Why We Shouldn't Tip Waiting Staff In The UK

September 03, 2015

 There's been a lot written around the gratuitousness of gratuities in the news over the past few weeks.

It all started with the Evening Standard's exposé of Côte's practise of keeping the entire 12.5 per cent service charge on customers' bills, rather than distributing it among staff. This was quickly followed by a report by The Guardian listing restaurant tipping policies from our most loved chains (with some rather shocking results).

I feel in recent years tipping has become expected in the UK in the way it is in the United States or Canada. All staff in the UK must by law b

e paid at least the National Minimum Wage - whether they receive tips or not. Unlike America, in the UK an employer is not allowed to use tips to top up wages to the legal minimum (waiting staff can make as little as $2 to $3 per hour from their restaurant employer).

Therefore, unlike in much of North America, the need and culture for tipping is much less in the UK. So, why is it that us Brits frantically start searching for loose change when a bill is presented to us? 

Friends of mine told me the reason they tip is because they feel they will look tight, even if the service was bad. I personally always tip in local restaurants as I'm likely to return and feel embarrassed if I don't leave enough. 

LivingSocial recently conducted a poll that found, the most important factor in deciding whether to leave a tip was the friendliness of service (66.7 per cent of people said this was the case), with food quality in at second (63 per cent) and attentiveness of service (55.7 per cent) at third, followed by quick service at 40.8 per cent.

While there is no denying that working in a restaurant is low-paid, demanding work - hence the high staff turnover - I can't help but wonder where the reliance on tips will end. All it is doing is enabling greedy companies to keep their wage bills down. Surely it's about time we put a complete stop to it by not tipping at all? 

Many establishments in New York have implemented a no tipping policy by covering costs with a slight price increase on their food menu. The result? Better paid staff, both in the kitchen and on the floor, and happy customers who don't feel obliged to tip on top of service charge. And speaking of service charge - the percentage basis makes no sense! Did a waiter work less because I ordered a £18 bottle of wine than if I had ordered a £180 one?

Do you tip the underpaid nurse the last time you visited A&E? Did the shop assistant who helped you find the perfect present for your mum last Christmas add 12.5% onto your John Lewis bill? Did you tip the bin men in the height of summer when your wheelie bin was overflowing with maggots? Of course not, and nor should you. We, the customer, should not be made accountable to prop up low-paid staffs' pay packets through service charges or loose change. 

It's time to enforce the National Living Wage, which is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK, rather than asking employers to pay it voluntary as a gesture of good will - after all, let's face it, if they're taking their employee's hard earned tips, I don't think they're too concerned about their staff's quality of life. 

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