Is Tipping a Requirement or a Courtesy?

The tipping point: How much should you leave?

As a begrudging waitress for the past four years of my life, I have come to realise how penny-pinching the public really are. It never fails to surprise me how seldom a customer leaves a 10% tip, and to be honest it’s quite shocking how many leave nothing at all. Working in service can be reasonably soul-destroying at the best of times, let alone underpaid. It’s particularly demoralising is when you’ve spent time and effort striving to do a good job and the party you’ve paid extra attention to stroll away leaving nothing behind them but a haughty signature to remind you to add the bill to their members account.

After your fourth 11 hour shift in a row serving self-important men in pink Ralph Lauren polo jumpers, it becomes harder and harder to be concerned about whether the red wine drips onto the table cloth or not.

You could try and argue that perhaps I’m a terrible waitress, but I think that’s beside the point. I was brought up to believe that tipping the waiters is common decency when you’re eating out, and I can’t imagine that I’m the only one. The general rule everyone has heard is that you leave 10%. This can sometimes seem like a lot, especially when 8 of you manage to rack up a £300 bill because the wine flowed a little too well.

I’m not a huge believer in specifying the concrete percentage that is “right”, but I do think that if you’ve gone to a restaurant and expected another person to wait on you by bringing you food and, most importantly, cleaning up after you, it’s simply good manners to leave them a token for their trouble. Otherwise, you come across as miserable to your friends and to be honest just plain rude.

Or do you?

As a waitress myself, I’m completely biased. I can’t eat in a restaurant without checking if I have a reasonable amount of spare change in my purse. I even tip at Yo! Sushi, which must be the eatery involving the least waiter-ing on the staff’s part ever. However, would I be so quick to appreciate the labour of the employees if I’d never been in that position myself? It’s hard to say, and I must admit it can certainly sting when you fork out for a friend’s birthday meal when money is a bit tight, and you have to dig deep in your pockets to show gratitude to the waiters too, when it is their job after all.

Speaking for myself, and most people I’ve worked with in the service industry, whether it’s 10% or 2%, anything as little as 50 pence is appreciated. Everyone has a different boundary for how much they are willing to leave, and that’s okay. I understand that some people value the restaurant experience more than others (and are willing to show their appreciation in cash more too), but as my Grandma always told me, it’s the thought that counts.

A word of advice next time you eat out: why not leave a little silver under your plate when you leave? Regardless of amount, you might just find the service is that little bit better the next time you visit. There’s a thin line between tipping and bribery, but us waiters just about stay on the honest side.

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