The job of a restaurant server isn’t easy — bringing food, drinks and smiles. So how do we thank them? We tip. But how much should you tip? We asked 1,500 Canadians to chime in on what they leave for good service.
This post is part of The Canada Project, a representative survey of Canadians from across the country. You can find out more right here.
We found that the majority — 54 percent — of those surveyed think you should tip 11 to 15 percent. Another 20 percent are willing to give 16 to 19 percent to servers; and 18 percent of respondents said they left 10 percent or less. Eight percent of those surveyed are more generous, saying that tipping 20 to 24 percent is the way to go.
What do the people getting your tips have to say about that? We asked four servers across the country on what they think is the right number.
Caitlin McCarthy, Regina, Sask., pub server
“Customers should tip on the service they receive. If I only did an OK job, then 10 percent. If you were happy with my service and you think I did a great job, or I made your night more enjoyable, then I would recommend 15 to 25 percent. I would say in most situations, servers rely on their tips. It’s hard to save, pay bills or do anything making the minimum $10.72 an hour in Saskatchewan. People don’t realize that we have to tip out a percentage of what we earn to other staff members. So if I had no tables tip me all night, I have to dig into my own pocket to tip out the other staff members. People often blame the server if there’s something wrong with their food. The server didn’t make their meals, but they do have control over how they handle the situation and how to improve the customers’ night.”
Drishti Thakkar, Toronto, Ont., barista
“Usually, customers just tip the change we return to them. Some regular customers tip about a dollar per purchase. I would recommend that customers tip if we’ve made a difference in their day. Our priority is to ensure that customers leave our store satisfied. Tipping is one way to tell us that we’ve done a good job.”
Sara Russell-Brown, London, Ont., pub server
“On a good night, customers tip anywhere between 10 to 15 percent. My tips have gone to different things over the years. When I first started serving, they went to pay my tuition, then it was travelling. Now, they often go to bills. The legislation that makes employers unable to take any tips from servers is very beneficial — I’ve heard horror stories from other servers at different establishments. For myself, I do the work that needs to be done and give the best service I can. Some nights are more challenging than others, but I feel I’ve earned what I’ve been paid.”
Iain Childerhose, Montreal, Que., barista
“I would say [the appropriate amount] averages out to about 15 or 20 percent [industry wide]. For the café I work at, much of our business is grab and go, so generally speaking, I’m fine when anyone just leaves their change (small coins) or rounds up to the nearest dollar. In Quebec, minimum wage is only $11.25/hr, and those earning tips can be paid lower ($9.45/hr), yet most calculate a living wage to be at least $15 an hour, so people working in the service industries are almost certainly dependent on tips to bridge this gap. All of the places I’ve worked at have stressed the importance of good customer service so I would like to say that providing the customer with a quality experience is instinctual to me at this point. The reality is that we all have off days, and if you work in the service industry even when you aren’t feeling your best you still need to try and greet everyone with a welcoming smile and try to find ways to ensure a tip from your customers.”
Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity and length.