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NAME AND SHAME. Restaurant service charges
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# 1
MSE Martin
Old 06-03-2005, 8:27 PM
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Default NAME AND SHAME. Restaurant service charges

I had dinner in a restaurant this week. It included, as is becoming more common, a restaurant service charge of 12.5%. I asked the waitress how much of this she got. Apparently half goes to the restaurant and half is shared between all the serving staff.

For me this is a disgrace. When I tip I want it to go to the waiting staff, not the restaurant. If they want to add to their profits, they can increase their charges, then it's transparent and we can decide how much to pay.

Legally you can't be made to pay a service charge, so do what I did. Don't put it as part of the bill. Tip that same amount in cash to the waitress. This is a growing blight. And if it isn't bad enough, restaurants that include service often add a voluntary tip box on the receipt - to make us pay more.
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# 2
nearlyrich
Old 06-03-2005, 8:38 PM
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I always tip in cash and ask the waiter to take the "optional " service charge off, it works out better for them 90% of the time.
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# 3
Allexie
Old 06-03-2005, 8:46 PM
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I recently had drinks in a cafe bar with a group of friends....one friend bought a round on his card and was amazed to find a 12.5% service charge had been added...we were all standing at the bar, so where did the service come in! Is it legal to add a service charge to drinks?
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# 4
IvanOpinion
Old 07-03-2005, 8:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSE Martin
I had dinner in a restaurant this week. It included, as is becoming more common, a restaurant service charge of 12.5%. I asked the waitress how much of this she got. Apparently half goes to the restaurant and half is shared between all the serving staff.

For me this is a disgrace. When I tip I want it to go to the waiting staff, not the restaurant. If they want to add to their profits, they can increase their charges, then it's transparent and we can decide how much to pay.

Legally you can't be made to pay a service charge, so do what I did. Don't put it as part of the bill. Tip that same amount in cash to the waitress. This is a growing blight. And if it isn't bad enough, restaurants that include service often add a voluntary tip box on the receipt - to make us pay more.
You are making a very common mistake here Martin. You are correct that you can ask that service charges are removed from the bill however if you tip in cash then the waitress is generally (not always, depends on where they work) expected to hand it over into a 'pool' which is then split up by the manager/Maitre'D at the end of the evening. Therefore it makes very little difference.

The other common mistake is that people are very keen to tip their waiter/waitress because of good service... but are very quick to forget about the crew behind the scenes that support him/her. I am not talking of the chefs etc. that are probably on a salary, but more of those responsible for washing the dishes, for food preparation work, for moving garbage and, in some cases, those responsible for decorating the plates in readiness to receive the food. These people often rely on getting a share from the tip pool.


As an example. Our holiday of choice is a cruise (can be as cheap as any other holiday so I am stilla good MSEr) where, particularly on the American lines, many of the staff work for tips - in some cases they are actually paid about 1 per 14 hour day (no that is not a misprint .. it is 1 per day). The 'recommended' amount to tip varies from line to line but works out at about $10 per person per day (50 per person per week). I simply budget this into the cost. Your waiters, water boy and cabin steward ensure you service that is second to none in order to get these tips and generally they deserve every penny. I have seen one cabin steward in tears because people had 'stiffed' her - knowing the service they provide and the hard work they put in this really !!!!es me off. Anyhows, I digress .... on some lines tips can be added to your on board account while on others the tips are put in envelopes and handed to the relevant people. All tips are then handed into a central 'pool' where, utilising a very complicated formula the money is shared out (close records are kept of who has and who has not tipped). This ensures all the non-salaried staff on the ship get a share. You may want to tip your cabin-steward ... but what about his/her assistant, what about those that do the laundry, what about the non-salaried maintenance men that all work behind the scenes. And as above the waiter is heavily supported by staff in the kitchens doing dishes, decorating plates, peeling potatoes and other vegetables and making large scale decorative food displays (you ain't seen nothing until you see the mid-night chocaholics buffet - I challenge anybody NOT to get their fill of chocolate).

If it makes you feel better then give the tip to your server but remember it is possibly going to be 'pooled' and if not, then do you leave extra for those people working behind the scenes.

Things are not always as clear-cut as they may appear.

Ivan
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# 5
SidB
Old 07-03-2005, 1:26 PM
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So Ivan, do you still tip when the service is appalling ?
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# 6
Sofa_Sogood
Old 07-03-2005, 1:36 PM
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But why should half go to the restaurant Ivan?

