think the last paper was a meta study (i.e. bringing together a broad range of published work) which established the findings held over multiple studies.

                                                                                                                                                                      Its fascinating stuff much of it counter intuitive.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                      <Economically it's the high tippers that lose as they only gain a marginal additional utility>

                                                                                                                                                                      Based on this statement you're assuming that I, a good tipper, put thought into what I'm doing other than pure generosity.
                                                                                                                                                                      Can't say how many times I've said on this thread…
                                                                                                                                                                      I tip for service. I tip because the person I'm tipping has given me a service that I would otherwise not be able to do myself.
                                                                                                                                                                      There's really no more to it than that and *I* challenge anyone who thinks I do it for any other reason.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: sedimental


                                                                                                                                                                  So, because on that first visit you are polite, appreciative etc. I understand that.
                                                                                                                                                                  Now, on that second visit (I know I know you're not a regular) but hypothetically speaking…
                                                                                                                                                                  Had you NOT left a nice tip, say 10%) do you think you'd get the same treatment from the same person who'd waited on you the first time? Do you think your politeness, thoughtfulness and appreciative attitude would get you the same level of service as before?
                                                                                                                                                                  Just wondering because servers aren't in the business of serving just to get a smile for their hard work.
                                                                                                                                                                  The ones I know (including me when I needed money to survive years ago) are in it for the tips.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                    every bartender i've ever known has had an unbelievably accurate and extensive memory about the tipping practices of the repeat customers.

                                                                                                                                                                    it's amazing that they can remember the tip and the drink of choice of regular customers that they haven't seen in years or more.. . . .

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                      That has been my experience as well. Bartenders remember the tipping habits of repeat customers as well as their choices of beverages.

                                                                                                                                                                      Situations vary, but being a regular, tipping well, and being nice to the staff in general usually gets you preferential treatment. That's my experience.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                        There were 10 of us eating at a breakfast place a few months ago. Collectively, we left our server a very large tip, above the 25%, because the service we received was beyond expected. He made all our lives easier that day with his attention.
                                                                                                                                                                        I can't believe how many times he came around and refilled the coffee cups and water glasses along with all the other tables he was responsible for. We didn't ask for the refills but he did it on his own.
                                                                                                                                                                        A month later I returned, by myself, and he not only remembered me but remembered that I drink decaf coffee with a side of cream.
                                                                                                                                                                        Servers are involved in the industry for various reasons but nobody can convince me that they don't love those tips and remember the ones who leave them.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                          LOl, I can remember my good tipping customers from my college days- and that's many years longer than I care to admit.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                        I would imagine that depends on the server. I think some servers may give you the same service, no matter...some may spit in your drink. You would have a better chance of good service with both politeness and a previously decent tip on your second visit with the same server. I am not convinced it is a rule though.

                                                                                                                                                                        I asked my daughter who was a bartender in a small, economically challenged town (after college) about this very issue. She gives the same service to all the "regulars"...I asked about "cheap tippers"? She thought they left a poor tip because they were poor. She said she didn't mind, she is poor too, there was enough of the others so she could still make it. She complained much more about the "assholes" that drank too much, put them all at risk and were rude.

                                                                                                                                                                        My point is that not all servers feel the same way about customers. I really think my "10 percent, good ole' boy neighbor" gets really good service. I am not sure I get better service with my much, much bigger tipping.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                          In my years as a bartender and waitress working my way thru the 20's and college, the best tippers were the poor.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                                                                                            Well, not in her town!

                                                                                                                                                                            Note: when she was working as a delivery girl for pizza as a freshman, she had a huge frat party delivery for like 20 pizza's...they tipped her 2 dollars! THAT pissed her off.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                            sedimental: if you work in the kind of joint that poor people can't afford, or don't frequent, that rationalization goes out the window.

                                                                                                                                                                            then you are left with "these people have made a choice to drink in an establishment that charges $15 for a well drink, and they are CHOOSING to undertip because they are CHEAP and/or selfish."

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                    No, tipping really affects the service level if you are a regular. But I'm not talking 18 percent vs. 20 percent. It's strictly for amateurs to think that something like that would make a huge amount of difference in the service level they will experience. Spending a lot of time worrying whether you should be tipping 18 or 20 percent just shows that you are not particularly clued in and insecure about decorum. The factors at work include comped drinks, which bartenders may have a right to give out but probably in restricted amounts. Who will likely be the beneficiaries, small or big tippers? I would say that a good tipper could save himself enough money due to comped drinks that he might spend less money in total than a normal tipper. Who pays for the big tipper's savings? Tipper cheapskates by virtue of not getting comped drinks, but they are not smart enough to realize it.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                      Its anecdotal and I wonder if there is any research that backs it up like the research that says the size of tip doesn't correlate with service outcomes.

                                                                                                                                                                      You also assume the regular who is a normal tipper doesn't get comped I bet they get as many benefits as the big tipper - a friendly familiar face may be just as much as compelling reason for the bartender to look after someone as the high tip (and there is also research to say attractive people get better service - so maybe that's the real key). And look at it in reverse:, would a high tip get the freebies if the person was also a surly arse-hole - I doubt it.

                                                                                                                                                                      PS - when I visit the US I do tip at 20% a that is what I believe is he norm. In fact I probably tip far too often as I am paranoid about getting it wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                        I wouldn't discount factors such as personality or looks being relevant as to the level of service a patron might get. Certainly, those can make a huge difference. But here is my own take on the simple financials of tipping based on decades of experience. I go to a restaurant, get a seat at the bar and order a $10 drink while looking at the menu. I then order a $20 dish and eventually another $10 beverage. So now, we have a $40 bill which might cost me $50 with a nice tip. Except that the bartenders know me as a regular and a good tipper. So both the drinks are comped leaving me with a $20 bill. I leave a $20 tip, which is 100 percent but still saves me $10.

