Tipping in the Food Industry

Chef Ali Gonzalez

Ali Gonzalez

Sustainable Culinary Solutions

Waiter and waitress serving fries and a meal to happy customers drinking beer.


Waiters/waitresses are paid at a lower hourly wage, sometimes even below minimum wage. They rely on their tips to make up for the lost cause and to help them earn extra cash. Everyone knows that leaving a tip is “optional”, but is it really optional if it’s held at a high expectation?

Why You Should or Shouldn’t Leave a Tip

Think about this… You’re out with your family at a nice restaurant, and you’re paying a good amount of money for the items on the menu. You and your family are expecting a wondrous time filled with lots of laughter and delicious food. But what happens when your waiter/waitress never comes by to take your order? Nobody wants to wait forever to get served the drinks and food that they’re paying for. You may or may not have been in this situation before. High expectations can quickly turn into a bad experience when you’re not getting the customer service that you desire. Does your waiter/waitress only care about the gratuity that you leave them? It’s time to change the way that you view the food industry and start getting the care that you deserve.

A table set with wine and water glasess, and nicely folded napkins on plates with silveware

How Tipping Expectations in America Has Gotten Out of Control

Now tipping in America has become a controversial topic when it comes to the food industry. Why is leaving a tip important to your waiter/waitress? It’s not only important to them but it is expected. They are usually expecting to receive a generous tip for the food that you paid for. Waiters/waitresses are paid at a lower hourly wage, sometimes even below minimum wage. They rely on their tips to make up for the lost cause and to help them earn extra cash. Everyone knows that leaving a tip is “optional”, but is it really optional if it’s held at a high expectation? It’s seen as rude in American culture to not leave a tip at all. It can even cause restaurant employees to stare or chase you down while you’re on your way out. Compared to other countries such as Japan, if you tip their waiters/waitresses they’ll become extremely offended.

According to recent surveys, close to half of Americans are tired of tipping, with a majority that feel too many places are asking for tips. It may be confusing to you when everywhere you go, you’re asked to leave a tip. Why are several service businesses starting to ask for tips? It’s becoming too expensive to step a single foot outside of your home. The cost of entrees are increasing, tax is as high as 10% in certain locations, and to top it off you have to leave a tip. Nearly 70 years ago it was seen as acceptable to leave a 10% tip for your waiter/waitress. Entering 2024, tips have skyrocketed between the range of 15% to 25% in the food industry. Don’t take it the wrong way, tips are a wonderful way to leave great customer feedback to your waiter/waitress. What better way than to leave a 25%+ tip for someone who went above and beyond to make your dining experience special? But let’s be realistic, most people cannot afford it anymore.

Cash payment with twenty dollars and single dollars on a plate.

The Key to Outstanding Customer Service

Why Customers Wish Their Waiters Were More Attentive.

The food industry is pushing for more tips… for less service at higher percentages. Have you ever ordered a drink at your favorite tea shop? You might have noticed when it’s time to pay, the cashier will turn the screen over to you, and it shows an option for an 18% tip. This may sound a bit harsh, but what exactly are you tipping for? All the cashier did was spend about 30 seconds taking down your order, and afterward, you’ll hear your name called to pick up your drink yourself. Let’s say the cashier truly went out of their way to give you EXCEPTIONAL customer service. Then you may consider leaving a tip out of pure satisfaction and the goodness of your heart. But let’s face it… with the rising costs of inflation today, not everyone can afford to leave an 18% tip for a drink that they weren’t served at a restaurant.

You heard of “customer service” before, but what does it truly mean to give phenomenal customer service in the food industry? It means being kind, greeting your customers right away with a smile, and taking care of their needs on time. Today, 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service. You’re looking for a waiter/waitress who is more than willing to go above and beyond for your dining experience. They must leave a good impression on you, so you and your family will want to come back. Word-of-mouth is crucial for a restaurant to continue running and being successful! Potential customers will look at a business on Google Reviews and Yelp before determining if it is a restaurant worth spending their money on. Restaurants want 5-star reviews and amazing customer feedback! The only way to accomplish this is by having top-notch customer service and appetizing food that will leave your customers happy!  

A waitress serving a meal to a customer.

Is the Food Industry Dead?

Here’s How Restaurant Owners Can Rejuvenate Their Business.

It’s time you start asking yourself… Did the food industry go downhill? How often do you go to a restaurant and everything checks off your boxes? Nowadays it’s easy to experience bad customer service. It feels like a luxury to go out to eat at a nice restaurant because nobody can afford it anymore with increasing grocery and gas prices. Dining out is expensive, you expect the best quality food and customer service. If you’re someone who cares about what you eat then you definitely don’t want to be paying a hefty price for a processed meal. Restaurants are resorting to cheaper ingredients, and you wouldn’t even realize that you’re eating an entree filled with canola oil. Some restaurants are serving you lower-quality meals that aren’t fresh. If you wanted a pre-packaged and frozen meal then you’d go to your local grocery store’s frozen section. You deserve high-quality entrees that will have you savoring every last flavorful taste.

It’s all about the customer experience, waiters/waitresses need to think about their customer’s viewpoint. What do their customers want and need? If there’s an empty water glass, then no problem bring a refill as soon as possible. Is the food fresh, warm, and fully cooked? This is what they need to be checking on for their customers. Think about menu items… Do they meet what the ideal customer wants to order at that specific restaurant? Don’t let your customers wait and beg for what should be the standard minimum. So what can be done to improve the food industry? There needs to be more hours of customer service training and teaching the importance of cooking with REAL ingredients. ​​Studies show that 89% of customers who were not happy with a restaurant’s customer service stopped going to those restaurants. Tipping waiters/waitresses starts with amazing customer service and ends with high-quality food. As a customer, you want to feel like you’re a top priority during your dining experience. Going out to eat at a restaurant with your family and friends is meant to be fun and delightful.

Want to learn more about why customer service and food quality are important for your restaurant? Click HERE to schedule a consultation to discuss how we can contribute to your restaurant needs!


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