The service might actually be better than the meal
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# 7
IvanOpinion
Old 07-03-2005, 1:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SidB
So Ivan, do you still tip when the service is appalling ?
On land I make my mind up on the day. I generally will tip something (maybe 1 per person), simply because I know there may be elements behind the scene. On one occasion I just could not get the bill (we had been waiting for nearly 45 minutes and had reminded the girl several times) so eventually we ended up phoning the front desk and asking if they would deliver it to our table - the waitress did not get a tip that day - I actually felt like deducting 10% from the bill for wasting my time.

I have in the past refused to pay for a meal and walked out of a restaurant in the middle of our main course ... closely followed by the manager ... I explained to him what I had seen and I was more than willing to discuss it in a loud voice in the middle of his restaurant if he wanted - he decided this was probably not in his best interests... and let us go.

At sea - the question never arises - you are treated like royalty. If you don't like something you just order a replacement, if you can't make your mind up you order both, if you want 4 portions of lobster then order it .. nothing is too much trouble for your waiter.

Ivan
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Last edited by IvanOpinion; 07-03-2005 at 1:56 PM.
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# 8
IvanOpinion
Old 07-03-2005, 1:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sofa_Sogood
But why should half go to the restaurant Ivan?

The service might actually be better than the meal
Without knowing the actual establishment and its policies it is hard to answer this question. It is possible that the restaurant shares the tips out amongst all staff (even those not on duty that evening) - this may even be in their T&C of employment. Unfortunately some greedy owners will keep a share of the tips, which I think is wrong, but should you penalise others because of this?

I did hear some reasoning behind owners keeping a proportion of the tips a while back but can not remember what the arguement was. Can anybody from the catering trade enlighten us? I know there are several such people posting on this board including restaurant managers, chefs etc.

Ivan
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# 9
Sofa_Sogood
Old 07-03-2005, 1:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IvanOpinion
Unfortunately some greedy owners will keep a share of the tips, which I think is wrong, but should you penalise others because of this?
No. Just penalise the greedy restaurant owners. It's a bit of a liberty isn't it? Especially when you read Allexie's post as well.

Tips should be a personal thing imo, but it is just my opinion.

I'd name and shame the culprits
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# 10
Talon Karrde
Old 07-03-2005, 9:16 PM
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Angry Conran Restaurants do this!

Hi guys,

I'm a chef, and have worked, am working in the trade in London town!
for those that wish to name and shame...here goes......

CONRAN RESTAURANTS ALL ADD 12.5% DISCRETIONARY SERVICE TO THE BILL

I no longer am employed by them

And martin is right, if you pay by card, there is another box left blank to add a "gratuity"
The way it works in Conran is this......the service charge is pooled into what is known in the trade as a TRONC (this comes from some french word, can't remember exactly) When you are quoted your "salary" which is usually, yes, even for most chefs until you get up to 2nd/head chef, HOURLY paid rate...you are told your hourly rate, and what you can expect on top from the Tronc.
A proportion of the service charge does go to the restauranteur, the percentage varies, and i do not know how much it was at Conran. If there is anyone who is a "Troncmaster" (a memeber of normal staff, not management, who with others, oversee's the distribution of the Tronc fund) they may know what the norm is.
The Troncmaster can vary the percentage of any one months fund so as to maintain a consistent payout to each staff member (this is so your amount remains the same regardless of whether it is peak xmas trading, when people leave a lot of tips, or jan/july/aug when people are skint/on holiday)
This money is taxed as part of you salary, so alot of Restaurant companies use it to "top up" to the minimum wage... IE the hourly rate is NOT the minimum wage, but it IS when you factor in the Tronc payment (whether weekly or salary) Conran DO NOT do this (i don't want to be libellous!!)
Tronc rates vary in the same way hourly rates/salaries do, so, the higher you earn, the bigger portion of the Tronc you get.
It is true (in Conran anyway) that any cash or CC tips are also pooled into the tronc, so whichever way you cut it, it all goes the same way.

Generally, people at the same level get an equal share, so a junior waiter would get the same as a junior cook and a Kitchen porter (wash up and rubbish person, of which was one once!!) and a senior chef the same as a senior waiter, Head chef as Restaurant manager...etc etc.

I take the Opinion, being in the trade, that discretionary service charge, pre added to your bill, so YOU must request it's removal (and therefore sound cheap) is the most disgusting attribute to the British restaurant scene.