                                                                                                                                                                        So who just gave me ten bucks? The cheapskate tippers who now dropped out of the bartender's potential pool for getting a comped drink since there would only be so many comped drinks a bartender could give out without getting into trouble.

                                                                                                                                                                        So in this scenario, I save $10, the bartenders think I'm a nice guy and will give me extremely god service, and the $10 that I just saved will come out of the pockets of tip cheapskates who won't get the free drinks that I just got but will not realize that. What's not to like about that model? Beats any service-charge model as far as I'm concerned.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                          Slight flaw in your logic.

                                                                                                                                                                          What is actually happening is that $20 in revenue is not going to the owners of the restaurant but being taken directly by the staff, and as a result you get a $10 discount. So in effect the establishment is down by $20 to 30 (I include the $10 tip as that is part of the economic model of the restaurant).

                                                                                                                                                                          If the comped drinks had been more equitably distributed across a wider customer base then the casual diner may have become regulars and fewer comped drinks for regulars would probably have not been noticed. The cheapskates don't really use anything apart from the odd free drink they should have got.

                                                                                                                                                                          So in effect you are unintenionally colluding in defrauding the restaurant owners.....

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                            As long as the bartenders are within the limits for comping drinks, sending all of them to me would not have been defrauding the restaurant assuming that the bartenders had enough discretion to decide who would get the free drinks. Giving bartenders discretion when it comes to decide whom to comp does not always mean that they will make the optimal decisions, but it doesn't mean that they are defrauding the owner either.

                                                                                                                                                                            I'm pretty confident that I'm enriching the owners of the restaurant that I go to no matter how many free drinks I receive. And there is no secret collusion here. Most of the high-end SF restaurants that will liberally give me free drinks will instill that policy into the bar staff and make sure everyone is informed since staff in the restaurant business tends to turn over.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                              "I'm pretty confident that I'm enriching the owners of the restaurant that I go to no matter how many free drinks I receive."

                                                                                                                                                                              I was basing my response on the model you put forward. My guess from your statement is your spending a lot more than $20 on food and probably don't have all your drinks comped. Or in other words you don't get 50% of the value of what you consume comped.

                                                                                                                                                                              Regarding the bartenders decision who to comp. I think the grey area is when the tip value gets close to the value of comped good (as in your example) - the staff are literally exchanging cash for freebies.

                                                                                                                                                                              I understand staff don't always make optimal decisions - free drinks for the good looking, low spender may not be great (getting their phone number is no good for the business). But when a sub-optimal decision is driven by financial gain you get into interesting territory especially if you are the owner of that business.

                                                                                                                                                                              But as I said in my first para - I suspect you are actually a highly profitable regular and your spend far outweighs your consumption of freebies.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                There are whole lot of angles to this discussion. Imagine a highly popular bartender comping me a $12 drink. I leave a $10 tip. I save a few bucks. The bartender is probably happy with getting the $10. The cost to the restaurant for the drink is probably a few bucks, a fraction of the $10. A much cheaper way of retaining a valuable employee than actually paying him the $10 in additional salary. That's just one of a very large number of ways you could think about this.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                  Totally agree.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I understand one of the reasons to study tip behaviour is that if a restaurant can generate higher tips for staff it aids staff retention i.e. getting staff to only promote the entrees only at busy periods so that tables have fewer starters and desserts. The entree is the high value sale thus higher net tip so if you turn more tables you sell more entrees and the staff get higher tips.

                                                                                                                                                                                  At slower periods when there is less pressure on tables they then promote the whole menu and maximise the bill when tables turn slower.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Scary how much thinking goes into this.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                    Without having read any of the studies about tip behavior coming out of places like Cornell, do they actually capture how to game the system like slipping the maitre'd a large bill, getting drinks comped, etc? Or are they just whether people who tip 20 on average get better service than those who tip 18?

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                      I haven't read it all - and there is a lot. My assumption would be there will be some outliers but the stats seem to indicate there isn't a lot of correlation between tip size and service quality.

                                                                                                                                                                                      And no doubt you can easily game the system after all when is it a tip and when is it really a bribe...?

                                                                                                                                                                                      A personal anecdote, waiting outside a nice hotel in Miami with lots of be-suited, very self important businessmen handing over large tips to get a taxi or their cars from valet parking. It was busy and there was lots and lots of attitude flying around. We were chilled, polite, in no rush and relaxed (and pretty scruffy as we were on holiday) but they liked us and comped us their hotel 7 series BMW to takes to our next hotel on the beach....for free (we tipped the driver at the end of the journey) and before many others got cabs. Sometimes people do things because they like you (darn that means they are being altruistic!)

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                        <darn that means they are being altruistic!>

                                                                                                                                                                                        So, you think they didn't expect a tip in return for that 'free' ride to the next hotel on the beach?
                                                                                                                                                                                        I mean, altruism and all.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                          The point of the story is that we got looked after by being nice over all the people who were tipping heavily in advance and being pushy. Of course we expected to tip for the service, and of course they expected/deserved it.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Most posters seem to be saying you need to be a generous tipper to get this sort of treatment....my argument is that being nice may work just as well (and in my example work better) and tipping normally when you are looked after is perfectly OK.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                            I think it's naive to assume that there is a simple formula for how you get treated. It is based on so many factors. But I guarantee you that if you throw out $1000 tips left and right, people will kiss your feet. They might not do that if you leave 15 percent.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                              Very true but for those who can't distribute $1,000 notes like confetti may find its as effective to be nice to people than feel the need to tip at 25 to 30%.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                          I think there are occasions where the line between a "tip" and a "bribe" might be blurred. But I would think street-smart New Yorkers with a lot of money, like my friend, would have a much better understanding of how tipping actually works than some people in academia at Cornell.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                          the benefits of being a very high-tipping regular can go way beyond comped drinks.

