I recently went out for dinner with friends and was disturbed to find an automatic gratuity had been processed on my bill before it was presented to me.
Let me preface any further comments by clarifying two things:
- I have no problem with restaurants that charge an auto-grat on larger tables, especially when they tell you so at the time you make your reservations. Then at least, if you have a problem with that, you can make a conscious decision to book elsewhere. Fair enough.
- I would quite objectively describe myself as a generous tipper. I believe in rewarding good service, and that’s really the basis of my whole argument against automatic gratuities.
I understand that restaurant and bar servers often make minimum wage or close to it. Granted, in a Hotel restaurant or bar you can generally assume that the wage rate (in Canada anyway) is considerably higher, as Hotels tend to pay higher wages than free-standing restaurants or bars.
And, I understand, and support the fact, that for servers, their real opportunity is in gratuities, which has at least something to do with why I am a “generous” tipper.
However, and here comes the catch, while I am more than happy to reward good service, I also want the choice NOT to reward bad service.
I feel so strongly about this that there have been times when I have tipped the bus person and specifically advised the Manager that was where my money was going, or, I have asked a server about their tip out policy, because I have wanted to reward the server, but NOT the kitchen, as I was aware that the server was doing everything in their power to overcome bad food coming out of the kitchen.
And yes, I know, not everyone gets as involved as I do in the gratuity situation, and yes, I know there are people out there who stiff servers all the time, but I still believe that those are the exceptions to the rule.
Furthermore, if we introduce automatic gratuities into all restaurants and bars, where is the incentive to give good service? It’s gone.
And I would argue, and have argued, with servers, that they have the opportunity to make MORE money without the automatic gratuity policy, where people like me willingly pay higher than the customary 15% for good service. But, on the flip side, I don’t look at a bill that has an automatic gratuity posted and ask myself whether an additional gratuity is warranted. Someone has made that decision for me.
So, for me at least, auto-grat, I think not.
Instead, promote an environment of exceptional service and encourage your staff to earn their gratuities by being exceptional, each and every time they serve a table.