An acceptable tipPublished 10:22pm Friday, February 1, 2013
This week, a video went viral when a pastor in Alabama left her parties’ check on the restaurant table, having written a note on it that expressed her displeasure at being charged an automatic 18 percent tip for her party of 10. It’s no rarity — many restaurants automatically add a tip to checks for parties of six or more.
The note said, “I give God 10 percent. Why should you get 18?”
Why? Well, wait staff, and this means employees of a restaurant who take your order and bring your food to your table, are almost all paid substantially less per hour than minimum wage.
This applies in North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Department of Labor website, the minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25, but employers who have “tipped employees” are permitted to take a credit for a certain amount of tips earned by their employees, and count those tips as wages. This means a member of the wait staff at your favorite restaurant can very likely make only $2.13 per hour without tips.
It is also pretty common practice in the restaurant business to pool tips, which are split between employees on the shift, or have to share tips with bus staff, kitchen staff and/or hosts.
Food and service tips should be calculated on the pre-tax total of the bill. Standard tips do fluctuate depending on the type of dining experience: at a bar or counter where service isn’t such a big part of the meal, a 10 to 12 percent tip is acceptable; at a sit-down restaurant, 15 to 20 percent is the norm; large parties should expect to pay at least 20 percent. And the reason this should be the standard is because the person serving you is relying on tips for their income.
The pastor who questioned the restaurant’s right to include a tip later said she left $6 cash on the table (a reasonable tip on the $36.43 bill). Unfortunately, the impression she left behind was less generous.