                                                                                                                                                                          one of the places on my regular rotation has a high tipping regular who patronizes the place both for personal and business meals.
                                                                                                                                                                          several months ago he had a businesss dinner planned there and the customer called to cancel out because the customer (for reasons i don't understand) at the last minute had to babysit the family dog.
                                                                                                                                                                          the regular told his customer to come anyway and BRING the dog.
                                                                                                                                                                          the restaurant, which had no patio food service, cleared off the benches on their front porch, ferried out a table to the porch and a heater, and set up dinner service with a dedicated server for this party of 2.

                                                                                                                                                                          another story:
                                                                                                                                                                          i dated a guy for a while who was an ASTRONOMICAL tipper.
                                                                                                                                                                          we never NEEDED a reservation to get into any restaurant at any time.
                                                                                                                                                                          when we DID have a reservation, we were always given the best table in the house.
                                                                                                                                                                          with a reservation we never ate a two top, always a 4 top in the best location.

                                                                                                                                                                          as far as i know neither drinks nor food was ever comped (because he really wouldn't have valued that).

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                            High tipper or high value regular customer?

                                                                                                                                                                            I bet the restaurant management (who don't generally get the tips) cleared the space because of the overall amount the regular spends with them - I bet the food and wine he gets through whilst he is entertaining is not insignificant.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                              "high value regular customer" is NOT mutually exclusive to "high tipper"

                                                                                                                                                                              in my case, i am both
                                                                                                                                                                              in the cases i described above, they are both-in spades.

                                                                                                                                                                              i'd bet that there is a positive correlation between the two. . .. . .

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                Didn't say it was and agree there is probably a strong correlation. And that is the problem, how can you correlate the service levels with one of the other?

                                                                                                                                                                                The logic would be if someone is a big spender then the tips will be bigger anyway so in some respects the spend is more important than the percentage.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                    Discussions with someone who ponders servers making $250K a year (or whatever the crazy number was) is pointless.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BubblyOne

                                                                                                                                                                                      It was a hypothetical model. But some of the replies showed some waiters/bartenders do do very, very well. And remember this was a thread about $300 a head restaurants (with drinks).

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                              Absolutely. I remember a meal I had with a guy who used to run the SF operations of an extremely prestigious financial services company. He used to spend an enormous amount of money on representation and wasn't shy about giving rather large tips. After having moved back to NYC and being away from SF for many years, he visited SF and we had dinner at one of the most prestigious SF restaurants, one that he had given a lot of business. The GM was our personal waiter for the entire meal.

                                                                                                                                                                              Now, one of the cool things about the guy was that he had a New York confidence and was making good money. He was not the kind of guy who nervously ask around the internet about whether he should be tipping 18 or 20 percent. He was successful enough and had enough self confidence that he would tip whatever he wanted without losing a minute of sleep, but usually it would be on the far high side.

                                                                                                                                                                              But regardless whether it was 5 percent or 500 percent, he was completely cool about it. No worries about what percentage would be customary. His focus was more on getting things done, like slipping the maitre'd a large bill to get a table sooner rather than later as opposed to arguing on the internet over what would be the exact standard for percentages.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: nocharge


                                                                                                                                                                                in the case of my high-tipping date, EVERY maitre 'd and EVERY hostess got a twenty slipped to them as soon as we entered the door, just on principal.
                                                                                                                                                                                there was no time spent calculating the exact terms of a quid pro quo.

                                                                                                                                                                                his view was that if the restaurant was good enough so that we wanted to eat there, it was good enough to warrant tipping the staff generously because, to a large extent, it is THEIR WORK which has caused the restaurant to be a place that we enjoy.

                                                                                                                                                                                also, since prior to retiring he owned a nightclub back east, getting surreptitiously comped or any other form of cheating the owners/investors/managers of a restaurant, was NOT high on his list.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                  Wow! Did he go into the kitchen and slip all the cooks a $20 too?

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                  "ow, one of the cool things about the guy was that he had a New York confidence and was making good money. He was not the kind of guy who nervously ask around the internet about whether he should be tipping 18 or 20 percent. "

                                                                                                                                                                                  lol, yeah man it was totally his "confidence", not the millions of dollars in his pocket.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Fucking hilarious.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                    Maybe it was his self-confidence that helped him make substantial amounts of money rather than having an attitude that would make him feel a need to ask around the internet whether he should be tipping 18 or 20 percent.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                      not only did he have a percentage in mind, but there was an absolute minimum dollar amount that, no matter how little was ordered, would be tipped.

                                                                                                                                                                                      his logic was that since we were taking up space in the server's station, the server should not be penalized for having us instead of a higher -volume customer.

                                                                                                                                                                                      i've taken a page out of his book when it comes to alcoholic drinks: if the price of the drink is low (because of happy hour or for any other reason), there is a "minimum-amount-of-tip-per-drink" that i always meet, regardless of the price of the drink.

                                                                                                                                                                                      there is a group that i belong to that meets in one of the public rooms at a local chain restaurant. that restaurant, will often not charge us a room fee. we are all encouraged to order food there to return the favor, but i can't stand a thing on their menu.
                                                                                                                                                                                      i get a glass of water and tip $4.00.
                                                                                                                                                                                      obviously, i'm not doing this in the hopes of being comped.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                <I, you, others are all psychologically manipulated by marketing strategies>

                                                                                                                                                                                It would be very useful to this discussion if you were mindful of the FACT that not everyone falls into categories you seem to need in order to prove some sort of point you're trying to make.
                                                                                                                                                                                Me, myself and I tip from complete generosity. It's a place of compassion, appreciation and honor of an industry that reflects hard work.
                                                                                                                                                                                I make a point of tipping everyone who does a great job for me and, trust me, it has nothing to do with psychological manipulation.
                                                                                                                                                                                Sorry that's why you tip, though.
                                                                                                                                                                                It must be infuriating for you to not have your heart in it.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                  So you make sure to walk into the kitchen and hand all the cooking staff $20 after each meal you have out then?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                    <So you make sure to walk into the kitchen and hand all the cooking staff $20 after each meal you have out then?>

                                                                                                                                                                                    I've never walked into ANY kitchen in a restaurant… it's all done anonymously.
                                                                                                                                                                                    I have no desire of recognition, it's not why I give.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                      So you have no problem stiffing the cooking staff?...

