December 11, 2018

BY GARRETT BURCHETT
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There seem to be two main schools of thought when it comes to tipping in Canada. One is that the practice of tipping is so ingrained in our culture, so expected, that it is rude and disrespectful not to tip.

But others wonder why they, the customers, should be responsible for making sure that servers make a decent wage. Isn’t that the employer’s job?

Minimum wage for employees making tips in Canada is currently $8.90, versus an $11.25 standard minimum wage. So while the difference seems minimal at just $2.35, this system is crucial to how restaurants operate in the country.

In 2014, David Jones opened Smoke and Water in B.C., Canada’s first tip-free restaurant. He truly believes that’s where the industry is going.

“There’s no doubt that it’ll be happening (widely) in the next five to 10 years,” Jones told the National Post in November. “It’s a coming trend.”

And while his staff loved the change, customers did not. Menu prices were raised to reflect the higher wages, and Jones found that customers wanted a say on the quality of food and service they receive. They wanted an option to tip. Within three months Jones was forced to resort back to his old business model.

Back in October, New York restaurant mogul Danny Meyer announced that he was removing the option to tip from his 13 restaurants, instead increasing prices for menu items to cover the cost of an increased hourly wage for staff.

It’s not the first time such a thing has been tried. But making a change to an industry where the culture of tipping seems set in stone is no easy thing.

Yet there is support for this movement. Tipping is a customary practice in Canada, especially for good service, but that is not the case in other parts of the world. Many places in Europe have set tips included into the bill, whereas many places such as China, Japan, Switzerland and Australia discourage tipping.

Tipping allows restaurants to keep their menu prices down, and with food costs rising already, low income families are better off paying less money for food with an option to leave a tip.

Tipping allows customers to show their appreciation for the service and feel good about supporting employees, while employees get added motivation to offer exceptional service.

Tipping offers a good way for young people to make a decent living. In most instances, servers make enough from tips to at least balance what they would make at a regular hourly wage.

But this new attitude that employers should be responsible for paying a decent wage while customers should be relieved of the burden of tipping seems counter-intuitive. Restaurants will make up their profits with increased food prices, and customers will lose their ability to reward servers for good service.

Who wins then?

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