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Should Service Charge Replace Tips at Restaurants?

copleys, flickr

Although tipping is a standard part of going out to eat, The Week reports that there’s growing support in the restaurant industry for doing away with the practice and replacing it with a standard service charge.

The conventional belief about tipping is that it motivates the wait staff to give better service. But a Cornell University study found instead that patrons don’t adjust their tips according to service, but instead tip out of habit, giving whatever percentage they usually do no matter how good or bad the service is.

Former San Diego restaurant owner Jay Porter wrote in Slate that eliminating tips actually makes it easier to provide good service, since cooks, who make similar base wages as the wait staff, will get a cut of the service charge money, while they don’t get anything from tips. He says implementing a service charge at his restaurant led to the food improving.

“Probably because our cooks were being paid more and didn’t feel taken for granted,” Porter said.

Service charge proponents also say it’s better for the wait staff, since they’d be paid a better wage without having to hope for a busy night.

Although there are some restaurants that do have a service charge instead of tips, customers tend to get upset about it, often seeing the extra charge but not making the connection that they’re saving on the tip, and also feeling like their power to reward or punish the server has been taken away.

How would you react if the next time you went to a restaurant and there was a service charge tacked on?

Take it a step further. You had great food and great service, and there was a service charge tacked on your bill that was less than the ‘normal’ 15-20 percent you would typically tip. Would you feel like you’d still want to leave a little something extra for the effort? Would you be offended that the gratuity was ‘assumed’?

I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a bad server in a restaurant, so I’m not too concerned about being ‘taken advantage of’ by a server who knows the gratuity is built in so they don’t have to put as much effort forth. And I agree with the findings of food quality likely increasing because of a happier kitchen staff.

What are your thoughts?

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