Tipping: make it personal

Tipping: make it personal

A plate with change and bank cards on it

Tipping can be something of a minefield in hospitality, due to the number of questions it can churn up amongst guests. Should they pay by cash or card? Has the server already added a gratuity? Will the tip go to their particular server? What percentage should they leave?

In fact, some restaurant chains in the US are trying to do away with the tradition of tipping in favour of paying front of house staff higher wages instead. Half of Danny Meyer's Union Square group restaurants have transitioned to 'hospitality included' in an attempt to offer benefits to non-service staff as well as those who work up front.

Yet, some in the industry believe the ritual of tipping in the UK marks a personal interaction – an optional way of expressing gratitude and signalling to your server that they have done a good job. In fact, a straw poll around the HGEM office revealed a significant majority in favour of retaining tipping, with average tips given by our staff ranging from 10-20%. Interestingly, it was those with the most front-of-house experience before joining the business that proved the most generous tippers.

Our research has also demonstrated that the British public like to tip. In a poll, 70% of respondents told us they leave a tip 'most of the time'. Additionally, when guests tip with cash, 56% feel confident that the money they leave goes to the individuals who served them; this confidence drops to 11% when they pay by card.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to tarnish a positive guest experience right at the tipping point. By adding on gratuities automatically, some guests feel that the personal touch is lost. Due to negative headlines last year on the subject of chains using tips to bump up the basic rate of staff pay, some operators have returned to the more traditional policy, where the tips get paid in full to the server that earned them.

What's clear for guests who want to tip is that the element of choice is essential. Additionally, acknowledging an enjoyable personal interaction with the confidence that any money they leave will go to the server that has impressed them, is equally important for a positive tipping experience.

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