Tipping in Toronto: Is 18 per cent the New 15 per cent?
To tip or not to tip? That is the question.
Actually, the real question Torontonians have been asking themselves is, is 18 per cent the new 15 per cent tip? While those with fat expense accounts are tipping 20 per cent and those tight in the wallet are paying gratuity closer to 10 per cent, what are those on the fence to do?
I decided to dig into the subject and asked Michelle Chieng, a Top 20 Partner-level server at Joey’s Eaton Centre, what the tipping expectation from a server’s point of view was. She agreed that yes, 18 per cent should be the new 15 per cent thanks to how ‘tip out,’ the profit servers give back to their restaurant to disperse between front and back-of-house, has risen over the years. “We tip out 6 per cent of our total sales, not out of the actual tips we make,” said Chieng. “If people don’t leave a tip, you are essentially paying to serve them.” This means that your 15 per cent tip is actually closer to 9 per cent for your favourite server.
“We tip out 6 per cent of our total sales, not out of the actual tips we make. If people don’t leave a tip, you are essentially paying to serve them.”
To skirt this issue, the Canadian government recently passed the Protecting Employees’ Tips Act, making it illegal for employers to withhold tips and in some cases, putting an end to managers pocketing the tips for themselves. Local restaurants like Indian Street Food Co., Sidecar and the Toronto Temperance Society have already or plan to forego the entire tipping process. In all cases, the restaurants are upping prices on the menu or the final bill to ensure all of their employees – from hostesses and bussers to servers and kitchen staff – are fairly and equally compensated for their hard work.
Striking out tips is completely valid as long as the restaurants and servers provide “some fucking good service [with] no attitude, no bullsh*t and [are] f**king happy doing it.”
To get a restaurateur’s perspective, we spoke to chef Andres Marquez, former co-owner of Fonda Lola. His belief is that “the patron ultimately benefits from the sense of family that an equal, collective system of gratuity creates,” and that striking out tips is completely valid as long as the restaurants and servers provide “some fucking good service [with] no attitude, no bullshit and [are] fucking happy doing it.”
At a roundtable discussion with the Vv Magazine team, there was no unanimous answer on what the heck regular joes with no experience in the industry are to tip. Some answered 18 per cent, while others were flabbergasted at the suggestion, so I dug a little deeper. Frequent restaurant-goer and marketing professional, Stephen Gasparek said that, “I would agree that 18 per cent is the new 15 per cent. If it’s a bit of a wank (sic) with the service, you’d give 15 per cent and you shouldn’t feel bad about that.” Another industry member and patron said that, “as a server, for bad service I’ll leave 15 per cent. I’m usually leaving 20 per cent across the board.”
People have pointed out that nowadays 15 per cent is a starting point, but not necessarily the golden standard.
But what about the other pockets of the service industry with entirely different parameters, like take-out and coffee spots? Sarah Brown, an employee at Tokyo Smoke said, “I will get tipped, but it’s a coffee. Tipping a quarter to a dollar per drink is pretty great.” In this particular court of public opinion, people have pointed out that nowadays 15 per cent is a starting point, but not necessarily the golden standard.
If you’re reading this, it’s too late to pretend prices on everything, in every industry aren’t rising, but have no fear. Tipping doesn’t have to push you over the edge financially – there are plenty of ways to show appreciation. For starters, just be nice! “Call in to let the restaurant know that someone is doing a good job. That does end up benefitting us, and it’s nice to be recognized,” said Chieng. If you can’t pay up, try paying it forward.