                                                                                                                                                                                      Yet you claim to have a genuine love for the people who prepare your food?

                                                                                                                                                                                      Seems contradictory to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                      If I had a millions of dollars to give away, I'd definitely make sure the people cooking got a good deal of my money.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                        <So you have no problem stiffing the cooking staff?>

                                                                                                                                                                                        Do you read my post(s) or just pretend to?
                                                                                                                                                                                        I simply said 'I've never walked into ANY kitchen in a restaurant…it's all done anonymously'.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Where does it say I 'stiff' the cooking staff'?
                                                                                                                                                                                        How do you make the jump they don't get tipped? Does it suit your needs to believe they don't get tipped?
                                                                                                                                                                                        Good gawd, this is remarkable.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                      let's say that latindancer did or didn't, SO WHAT?
                                                                                                                                                                                      BacoMan, seems like you are really trying to set up a red herring here. . . .

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                        Seems like you don't know what a red herring is...

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                      So you would think - I believe I am impervious to marketing tricks but I fall for as many of them as others do. If it was that obvious you would resist, its the subtle things that get us.

                                                                                                                                                                                      And I don't doubt your assertion you tip for good service, but how you perceive service is often as manipulated as the special offers in supermarkets. The service model across restaurants isn't accidental - staff are trained - and this includes the tips and tricks to required to create the feeling of better service.

                                                                                                                                                                                      You are comfortable with your tipping model - great.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                        I am PERFECTLY comfortable with my tipping model.
                                                                                                                                                                                        I tip for service.
                                                                                                                                                                                        When I go into a restaurant, and I love the way the kitchen staff has prepared my food, the kitchen staff is tipped on my behalf without them knowing who tipped them. It's the way I CHOOSE to do things.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Is that clear?

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                          Hey Latin-

                                                                                                                                                                                          I am curious-Do you tip for all service related jobs? Take out and drive thru? Just the cashier or the back staff too? Pharmacist? Sales associate at your favorite clothing store?

                                                                                                                                                                                          I am in the service industry (retail) and the biggest tip any of my associates have ever received (in 30 years) is a nice note sent to corporate. Once we had small fruit basket delivered at the holidays but that ended up being from the window cleaning company.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I don't mean of this in a snark way I am just fascinated. The tipping "generally accepted" rules seem so arbitrary. No wonder many are confused when they come to states.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                            <No wonder many are confused when they come to states>

                                                                                                                                                                                            I agree.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I have a few friends who are transplants from around the globe.
                                                                                                                                                                                            We've talked about this and, of course, my tipping might not always be the norm but I do what I feel acknowledges the person in the best way I know how to do it.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't tip for everything, that would be ridiculously exhausting based on how busy my days are and who I encounter.
                                                                                                                                                                                            There are those who I don't tip, to do so would be offensive to them. Those people love a 'thank you' and a handshake, a true from-the-heart acknowledgement.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I tip the generous people who work for me, those who do the jobs I don't have any desire to do myself. I tip delivery people, including people who haul away things for me. They're hard workers, all of them and I know I've made a little difference in their day...
                                                                                                                                                                                            My pharmacist gets a big tip at the end of the year. I'm also a person who shops at the same market, retail shops where I know the individuals, plumber, garbage men, and many more.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I've seriously made an attempt to work on the relationships I have with these people…they're valuable to my life.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm a 'give back' kind of person and I try and do the right thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                              i can't speak for latindancer, but, when i left a job in LA to take a job in orange county, i gave my secretary a two year old perfectly maintained car as a goodbye gift.
                                                                                                                                                                                              she deserved it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                              You perceive you have a free choice - I am simply pointing out we are all manipulated in one way or other so you tip because you perceive you get good service. You think you exercise free choice but do you?

                                                                                                                                                                                              Think about this as an example: you go to a restaurant, the greeter says it will be 30 to 40 minutes for a table and puts your name on the list. You can't go next door as next door is a 20 minute drive (the greeter knows this) and there is a unknown waiting time. You wait in the bar and buy a drink, after 20 minutes the greeter comes and gets you and says with a big smile "we managed to fit you in early". You are really happy that they really looked after you and sat you quickly.

                                                                                                                                                                                              But was there ever a 30 to 40 minute wait, or did they simply put out the worst case scenario (or make one up) in order to set your expectations low then beat them? In doing this did you get good service or were you manipulated and would this have influenced the size of your tip?

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't wait 30-40 minutes for a table. Anywhere.
                                                                                                                                                                                                So your example isn't relevant to me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                I have no idea why restaurants do what they do.
                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm only concerned about how I react to what they do and I'm certainly not going to sit around and try and speculate why they're doing what they're doing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                Servers, for the 100th time, get tipped big when they offer up great service….the same goes for everyone who helped the server give me great service. It's my pleasure to do so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                  OK you are immune to modern marketing techniques. Lot of people also have this belief.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                    fwiw, i don't wait 30-40 minutes anywhere either.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    then again, i don't dine at Chengdu Taste

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                    I think tipping at a restaurant that you are unlikely to return to on a regular basis is usually done because people care about decorum. I leave generous tips at the places where I'm a regular because it often cuts down on my dining expenses and I get treated very well.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                      "I think tipping at a restaurant that you are unlikely to return to on a regular basis is usually done because people care about decorum."

                                                                                                                                                                                      Ah, well if it's that socially binding, then it's as good as mandatory.

                                                                                                                                                                                      You do raise one interesting point I guess. And that is the special perks you seem able to get as a regular who always tips well. i have had similar experiences. I suppose if everyone were forced to pay service charges, they couldn't differentiate as well? But usually I assumed it was more based on your regular business than the amount of your tips. Doesn't that seem more likely? Do you think you would lose all your perks of being a regular if it switched to a service charge model?

