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NAME AND SHAME. Restaurant service charges

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Praise, Vent & Warnings
227 replies 112.9K views
MSE_MartinMSE_Martin Money Saving ExpertMoneySaving Expert
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edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Praise, Vent & Warnings
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.
Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.
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Replies

  • nearlyrichnearlyrich Forumite
    13.7K posts
    Hung up my suit! Mortgage-free Glee! I'm a Volunteer Board Guide
    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.
    Free impartial debt advice from: National Debtline or Stepchange[/CENTER]
  • AllexieAllexie Forumite
    3.5K posts
    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?
    ♥♥♥ Genius - 1% inspiration and 99% doing what your mother told you. ♥♥♥

  • IvanOpinionIvanOpinion Forumite
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    MSE_Martin wrote:
    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 pisses 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
    Ivan has left the building ... but reserves the right of reply!
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  • SidB_2SidB_2 Forumite
    3.3K posts
    So Ivan, do you still tip when the service is appalling ?
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  • Sofa_SogoodSofa_Sogood Forumite
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    But why should half go to the restaurant Ivan?

    The service might actually be better than the meal :D
  • IvanOpinionIvanOpinion Forumite
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    sidb wrote:
    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. :D 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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  • IvanOpinionIvanOpinion Forumite
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    But why should half go to the restaurant Ivan?

    The service might actually be better than the meal :D
    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
    Ivan has left the building ... but reserves the right of reply!
    Use PM to keep in touch
  • Sofa_SogoodSofa_Sogood Forumite
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    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 ;)
  • 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
    the more i see, the more i know, the more i know, the less i understand
  • 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.
    The Early bird may catch the worm ...but its the second mouse that gets all the cheese!
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