Q What is the appropriate amount to tip? I realise that tipping has never been much of a norm in Australia, but for some reason I still feel obliged to tip at high-end restaurants, and I’m very conscious of the etiquette. I simply don’t know what the proper amount is, if any. In times of global financial crisis, the problem becomes more difficult, as I feel more constrained.
I suppose my question is, what is the tipping etiquette in general, and has it been modified by GFC?
A The short answer is modify your tipping to suite your financial situation.
While Australia isn’t the same as the US where a 15% tip is expected on every ocassion it is, like in the UK, customary to tip 10% for very good service. In London many restaurants add 10% service to the bill regardless. And over there I was quite within my rights to refuse to pay these surcharges if I felt the service wasn’t up to it.
I haven’t seen this practice in Australia – yet.
The interesting thing is that while the economy boomed and good restaurant staff were hard to find, the quality of food and service in many restaurants suffured yet staff still expected tips, which is built-in as part of their pay. Waiters at the very top can earn $100,000+ a year with tips.
Now the recession is upon us the opposite is happening. Staff shortages are a thing of the past and the quality of food and service should improve thus increasing the incentive to tip.
The only rule you should apply is: has the service been good enough – been that special – to deserve a gratuity? If it has pay 10%. If you are in any way dissatisfied then don’t.
But if times are that tough that the tip, um, tips the equation towards staying at home then I would enjoy my meal and tip what you can afford if anything. I wouldn’t be embarrassed about not tipping and know of one Methodist critic who simply refuses to do so.
In the current climate with recent closures such as Seagrass on Southbank and others sure to follow, I’m sure staff and owners will welcome your custom, tip or no tip.
I’d just like to add that one of the difficult things about tipping is that you are never sure who gets the cash. Some restaurants split it among all staff depending on seniority with a portion going to the kitchen. In some restaurants the owners take their cut too. What you pay may not end up in the hands of the person you want it to.
One option if you are drinking particularly fine wine and would like to reward the sommelier – leave a decent amount for him/her drink later.
Anyone else any thoughts? Who’s tips and doesn’t tip? Anybody go up to 15% or 20% for really exceptional service?