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                        Being a regular is liked by the restaurant. Being a good tipper is liked by the staff and they usually have some leeway in terms of doing you favors. Actually, being a good tipper is liked by the restaurant as well since good tips make it easier to attract good staff.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Being a good tipper often decreases my cost of dining at the expense of lesser tippers since bartenders would rather use up their quota of giving out free drinks on me than on some cheapskate. Of course, the cheapskates probably don't realize that I'm getting free drinks at their expense while being popular with bartenders and saving money.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                          No living in the US, but living in a low/no tipping city I am also a regular at a number of places and I definitely get better service and treatment at these restaurants (without any tipping).

                                                                                                                                                                                          Thus I think restaurants/waiters like serving people they know and tend to serve them better - again basic human nature - not something that requires cash.

                                                                                                                                                                                          However, I recognise that if the tipping culture is 20% and you stiff the servers with a low tip then you will probably get worse service the next time. So as BacoMan says its a bit of a pseudo choice because you would never risk paying less.

                                                                                                                                                                                          But I do wonder if paying more say 25% really makes the difference - you may be getting better service simply because they know you and like you.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                            This is always so interesting to me. I think being a regular and being a good tipper in a larger city is very different and not a *common* experience for most people.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I have *never* been given free drinks or free food for being a regular or for being a generous tipper. Never.

                                                                                                                                                                                            In a middle sized city, middle of the road restaurant, you would have to go there several times per week, same time, same section, etc. to be remembered as a regular. Whenever I go back (randomly) to a restaurant, the same server is never there. It is not a career job here, turnover is pretty high in my city.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Even when they are still there, giving away food and drink is not allowed. Even at my friends very popular bar.... No free drinks or food. Not even for family, typically. It is just not the norm. They will allow a tab for regulars. That is it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            One time, during a move, I was a regular at a small breakfast diner, small town, every Saturday for about 2 years. Same waitress (maybe 5 employees total) she would yell out "number 13" when I walked through the door. I left a 50% tip every time, I am a friendly person.... Not so much as a free coffee....not once. I did learn all about her creepy ex-husband, lol.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I bet higher tipping and getting better service, free drinks, free food and perks occur much less in most places, than is your experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                              The policies for giving an occasional free drink varies from restaurant to restaurant. But the concept is not that much different from any loyalty program. Think frequent flyer miles. Accumulate enough miles and the airline will give you a free flight. Except that with drinks, there is typically not an exact formula and more at the discretion of the bartender.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Food is a different matter. I very rarely get free food. A bartender can easily pour you a free beer, but food orders usually get into a computer system making giving away food a much more formal affair.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                Yeah, I get the concept. My point was more about it not being common that bigger tippers get better service or even "free items" of any kind, outside of big tourist cities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I also think that when profit margins are slimmer (like in smaller cities) the staff don't have as much discretion to do give-aways as they might in a big, bustling tourist city.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I know my neighbor is a 10% tipper. He gets the same service and no comps ...as I do. I think he is cheap, but he is a nice person and I know he is friendly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I think being a friendly, familiar faced regular doesn't go very far either, when there is so much staff turnover like there is in small or mid sized cities. But, I bet looking familiar counts toward better service more than being a big tipper. At least in the several places I have lived.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                                We are regulars in a few places in our smallish community just south of Boston.

                                                                                                                                                                                                One is very small family owned Thai place that probably does more take out than sit down. During hockey season we eat there once a week, during the off season from sports we either eat or take out about once a month. They occasionally offer me a glass of wine when I am waiting to get our food and they occasionally bring our son a small treat at the end of the meal. Even nicer is the always remember our son and ask about his games.

                                                                                                                                                                                                The other is a high end place that we have dinner at *maybe* once or twice a quarter. More often we will meet friends at the bar for a few drinks/app. However we celebrate most special occasions there-anniversary, birthday, pre/post valentines day, etc.The bartenders know us and often pick up a drink or two. In turn I always offer them a glass of some of our better wines. When we are having dinner the manager often brings us a complimentary amuse bouche or plate of sweets with our coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I think the big difference is these are community places that are locally owned/managed. They don't have regional or district managers they have to answer to and therefore have more flexibility. None of what they give is overly expensive or extravagant and even though I know were not the only regulars I think the ROI they get in doing so pays for itself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Wow. I think that is very nice.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have never had that happen in west coast mid sized communities.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Do you attribute that to being a big tipper? Or by being a friendly regular?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't think the question of big tipper vs being a regular in terms of getting preferential treatment has an easy answer. How big are your tips? How often do you go there as a regular? etc. Then you have additional factors. Imagine a good-looking woman sitting in the bar and the bartenders thinks she is gorgeous. Could that result in a free drink? Seems like a possibility.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes! I think those things too. Sometimes when I read these threads, I think...jeez....I don't get all those perks!!!
                                                                                                                                                                                                      I tip at *least* 20 percent on the total (including booze and tax) I am a good looking woman but I don't sit at the bar by myself, I could go to a restaurant in my town 10 times and not be recognized due to turnover, I am always polite and friendly, not a PITA, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I get NOTHING! Lol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I am curious about all this turnover. Does the management turnover a lot too?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The places I noted we were regulars has very little turn over. The Thai place is all family run. Their older kids comes and go between college and they have the occasional help from extended family but there is always at least 2 faces we know who know us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The high end place has had the same management for 15+ years. Our favorite bartender has been there even longer. I would say at least a 1/4 of the servers are long timers too. The front of the house-(mainly the hostesses) seem to turn over the most. I can't think of a night we were there when there wasn't someone we knew or who knew us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Now the chains in our area seem to be a revolving door for young adult/college aged servers-DD, The 99, Joe's, etc. A friend of mine's son works for NYAJ's and has had 3 managers in 6 months. They either leave or get transferred to another location. But these are places we rarely go.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think there are enormous differences in turnover between a tiny family-owned place where pretty much everyone who works there is part of the family and larger places. The turnover in the restaurant business is usually pretty extreme. There are some larger places in SF where every waiter seems to have been around forever, but that's not necessarily the norm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Our area must be very unique then. The 4 or 5 larger, more profitable, "better" locally owned places hold onto to their management and key staff members for a long time as I noted. It's the chains that can't seem to at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Well, one small vietnamese place, that I might be considered a regular there, just opened another satellite restaurant. The staff that was just getting to know me...all left for the new place ( where I won't go)! Uggghh. I really liked the woman that was the DIL too!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Even though some places are family owned, if you come on different days and times, the chances of getting the same people are slim.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't eat at chains much.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                          nocharge: my dining habits are similar to yours. i dine out AT LEAST five meals a week and i have a regular rotation of restaurants that get the bulk of my business.