If restaurants costed their menus properly, and paid the staff a decent wage, so that they felt inspired to do a good job regardless, then we could all leave tips in the correct way to that waiter on that night (a percentage of which does usually go to the kitchen staff, which could be paid on a monthly basis, depending on how many days you worked in that month, ie if you were on holidays for two weeks you can't have given any service, and therefore don't get those two weeks worth. It would all end up fair as everyone gets the same holiday entitlement. However, done this way discourages people throwing sickies, which is the perrenial headache for the catering trade, as they won't qualify for tips that day anymore than a waiter won't have collected any due to not serving anyone!)

Sorry to rant on, but, despite being part of the trade that peddles this dispicable practice, i TOTALLY agree with Martin on this, and EVERYONE, if only as a point of principle should be taking this charge OFF, and then giving the same, or more in cash. As i say, it probably goes the same way, but the point is made.
However, that does not mean you should still pay it for crap service / meal. If it's rubbish don't tip!! I don't, and i'm a chef!!

One last point on walking out.....
it is ILLEGAL to leave without paying ANYTHING.
However, you CAN leave having paid what you feel the meal is worth, so, if you compare your fancy burger from Planet Hollywood, or Hard Rock, or TGI's to a McDonalds then pay McDonalds price, ie a couple of quid, and they can't touch you!!
Talon "Ace" Karrde
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Last edited by Talon Karrde; 07-03-2005 at 9:22 PM.
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# 11
mike_the_bike
Old 08-03-2005, 10:38 PM
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Went there last Saturday...Nice Menu on board outside..No mention of 12 1/2 % Service charge mentioned....

When Presented with Bill 12 1/2 % added on and waitress asks me if I want to add tip onto credit card slip....I said no...was I being unreasonable..???

Chaps...All I want to see when I'm thinking of going into a restaurant is what they want me to pay for their grub..I also want the people that work in these places to be paid a fair wage..Oh yes I don't expect my food to be thrown at me or fo them to grovel to me either, just to be pleasant...

This tipping thing is a nonsense, and exploits the customers and the folk that work in these places.
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# 12
Poppy9
Old 09-03-2005, 1:17 AM
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I hate tipping. I think people should be paid a decent wage by their employers and should not have to rely on tips. Hairdressers used to rely on tips too but you rarely see this happening now.

When I go out to eat I expect to pay the prices on the menu. I expect decent service. I don't expect the staff to be paid a pittance. If 12.5% on turnover is what it takes to make decent pay to staff give them all a 12.5% payrise and inflate the menu prices by the same amount. At least you know what you are expected to pay and the staff know what their earnings are.
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# 13
SidB
Old 09-03-2005, 8:27 AM
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If you do what Poppy says the restaurants would need to highlight the fact so that you don't feel obliged to add another 10%. There's fat chance of that happening.
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# 14
Talon Karrde
Old 09-03-2005, 11:15 AM
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this would be more workable if people would be more willing to not pay, or pay what they think the meal/service is worth when the meal/service is bad.
The big problem is that by proportion, there are few people in the catering/restaurant/hospitality trade who expect to and would enjoy a long term career from it, therefore they are under no inclination to give decent service if the mood doesn't take them. if they get fired, they just go to the next bar/restaurant down the street and get another bar/waiting job.
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# 15
student100
Old 09-03-2005, 8:02 PM
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Aren't tips (even in cash) technically taxable income? So employers are legally requried to take some of any tip to pay the taxman...?
student100 has now graduated, and is slowly getting used to the idea of being a businessman...
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# 16
beaker141
Old 09-03-2005, 8:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_the_bike
Went there last Saturday...Nice Menu on board outside..No mention of 12 1/2 % Service charge mentioned....

When Presented with Bill 12 1/2 % added on and waitress asks me if I want to add tip onto credit card slip....I said no...was I being unreasonable..???

Chaps...All I want to see when I'm thinking of going into a restaurant is what they want me to pay for their grub..I also want the people that work in these places to be paid a fair wage..Oh yes I don't expect my food to be thrown at me or fo them to grovel to me either, just to be pleasant...

This tipping thing is a nonsense, and exploits the customers and the folk that work in these places.

Here Here !

It used to annoy me when we were in a group of say 8 people, you end up leaving a massive tip because some numptie divis the bill up and then rounds up to the nearest note for simplicity - you end up leaving a monster tip.

