Is Tipping Out of Control?

Drama isn’t just for celebrity chefs and high-pressure kitchens. Front-of-restaurant controversies can also come into play in the restaurant business.

A recent article published by Business Insider asks the question, “Is Tipping Out of Control?” The author, Lance Cothern, evidently believes that to be the case. His “rant,” as he calls it, began to gather steam after a night at a favorite restaurant on the beach, where Cothern says prices – and the tips that are based on a percentage of the check’s total – are admittedly higher on average. Which he expected.

The real shock, he says, came when he saw what was printed at the bottom of the bill. Many restaurants print suggested tip amounts (based on percentages – typically 15%, 18% and 20%) at directly on their checks. As Cothern observes, “In my mind, I feel I should tip 15% if service is average, 18% if service is great, and 20% if I didn’t have to think or ask about anything, such as needing a refill because my glass was empty. 15% for just doing the basics of your job seems pretty fair to me. After all, I’ve been a server before and know that some people tip even less than that!”

On the occasion of his beachfront repast, however, Cothern noticed something different on his bill. The tips suggestions were classified as Good, Great and Excellent...with no percentage amounts listed for any category. After doing some quick calculations, he found that Good was 18%, Great was 20% and Excellent topped out at 22%. Cothern wound up tipping slightly less than 18%.

However, he asks, “Why do servers think they deserve tips in excess of 20%?” He then goes on to say that servers seem to think they deserve more money because the cost of most things continues to go up. But, he argues, servers actually are getting more money because restaurant meals are one of those things that continue to increase in price.

Cothern’s tip for servers who want more tips: “Do you genuinely like serving? That’s great! Keep with it, just find a way to increase the amount of your tables’ checks by selling them more food. That way, your 20% will be worth even more!”

Especially when the server’s skills qualify him or her to work at an even better (and more expensive) restaurant.