                                                                                                                                                                                          i agree with you that, at least in my experience, there is a tremendous benefit to being a regular. when restaurant management and staff know that they can rely on you to be a "good" customer in every sense of the word, you tend to be treated extremely well.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                            Yeah. Usually...

                                                                                                                                                                                            Completely sucks when the staff switches out though.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Sadly, this happened recently at my beloved Bäco Mercat. I had waiters who asked me if I am from out of town...and I've been regularly dining at the place since it opened...sucks.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                              How interesting.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I've been going to Baco Mercat for several years, I've been very recently, and I've never had a problem with people not knowing me. As a matter of fact there're several who greet and welcome me.
                                                                                                                                                                                              The entire staff hasn't switched out all at once so I have no idea why they'd ask you that.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                for the most part,
                                                                                                                                                                                                the restaurants at which i am a regular place me in the stations of long-standing servers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                probably lots of reasons for that such as:

                                                                                                                                                                                                1) the management doesn't want to risk a "regular" getting sub-par service from a beginner who is just getting up to speed

                                                                                                                                                                                                2) the long-standing servers know how to please me and therefore i am easier to serve than someone who is an unknown.

                                                                                                                                                                                                also, fwiw, when i've watched new bartenders being trained in my "regular" favorite bar, when a regular walks in the door, the experienced bartender immediately tells the trainee the name of the patron and what the patron likes to drink. this is considered PART OF TRAINING. no bartender starts by themselves before they know at least a good portion of the "regular customer" names and/or drink preferences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                                  A restaurant I used to work at, 20ish years ago had a folio for many, many of the regulars that visited our restaurant, detailing their preferences, frequency of dining, etc. (This was before Open Table) It was part of training to learn all of these, and the staff was regularly tested on it's content, alongside food and wine questions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: plaidbowtie

                                                                                                                                                                                                    The current reservations systems still keep track of that these days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                                                                      ....and probably more so. The POS system will have details of how much you spend and even what you ordered. Its very easy to keep customer profiles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      But don't worry the restaurants never use this data, the waiters simply remember you are a high tipper and treat you nicely.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Restaurants are highly competitive multi-million dollar* investments and so no need to use technology and sophisticated marketing techniques.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      * And before people say how absurd this number is think about the investment in leases, fit out and stock a lot of places make including the independent sector.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                        it doesn't matter if they "remember you" with or without a system.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        the fact is, the management and staff know your tendencies whenever you return.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                                          ....and your spending pattern. So are regulars looked after well because of their spend pattern or because they tip well...?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                          for those of us who like dining and drinking at a bar, the whole "reservation" issue/pos/folio is completely irrelevant.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          most bars, don't take reservations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          none of the bars that i frequent take reservations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          also, if i'm dining alone and eating at a bar, often i don't pay with a credit card. unless the bartender/server already knew me, relying on a pos system would not be at all workable.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. Some people are always looking for an excuse to be cheap. This is yours.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                                                                                                                                    I think it is a legitimate question worthy of discussion, and not an excuse to be cheap, which I find to be jumping to an absurd conclusion.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                                                                                                      Sure, let's discuss it. But I never see a tipping thread about tipping *more* than the norm. It's always 'I disapprove of the tipping system, so can I tip less?' "I work for a non-profit, can I tip less?" 'My cat is sick, can I tip less?' Now, 'Can I tip less because servers are getting a low hourly wage instead of near-slave labor wage?' The answer is always Yes. "Without being seen as cheap?" Nope.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. What I find really interesting about all the griping these kinds of stories provoke, about how presumably we're all getting fleeced by these greedy waiters, is that the same people bothered by this seem to have no problem with all the ways their tax dollars go to subsidize all kinds of industries with billions of dollars in earnings. I'm more bothered by Exxon/Mobil's tax breaks than a server possibly making an extra few bucks an hour (which they will spend and put back into the economy, benefiting everyone).

                                                                                                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh trust me, I realize that most waiters who wait on me are not getting rich doing so.....

                                                                                                                                                                                      And yes, it does bother me that many industries are subsidized by my tax $.... But you know what bothers me even more? The fact that the government continues to flush my $ down the toilet studying the sex habits of ducks, et al....and has the unmitigated gall to continue every year to ask me for more.....

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                          Science is valuable and unpredictable.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I heard Neil deGrasse Tyson put it very well. If you took the best oven engineer in the world in the 1940s, and gave them unlimited funds to build the most efficient oven possible, he might make something like a convection oven, but you wouldn't get the microwave, because the microwave came out of telecommunications research.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Scientific research is valuable, and experiments are done for very good reasons. Before criticizing studies based on hyperbolic headlines written by lazy, scientifically-illiterate journalists, I suggest the next time you see a story about publicly-funded science that sounds kooky, do a little digging on your own. I'm sure you'll find the truth to be much more boring than the headline implies.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes I'm aware of that as my father was a renowned scientist in his field ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                                                                          Uh...you're on Chowhound man. This isn't exactly a place to discuss oil/gas tax breaks...

