Article for Culinary Pursuits Magazine, April 2011

To tip or not to tip, that is the question.
After casually ordering my food at a local restaurant, I was confronted with a tip jar saying: ‘Fear Change! Leave it here!’ and another oh-so-comical jar which read: ‘Phil the Tip Jar’. It is truly incredible how a few exclamation marks made me physically afraid of my change, fearing my coppers would pounce out of my purse and kamikaze into the jar if I did not put them in willingly. This mad, needless urge to throw my money into a jam jar with anger issues got me thinking about tipping.
I don’t know one person, young or old, rich or poor, who does not find tipping a painfully awkward situation.  From being on both sides of the coin (I have spent many years as a barmaid and waitress) tipping has proved to be somewhat of an ambiguously positive and negative experience in restaurants. After all, haven’t we all been in the dreaded situation of running out post-paying before our waiter discovers he has been left tip-less, never to return again just in case your food has certain added bodily fluids in it next time? Or, on the other hand, idly going through old receipts to find out that the pesky restaurant has put a service charge on the table and you have also left a tip?
So, what is the tipping rule exactly? The general consensus for table service at a restaurant is to tip around 12.5 percent of your bill amount, and speaking as a former waitress, that is a more than generous percentage. But what if your bill comes to hundreds of pounds? Trust me, the waitresses will be rubbing their hands together with glee whilst you hand over double their daily wage as a tip. If your bill is large then presumably your server has had to work extra hard in order to maintain a high level of service. However, if your bill is mostly made up of expensive bottles of wine this can lead to a tipping conundrum.
Saying that, I believe that good service deserves reward, however much you think that reward should be. You must remember that your waiting staffs are there to do their job, but their friendliness, etiquette and manner are all individual, so if you have exceptional service it is usually down a dash of good training and a dousing of excellent waiting skills. No one will tip the grumpy waiter who chucks your scalding food at you and glares at you as he asks the dreaded question: ‘do you want to leave a tip?’ Without sounding like a tacky self-help book, have the power to say ‘No!’. Waiting is about customer service; the restaurant’s image is held by their staff and if this is not up to scratch, tipping should be cautionary. If you feel, as a customer, that you have been treated in a hostile manner because your waiting staffs were ‘on the lash’ last night, you should not feel obligated to tip.
All in all, tipping is an entirely personal process. Don’t be frightened to ask if a service charge has been added to your bill and do not feel obliged to tip if you have been given poor service. After all, calculating 12.5 percent of the bill after a few glasses of wine can lead to a whole lot of slurry difficulty (and, more than likely, a GCSE student correcting your maths). My advice? Round down to 10 percent or up to 15 percent depending on service and sit back and relax knowing that the ‘awkward tipping-bit’ has been dealt with.
Waitressing Tips for Tips
Sometimes wonder why you have given such a huge tip? Here are a few of the subtle waiting techniques that leave you reaching for your wallet every time!
·         Touching Customers:  Studies show that tips increased from 11.8 percent to just under 15 percent when waiting staff touched their customers on the shoulder. And before you ask, it was not just the blonde bombshell waitresses brushing against the middle aged men that pumped up the tips- both sexes increased their tips from this subtle action.
·         ­Squatting: Waiters that squat next to your table also get extra tips, according to Cornell Hospitality Research Centre. The close interaction and eye contact sent tips soaring!
·         Giving Sweets: So, all those After Eight’s are there for a reason! Studies show that giving sweets with a bill increasing tipping up to 2.5 percent. A very sweet increase.
·         Sunshine: Temple University psychologist Bruce Rind found that sunny days call for sunny-spending. He said: “When the server told guests that it was raining, tips averaged 19 percent of the bill. But describing sunny skies sent the gratuity rate soaring to 24 percent”.

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