Ask Ann: A Burning Question About Restaurant Tipping

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Ask Ann
Illustration by Koren Shadmi
Q: I’M CONFUSED ABOUT RESTAURANT TIPPING. FOR A WHILE, 15 PERCENT WAS THE NORM. NOW THE STANDARD IS 20. WHAT GIVES?

A: Barring downright poor service, I tip 20 percent. When 15 became synonymous with cheapskates I’m not sure, but LA Weekly dining critic Jonathan Gold, who blogged about tipping in 2011, advocated for 20 percent back then.

Motivated by altruism (ending wage disparity) – or so he’s said – New York restaurateur Danny Meyer (whose empire includes Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack) has taken a stand against tipping, banning the practice in all his restaurants. To compensate, he raised the hourly wage for his workers and upped the menu prices.

I queried local restaurant owners and servers, and not one I talked to thinks the Meyer initiative would work here – diners don’t react well to menu price hikes, and servers say even with boosted pay they’d make less than they would with tips. I grew up knowing too many people who supported themselves through school waiting tables – and who worked hard for those tips. I’ve certainly tipped 15 percent in situations, but I mostly feel that tips are what keep these workers afloat. ◆


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‘Ask Ann’ appears in the July 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.