                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm vehemently against those subsidies as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                            IMO if people really cared about those things they would have no problem at all with the amount they pay in tips to servers. It's just a way of kicking people who are low on the economic totem pole.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                                                                              But Josh are they as low on the economic totem pole as you think? This is a thread about high end restaurants, upthread a few people have shared that with tips waiters can be earning more than $100K a year.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                                                                                Waiters making 70+k/year are on the low end of the economic totem pole?

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                  What totem pole are we talking about? Making $70K per year will go further in some parts of the country than others. But in most parts, it would be way more than just making minimum wage. Way more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yeah, in Manhattan I guess you're SOL...

                                                                                                                                                                                                    But generally, seems to me like a lot of people make a good deal less than that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    And the waiters I know making approximately that in LA live pretty nicely.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you live in an expensive city then $70k isn't even middle class. Given our pathetic level of social services that $70k not only has to buy rent and food, but also health care (most expensive in the industrialized world). And good luck saving any money for a rainy day on that amount of money in a city like SF.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    And why should we be bothered if our tips allow a server a decent income for a few years? How petty and mean are we? A life on your feet isn't something people will be able to manage until retirement age without significant health ramifications.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    IMO our entire society is mired in antiquated thinking thanks to the bogus narrative we've been sold by the aristocracy that doesn't want people talking about economic fairness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                                                                                      <bogus narrative we've been sold by the aristocracy that doesn't want people talking about economic fairness>

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Very basic…

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I live in a very expensive city/state. Our taxes are high, some of the highest in the nation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      All I care about, in the long run, is having roads/freeways smooth enough(they're a disaster) so my tires aren't blown, daily, from the potholes these tax dollars are supposed to be used for to keep repaired. Infrastructure is basic and what we're, as citizens, guaranteed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's not happening.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Although I find it unfair and irritating, I would NEVER not think of tipping the person who's working their ass off for me so my meal can be calm and uneventful, making sure my needs are met. The question is…what kind of character has the need to try and convince others that the person doing this is doing it for anything other than generosity?

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. People can always find a reason to not tip waiters. The waiter minimum wage used to be lower than the overall minimum wage, and waiters would often never make it up in tips. Either way, a lot if people just don't like to tip or have extremely high bars for waiters to be able to earn those tips.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I live in WA state where, I believe, the wait staff is paid minimum wage. I still tip at least 20%.

                                                                                                                                                                                                The way I look at it is min wage is still not a living wage. If the wait staff is proving good service I'll tip accordingly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, in WA the state minimum wage is $9.32, a heck of a lot more than the $3 an hour tipped employees may make in other states, but not exactly a living wage on its own. If the minimum wage goes up to $15 and there is still no tips-as-wages exemption, will you still tip at least 20%? Even if menu prices have to go up to cover fixed labor cost? How would you feel about the restaurant adding a service charge to offset their labor cost? If we knew that everyone was making a living from minimum wage plus their cut of service charge, could we do away with tipping?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Replied to you, Dave, because you are in WA, but others are welcome to comment. I think if the $15 minimum passes, we are really going to have to re-think restaurants and tipping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I can't remember a time where restaurant servers were involved in the industry for the wages they received, alone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Every single server I've known (this goes back a long long time ago), including me, was in it for the tips.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    We'd scope out the restaurant that was known for the best tipping and get hired there.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    The harder we worked, the best service we could give to our customers, rewarded us with great tips, overall.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's a great industry to earn money and even if I knew the waitstaff was making OVER the minimum wage I'd tip the way I tip: BIG for great service.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Well, one thing is for sure. In this economy, if minimum is mandated to be $15 an hour, we will see massive layoffs in the areas where young people and unskilled immigrants start off, like fast food jobs, and just like with the advent of ATMs, we will be ordering our food with computers and technology.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. These tipping threads are hilarious. Just wondering how much work are you guys making these waitstaff do when your tipping 20+%?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    We usually have two servers a food server and a drink server. If your not ordering drinks. The waiter takes your order,brings the food, hopefully comes back once and asks how it is (usually after two bites when people don't really know yet and all have there mouth full so just smile and nod) and thats it, so you see them twice during visit maybe three times. This is worth 20% of my bill or even 15%? or am I asking less service then most people are? in a tapas restaurant of course totally different. or if your making the server run back and forth with drinks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    By the sounds of it I make a lot less money then a lot of people here and I work hard. Im not giving it up for someone who isn't doing any hard work for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Its a hard call for me leaving a tip if the service was great and food was horrible or vice versa. Of course tip is always more for great service. when the food great but the service shit, I feel bad leaving a lower tip as I feel the tip also reflects the hard work of the cook which really matters to be 100% more then the service. and also feel bad for paying higher for service when I'm really pissed that the food was shitty and don't want them to think I tipped because I liked the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    22 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: daislander

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sometimes I forget that around 80% of chowhound users are millionaires with a LOT of excess cash.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I guess it's nice that they are all so free with their money as opposed to stingy. But it does muddle discussions like this a bit when people have almost zero relation to money they are giving out beyond, "I know the Plebeians appreciate money! I just adore giving it out when they serve me well!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thats sure what it reads like in some of the other threads!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        There are some very opposite people here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I wonder what the ratio of people who cook to eat out every meal is on here. Both consider themselves 'chowhounds'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I also wonder how a non cook 'chowhound' values a restaurant meal compared to a home cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: daislander

                                                                                                                                                                                                          <Both consider themselves 'chow hounds'>

                                                                                                                                                                                                          What does eating out or eating in, and cooking, have anything to do with one's financial status?
                                                                                                                                                                                                          That makes no sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: daislander

                                                                                                                                                                                                            BacoMan, regardless whether there is any consensus when this thread goes cold or whether any Chowhounders' opinions change, I have to say that it has been very educational and thought-provoking for me to read this discussion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thank you for raising the question.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            But, to answer your question, I tip 15% at full-service restaurants, usually, although I have tipped more or less on occasion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: daislander