People used to suggest we left a tip at Pizza Hut when we were on all you can eat buffet - you serve yourself !?

I would rather as above, the menu stated the real cost of you eating there and what you see is what you pay - knowing people get paid a realistic amount for working.

I work in an office environment - always tempted to put a tip box on my desk !
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# 17
boblevin
Old 09-03-2005, 10:28 PM
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Perhaps I am naive, but it seems to me that if restaurant owners charge a rate that enables them to pay their staff properly, and the staff always strive to provide good service in return, then the question of tipping becomes purely academic.
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# 18
Talon Karrde
Old 09-03-2005, 11:14 PM
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the biggest problem with this method,

Usually, to get to the price you pay, 70% is added to the gross cost of the ingredients. ie the "cost" does not include, overheads, wages, Health and saftey compliance, food hygiene compliance etc et al.
The restaurant business/ catering trade does not make much money on food when you consider the amount of money needed to pay skilled chefs (yes, even a pizza cook has to be reasonably skilled, you would be amazed at how hard it really is on a busy night). However, it DOES make good money on the mark up on alcohol/bottled soft drinks, when you compare the skill needed to open a bottle/pour a drink.

If, as you say, a restaurant owner or chef priced his food to reflect what he was paying his cooks, believe me, the whole trade would be down the toilet in an instant. It's very noble to say be transparent and price the menu to cover what would be a service charge or to pay the staff a better wage, and then we would come and eat and be happy.

There are posts around that suggest that paying say 2.99 for your sandwich from boots for lunch is too much. Personally i really believe that if restaurant menus were priced as you suggest (from someone that does know how much that would be) no-one but the uber rich would eat out, unless the quality of the food was rubbish and therefore cheaper.

I don't condone or agree with the practice of a so called "discretionary" service charge automatically being added so you must take it off, but the meal SHOULD be priced according to the cost of the ingredients, which are easier to maintain at a constant standard. Staff, are not like this.

If meals were priced as you suggest, and your service was crap, what would you do? complain that the meal was too expensive? There's too many random factors......bad waiter, bad chef, bad manager, bad wash up people (dirty plates/glasses) rubbish atmosphere, wonky table legs...etc etc...OR someone might get great service by a professional, or cooked a great meal by the best chef in the kitchen. But someone might get crap service by the lout who is there on 2 evenings a week to make a quick buck, or get a hair, or piece of string in their food (or a fly in the soup?:-))

As a customer, i need to be able to make the distinction, above and beyond the cost of the food/drink i ate, drank. If you complain about the above service issues, what does the manager do? What does he take off the bill? the cost of the meal? How would you work out what % of the bill goes on paying the shoddy staff?

A lot of the information / Advice given on these boards / site in general is about taking companies to task when they get things wrong, or just generally screw us over. By doing as you suggest you would remove the dining customers greatest ally for getting the service they deserve.

Menu Prices = Food Costs
that's why it's on the menu and thats why it varies according to ingredient cost
Service Incentive = Gratuity / Tip

And yes, ALL tips, whether Cash, Tronc system or any other way, are taxable income. If an establishment chooses to operate a "keep you own tips in cash" and the individuals choose not to declare it, then that is a matter between them, their consience and the nice people at the IR!

ta muchly
Ace
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# 19
Poppy9
Old 09-03-2005, 11:27 PM
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RE taxing tips I thought the IR assumed a certain level of tips for all catering service staff and adjusted their tax code.

Out of curiosity who else do you tip - the ones that spring to mind for me are :

Taxi drivers
Hairdressers (not anymore the prices they charge!)
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# 20
Fatboy_NSS
Old 09-03-2005, 11:59 PM
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I definitely agree that a service charge is totally unnecessary. As people have posted above, the tips are generally divided among all the staff, including kitchen staff the customer never sees, so under the current system poor service by a waiter would mean everyone looses out which is hardly the best way to ensure quality service. Every other service industry in this country survives without tipping so I don't see why the restaurant industry should be any different, and the suggestion that it would be too difficult to work out profit margins is totally ridiculous. Restauranteurs would simply up their menu prices by 12.5% so they'd keep making as much as they do now, we'd still pay the same, but it would be up front and wouldn't be a hidden extra any more. It's the same as wanting to see VAT inclusive prices in the shops, or seeing the delivery charge on a website, I want to see exactly how much something is going to cost me before I commit to buying it, which at the moment isn't being done in restaurants.
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