I’ve never had the privilege to receive tips for good service. I’ve worked in retail since I turned 18 and I’ve never understood why people who work in the food industry complain about a slow night. Most restaurant employees that I know get paid an average hourly wage, similar to mine, on top of their tips each night, which doesn’t seem like a reason to complain.
With the minimum wage increasing to $15 by 2018, averaging about a dollar each year, five Bay Area restaurants have eliminated tipping from their tables to be able to afford the raise and distribute the tips evenly among the staff. Instead of tipping, these businesses are implementing a 20 percent service charge for each table with no additional gratuity accepted.
These Bay Area restaurants are hoping for other restaurants to follow suit, and that is when I started to become concerned with my ability to dine out. Questions like “Will it be affordable?” and “How will the wait staff act?” immediately crossed my mind. As an avid foodie who dines out at least once a week, I have experienced a range of waitresses and waiters who don’t deserve a full tip as well as those who deserve so much more for their contributions to my experience during a meal.
If the service charge is in effect the minute you sit down at a table, you have to take into consideration that the wait staff will already receive a tip regardless of how they treat you. This ultimately takes the control out of the customer’s hand, and increases the possibility for employees to slack off with nothing to work for in addition to their wages and tips at the end of the night.
This situation started to remind me of something similar to a long-term relationship. Every relationship starts out with learning more about each other and what your likes and dislikes, similar to the bond between restaurant patrons and their waiters. When you’re still unsure of how you feel about the other person, there is that push to impress, to go above and beyond to guarantee yourself a secure relationship with the other person.
For service staff, it’s the money and recognition of their attentiveness. For couples, it’s the company of a person who likes you for you. Once you have achieved a labeled relationship with a significant other or a loving relationship with a restaurant, they both start to put forth less effort. It could just start with always wearing sweatpants, not cleaning around the house or never letting your loved one know how great they are because you are comfortable in your situation.
What if that happens with you and your favorite restaurant? If waiters already know they’re going to receive a tip at the end of your dining experience, some may become lazy, inattentive or even rude.
A service charge is unnecessary, devalues customer service and could potentially ruin the food industry for those of us who really love what the Bay Area has to offer. When waiters walk into work each day it’s with the intentions of getting paid for doing their job well. If they are guaranteed pay without putting forth effort to improve your day, what exactly is the point to go above and beyond? Conversely, what if you received exceptional service and think your server deserves more than a 20 percent tip?
This could lead to a less attentive staff. When I go out to eat, I expect a personal experience with the diners, chefs, waiters and hostesses. Without monetary motivation, eating in restaurants with a staff that doesn’t care becomes more like a fast food stop: impersonal. A mandatory service charge would prevent any additional tips from being left for individuals who excel at their jobs and create that excellent venture for you in the corner booth of your favorite restaurant.
This movement of service charges could negatively impact the atmosphere of restaurants throughout the Bay Area. It takes the power out of the consumer’s hand, where it has been for centuries. It may sound selfish, but then again, dining in a restaurant is a choice, just how the option of how much you tip should.