Do You Tip at Non-Sit-Down Restaurants?

I’ve noticed a growing trend in the world of eating out, specifically for restaurants like:

  • take-out joints for lunches
  • smoothie shops
  • ice cream parlors
  • sandwich shops
  • pizza places (non-delivery)

For years, these take-out establishments have been content with setting their prices to cover their expenses and make a healthy profit. Somewhere along the line, a genius business person came up with the idea that putting a tip line on the receipt and forcing people to sign for the transaction might boost profits!

From a business point of view, this is brilliant. Just about anything collected on a tip is pure profit and:

  • Having a tip line on a receipt makes it feel like a tip is expected and customary, increasing the likelihood that one will be left.
  • A 20% tip on a $7 lunch bill is about $1.50, but people feel stingy leaving that kind of tip, so they leave $3 or $4 instead (blowing up the tip to almost 50%!)

Why I don’t tip here

In my opinion, a tip is something asked for and received when a service is performed—in the case of restaurants, that’s the act of cooking, serving, busing, seating, etc. But one can also make the case that a lot of those things are happening when we visit some of these smaller joints.

I base my decision on the simple fact that these places have never before asked for tips. That leads me to believe that this is nothing but a move to increase per-check totals and boost revenue, not a genuine move to “reward” the service of employees.

In addition, most of these places have cash tips jars sitting on the counter already, and both generous regulars and off-hand visitors do a fair job of making their happiness known.

The other side of the story

On the other hand, I’ve been considering the employee implications of my decision lately. Legally speaking, if the “restaurant” asks for tips, is it no longer obligated to pay their employees minimum wage? (You might recall that minimum wage for tip-based workers is much lower.) If that’s the case:

  • my refusal is eating into employee’s paychecks, and
  • it’s stopping making restaurant owners some serious money through a double-whammy: lower payroll costs and increased revenue.

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place—we don’t want our costs of living to go up, but we also want to be fair to the people who help us.

What’s your take?

Do you tip at these kinds of restaurants, and why or why not? Considering some of the reasons I’ve outlined, are you likely to change your mind? Is it customary and expected to tip there, and I’ve just missed the boat completely?

Photo by realSMILEY

Weigh In: Is a 10% Tip Acceptable?

On last week’s tips for calculating your restaurant tip, Carol writes in the comments:

Personally, I still think 10% is a good tip. A little more is nice if service is absolutely great. 20% may be a sign of the times when people wanted to look like big spenders for whatever reason.

What an interesting thought.

I commented back that I always thought anything less than 15% would be considered rude and indicative of poor service. But then again, I’ve only been eating out “in the real world” for the last 10 years or so.

Maybe my view of tipping is skewed by the recent years of prosperity. Maybe everyone’s view has become skewed.

But when someone’s main source of livelihood depends on how much you leave at the table, don’t you have an obligation to leave enough for good service?

The big question—what is enough? Have tips become “inflated?” Share your thoughts in the comments!

Photo by iwona_kellie