The tipping question is bigger than you think


This thing just won’t die. The debate about tipping just keeps coming back around.

Is it an inconvenient distraction? You bet. Confusing? Yep. High stakes to you and your business? Yes, if you get it wrong. But the fact it’s not going away would seem to suggest it’s an idea whose time has come.

And yet most restaurateurs we speak to think of it primarily as either a philosophical or an economic question. For some, the desire to provide a ‘fair wage’ to all their staff prompts them to look for ways to balance earnings between service and kitchen staff. For others, the interest is more in gaining back control over that lost 20 per cent of their revenue.

But I would suggest that the underlying issue is actually much bigger than that.

In fact, what’s right for you and your establishment is going to be more about your culture, the experience you want to create for your guest, and even your brand character and what you want it to stand for. Sure, philosophy and economics play a role, but they are just elements of the bigger question.

The decision, once you make it, is going to have implications to every aspect of your business, from marketing and communication, to the guest experience and how the team will deliver it, and even how you will staff your business.

If you decide to move to a no-tipping model, you may have an easier time attracting and keeping kitchen staff but it’d be naïve to think you won’t lose some people in the front of the house. You will. Our studies confirm that service staff who thrive in a tipping environment are hardwired very differently than those who are more comfortable and perform best in a team environment. The non-tipping group tend to have higher levels of conscientiousness, tend to be more stable and objective in stressful situations, tend to be more intrinsically motivated, and are generally more straightforward and truthful.

All of which tends to make for less friction, fewer headaches for managers, and a better guest experience overall. As always, it all starts with the right people.


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