Should I Tip on Top of Service Charge?

Despite a code of best practise for tipping being introduced by the Government in 2009, there is still a lot of confusion regarding how much to tip and who the tip goes to. 

Due to this confusion customers are often unsure about whether or not the tip they leave will go directly to the staff or get somewhat diluted via the establishment. This, understandably, can lead to less generous tips being left, which isn't fair on the staff. 

According to Caterer magazine, the average amount of money taken home by a front-of-house staff member at a restaurant is £19.50, which may seem like a fairly nice supplement, but in fact Is often below the average of what has been left in the establishment as means of a gratuity. 

So, let's take a look at service charges to see what they are and if they are discretionary or mandatory. Service charges are described as an amount added to your bill before it is given to you. It's often a fixed percentage of the bill ranging from 10-15%. However, what many people do not realise is that you can ask for it to be taken off as it is not a mandatory requirement. There is not even a legal requirement for an establishment to pass any or all of this over to the waiting staff. So, whilst you may think you are leaving the staff member a nice tip at the end of you meal, you may in fact be tipping them nothing, whilst providing the establishment with further income. 

This however isn't necessarily the case in all restaurants, but it's worth asking to be sure of who benefits. 

A tip and gratuity however, is a voluntary payment to a staff member for the service you received. Tips are often paid for in cash and go direct to the staff whereas gratuities are often paid for via card and go to the establishment. This is one way to ensure that you are paying the staff member directly. 

Therefore, paying a service charge is not necessarily benefitting the staff member whatsoever, meaning many staff members do not get the extra income they deserve. To be sure that you are tipping the staff member directly, leave cash behind for them to keep or share with other staff members (depending on their policy) and feel free to ask for the service charge to be removed if you do not feel your experience justifies both. 

Julius Goldthorpe