To tip or not to tip?


To tip or not to tip?


To tip or not to tip. It’s the age-old debate that has many layers and divides consumers and operators alike. Originally introduced as a sign of gratitude, tipping was an accolade for good service and whole-heartedly handed over by the customer. However, in a modern world where restaurants, coffee shops and hotels pop up on every corner, has the original idea behind tipping got lost in translation, and instead, led consumers to part with their money as a rite of passage? Having overheard a discussion in the office recently (with many different points of view) it got me thinking about the general tipping consensus within hospitality and how it compares to what consumers actually want.

“Do I have to pay 10%?” “But the service was just mediocre.” “They’ve already included a service charge, shall I still add a tip?” These are just some of the thoughts that cross most of our minds when eating out but, whilst as industry professionals we may have our own opinions on each of them, it’s the public we should be guided by. So are our perceptions based on truth, or simply culture stereotypes?

Service charge v. the tip

Having carried out research, we found that whilst 61% of consumers understand what the service charge covers, only 17% are happy for it to be automatically added to the bill. For those times when service has already been included, only 5% of consumers would consider adding a tip on top.

The service charge carries with it a raft of controversy, whether it’s customers thinking they’ve had to pay a double tip, or the embarrassment of asking whether the waiting staff will receive any of it. It can be intimidating and it takes a brave diner to ask for it to be removed. When it comes to giving up their own money, consumers should be in total control of when they give a tip; it’s not for the restaurant to decide what they should do.

The illusive 10%

So, for those consumers who do choose to tip, is there a standard percentage rule that they abide by? As a society, we seem to have put in place an unwritten rule that 10% seems fair – regardless of the total cost. But can operators bank on this always being the case? Our research has showed that, when eating out, 60% of consumers either always tip or will do it most of the time, 26% will sometimes leave a tip, whilst 12% will rarely leave one. Of these tippers, over half (55%) felt obliged to pay a minimum of 10%.

Whilst I agree with tipping when dining out, I struggle with the expectation of a certain percentage. If I choose to buy a decent bottle of wine, should I be expected to pay the same percentage as if I ordered a £20 bottle? Equally, if you’ve gone for a fillet steak over a sirloin, is the additional tip that comes with it fair? Tipping is a discretionary act that should be decided by the diner, based on the service that has been given; they shouldn’t be made to feel they ‘must’ hit the 10% as minimum.

Where does the tip go?

The ongoing conversation of where the tips go and the issue of front of house vs. back of house has always been one that I think is unfair. Your wait staff are only as good as the products coming out of the kitchen so it is important that everyone is recognised for their contribution and consumers are becoming ever more aware of this. Our research shows that 63% expect their tip to be shared evenly between front and back of house, however only 22% believe it makes its way to the right people.

Whilst I know there has been recent movements from operators in being more transparent with where their tips go, our findings show that more needs to be done to educate the consumer and help them feel more at ease. After all, trusting, loyal customers are key to any business’ success.

Back to Blog