I would suggest that restaurants that primarily cater to Europeans automatically apply a gratuity charge of 15-20%...most are used to that approach...
Chris Mee - email@example.com
We are a very small restaurant in a very busy tourist town. Because a group reservation can affect an entire evening (in so many ways), we now have an automatic service charge of 15% for parties of six or more (lunch or evening). So far, no complaints. This is actually a custom we saw everywhere in Los Angeles. Everywhere we traveled in Europe, there was generally a 15% service charge added to the bill. I'm surprised to discover that it's not expected in England. I find this hard to believe, considering the servers I've spoken to that have worked there. I understand that waiting tables is a respectable career in Europe, unfortunately less so in North America. Therefore, I would expect that Euro customers, if none other, would be compelled to leave an appropriate gratuity.
All your responses, on the subject of tipping, merely demonstrate the total confusion all round and the resentment that it can cause to all parties concerned.
How much better the situation in France, where there is now no tipping, and there are no service charges. Most restaurants show an all inclusive menu - with a choice of dishes and very often wine included - ranging from the cheap to the expensive.
You can plan easily what a meal will cost in advance, whilst professionalism and respect is the norm with the waiting staff - all that nonsense about arrogant French waiters is precisely that, nonsense! The whole process of eating out is simpler, far more straightforward, pleasurable and reasonable.
In Britain we have a muddle instead, with sometimes tipping the norm, a few places that are fully inclusive, and then, at the other end of the spectrum, restaurants that are adding on a service charge and still expecting the customer to tip.
The greatest disappointment though was in America, when I was visiting Captiva Island about a year and a half ago with my wife and four children. Twice we had a service charge of 18% added on to the bill, but with no warning in advance and no indication on the menu that this charge was going to be added - so under duress we paid, and never went back to either restaurant.
The best experience was in The Twilight Cafe, where not only was there no service charge added, but their staff were both delightful and helpful, and they were prepared to happily accommodate the wishes of our younger children for rather simpler food. We went there four times!
Richard, Earl of Bradford
I am responding to your question about tipping. I have worked for tips the last 10 years and I am currently a Director of Training. When I speak with new employees and I am often asked about tipping. Here is what I tell them...
That tip that the guest is leaving them may be the best tip they have ever left anyone. So often we fall back on the excuse that servers are paid less them minimum wage and it is expected that guests leave at least 15% tip. Times have changed and guests expect "great food, great drinks, great service and a clean restaurant". I think if you have these components your servers will be able to obtain their desired tip.
If servers are being "punished" for events beyond their control, then they should learn better communication skills. I wait tables in an upscale dining room in downtown San Diego and I have found that communication and honesty will overpower the worst mistake. If I make a mistake, I admit the wrongdoing, "I apoligize for the delay with your entrees, I fired them a tad late, but I just checked with the chef, and they will be out in just a couple of minutes". Maybe the bar is backed up, "Your cocktails will be ready in just a moment, may I answer any questions for you about the menu?" This is SERVICE people. It is our responsibility as servers to right the wrong, to HANDLE the problem. When glitches in the system threaten the dining experience, the server should be person who can handle the situation with grace and a professional manner. Servers- if you are not getting tipped, it's your own fault, get a clue or get out of this business.
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