We should always tip the waitstaff at restaurants


Ben Ridgeway

Let’s talk about tipping.  For the purpose of this discussion, let us suppose that a waiter or waitress works at a restaurant where individual meal orders average $12.75. 

If each customer provided a 20 percent tip, the waitperson would earn roughly $2.55 in tips on each individual meal order.  For a table of four, the total tip would be $10.20.

Let us imagine that the average waitperson served six tables ($61.20) an hour for eight hours a shift ($489.60). If this non-existent, fairytale waitperson were to work five days per week, he or she could earn $2,448 per week. If this waiter were to work fifty weeks of the year, the grand total would be $122,400 per year.

Of course, the majority of waitpersons don’t receive this much in tips —  as there are too many variables.

Not every day is a busy Friday or Saturday night, and not every customer brings three other dinner guests along when they go out to eat. Also, not everyone tips in the 15-20 percent range.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average waitperson will make $20,710 per year.

The word “tip” is actually an acronym for “to insure promptness.” So, tips are essentially bribes for faster service.  Is it necessarily a bad bribe? I wouldn’t say that it is.

My only complaint with the restaurant system is that waitpersons are paid on tip-wage basis that guarantees them a minimum wage of only $2.13 per hour.  This wage has not budged since 1991 when the regular minimum wage was $4.25 per hour.

It doesn’t make much sense to me that in 1991 tip wages were 50 percent of minimum wage.

Presently, waitpersons are paid 28 percent of the current minimum wage.  In 2014, the Restaurant Opportunities Center found that states that legally require restaurant owners to pay waitpersons higher hourly wages also found higher per capita restaurant sales.

Data from their report showed that when waitpersons are paid a higher wages, they stayed at their jobs longer, their productivity increased and they tended to spend more of their own money at the restaurant.

A frequent argument against raising hourly wages for waitpersons is that customers would grant smaller tips to the better compensated wait staff.  I disagree with this point of view. 

Within our culture when people receive a service, it is widely considered common courtesy to tip.

Tipping is a voluntary, rather arbitrary custom that is not particularly tied to good service. 

Studies have shown that waitpersons receive more tips when they touch a customer’s arm or draw something cute (a sun or smiley face) on the check. Tipping also increases when waitpersons wear red.

Of course, there are customers who do not tip within the current tip-wage system. 

Some customers chose not to tip because they want to send a message to their waitperson that their service quality was lacking. 

On this point, I agree with the comment of a waiter who was interviewed by Huffpost Business. He remarked, “If you had a bad experience, say something to your waiter, say it to a manager, but don’t say it with your money.”  I agree with him.

Not tipping conveys nothing constructive to the waitperson.  It only serves to make you, the customer, appear cheap. When you receive a service, tip 15 to 20 percent. 

Directly address complaints and compliments regarding your dining experience with the waitperson or manager.

Add them to your tip, but never subtract the tip.

A tip is a gratuity, so be gracious and grateful. After all, you can afford to eat where you are offered table service.