                                                                                                                                                                                                              daislander: i'm not sure that the categories you about which you are speculating can really even be delineated in real life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              i can't even figure out where i would fit in.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1) i eat out at least 5 meals a week
                                                                                                                                                                                                              2) i was a personal chef for many years
                                                                                                                                                                                                              3) i WILL cook for larger groups, but not for one person.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              4) i have the skill to cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              what are you thinking about?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                "2) i was a personal chef for many years"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I always wonder if someones position on tipping is influenced by being inside the industry. Those that work(ed) as servers/chefs often appear to argue strongly for generous tips.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I am not calling anyone out, but I have noticed it in other threads on tipping especially when people ask about tipping habits in other countries. I remember the classic on tipping in Australia (a no.low tipping culture) when a poster argued very strongly that everyone tipped at least 10% and he knew because as a waiter everyone tipped him at least 10%.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My experience is that people who are in the restaurant industry tend to be good tippers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, we are because we know the amount of work, sweat & sometimes blood go into those jobs in the back of the house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        One of life's greatest pleasures to me is being served by a certain middle aged male waiter at one of my favorite restaurants on the California coast. This man is dignified, graceful, elegant, articulate, fast ,attentive and sharp as tacks. People love him and I suspect he is wealthy because people tip him well:)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yep. Just like most professions, you can be successful and earn a good living by being the best at your job.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Earn money through hard work and perseverance?! What is this radical new idea you speak of DirtyWEO? It's crazy talk!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I know.... They let me out of the asylum not that long ago...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        PhilD: as a personal chef i was not tipped.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        my financial arrangement with my customers was an explicit deal that was negotiated up front.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        if i didn't think that the amount that a customer would COMMIT to paying me UP FRONT was adequate, they could hire someone else or cook the meals themselves.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i was my own boss and i could walk away from ANY customer or reject ANY customer for ANY reason.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        disagree that my having been a personal chef affects me the way that you speculate it does.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    yeah, same with the folks who never worry about picking up a check for the whole table. Time after time. I'm what's considered "affluent" but there's no way I can conceive of that. People who say that any consideration for how to divide up a check is being "petty" probably have more money than the average bear.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Or they're European. I don't really get it, but...all of my European friends do that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I guess most of my European friends have more money than the average bear, too though. =/

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      <80% of chow hound users are millionaires with a LOT of excess cash>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ha. Where'd you pull that one out from? The same place you found all your data for this discussion?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There's no conceivable way you'd know the stats on that subject with any legitimacy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ah yes, just a blind man could have no conceivable way of knowing he is in danger when crossing the street.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You're too funny!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          <just a blind man>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You said it, not me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But, in all seriousness, where'd you hear/see/read/experience the 80% stat?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'd love to learn about that. You seem to have the facts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Facts smacts latindancer! So much more fun just to make stuff up!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This thread has made me realize that I am being ripped off by tipping so much here in California. From now on unless I receive perfect,gracious and entertaining one on one service I am reducing my tips!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks for chuckles, BacoMan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm a generally 20% after tax, after drinks including bottles tipper with a fluctuating level of disposable income over the years (I hate to qualify this comment with that statement, but the assumption is often made that people who say what I'm about to say are cheap, stingy, lacking empathy and uncaring about those less fortunate...), and I still ponder the kinds of questions posed by the OP. Although I participate in the system because I find it my most conscionable option at the moment, I find inherent inequity and indignity in the tipping system.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As much as I encounter it on tipping threads, I shouldn't be, but I am always surprised by how many of us assume a fairly lofty moral highground based on our tipping habits.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. I've been following this discussion and I think the question is valid, but my personal behavior is that we tip 20% regardless unless something is really unusual one way or the other. I really don't want to try to figure out these state-to-state details, and figure in relative cost of living, etc. But it does point out the basic ridiculousness of the system here, where tipping is generally supposed to be the primary income of servers, even when states impose different regulations on it. I would welcome a change to a living wage for all, and we get rid of the tipping system entirely. Especially as tipping as migrated north from 15% considered "typical" to 20% considered "typical" and 15% now "cheap". What's next? Is this an arms race with "good tippers" running the show with the rest of us feeling like we need to play along to not be considered cheap?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "What's next? Is this an arms race with "good tippers" running the show with the rest of us feeling like we need to play along to not be considered cheap?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My take is that the vast majority of diners are absolutely clueless about how to game the tipping system to get preferential service. They will go out to restaurants, tip 15, 18, or 20 percent and get perfectly adequate service. They will then argue like village idiots on the internet about whether 15, 18, or 20 percent is the right percentage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We know how to game it. Be nice, friendly, chat and joke with the servers, occasionally share some wine with them, treat them as professionals and give them lots of respects.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We then tip normally - whatever that norm is (and as I don't live in the US I do as I am told when there). We usually get fantastic service, we get comped items and little extras.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Its not only money that makes the world go around.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I totally agree. There are many factors. Many, many years ago I was at a casino in Las Vegas playing blackjack. It was obvious that the dealer had the hand skills to make any hand go any way he wanted. It was pretty obvious that he could deal seconds (or whatever) in his sleep. As I sat down, there was a couple leaving muttering about having been cleaned out in a time period that would be statistically highly improbably for blackjack. However, when I was there. there were two guys at the table that were extremely social and fun. Especially one of the guys who kept cracking jokes and impersonating famous people. Everyone at the table was having fun, not least the dealer. Guess what: The dealer busted with a much higher frequency than you would statistically expect, much to the benefit of everyone at the table including myself. So we probably got the money from some people that the dealer hadn't cared for and from a casino standpoint, the revenue from that dealer would look normal. He probably screwed some people while awarding others, but it would average out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That explains why I always win at blackjack.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm just such a nice guy and joke teller that the dealer keeps letting me win.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've been able to quit my job, earn a living as a blackjack player and spend all my winnings eating great food, leave large tips, and pick up tabs for my friends..:)