Claims that some restaurants and groups keep service charges that diners believe are shared among the waiting staff have sparked calls for changes in the practice of tipping.

Under fire in the media has been French chain Cote, who refute the claims, but the row has focused attention on tipping. On the one hand are those who say that the waiting staff are underpaid by their employers for what they do and rely on the generosity of restaurant customers to make up their wages with tax-free cash tips. Others say that the restaurants should pay their staff better and not rely on them being compensated for their employer’s meanness by their customers.

Food guide publishers Hardens are campaigning to ditch tipping on the grounds that us Brits really hate tipping but put up with it, that it is not the practice across Europe and that some restaurants profitably exploit the confusion by filling in credit card slips with a service charge added but the total left blank to encourage diners to add more, as well as imposing “optional” service charges that are anything but.

Meanwhile some pragmatic diners have found that telling waiting staff “knock the service charge off the bill and I’ll give you a cash tip instead” produces agreeable results.


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