restaurant tipping canada

Canadians honestly have no idea when and how much to tip servers in restaurants

Tipping etiquette might be the most confusing part of dining out (or even in, for that matter) these days, and it turns out that there is no real consensus among Canadians on how to tip in different dining situations.

A new online study looks into this modern dilemma, asking Canadians how they tip in various scenarios, like the wildly different service levels expected of in-restaurant dining versus an employee literally just turning an iPad 180 degrees for you to pay at the counter for takeout.

Research Co. polled 1,000 adults nationwide, asking Canadians what they think is an acceptable tip for service at sitdown restaurants across nine different circumstances, and the results were surprisingly divided.

The willingness to leave a tip appears to vary based on factors beyond just service, including the type of restaurant, the age of the customer, and how busy an establishment is.

Approximately one-third of those polled said they would leave a tip ranging from 15 to 19 per cent for exceptional service regardless of how busy a place is. Roughly one-third also said they would leave a tip of 20 per cent or higher for exceptional service at a busy establishment.

When the level of service declines, so too does the gratuity, as 41 per cent said they would leave a tip in the 10-14 per cent range for average service, compared to just 28 per cent in the 15-19 per cent range.

More than one-third polled, at 36 per cent, would tip just 10-14 per cent for below-average service in understaffed establishments.

Almost one-third of those polled, at 31 per cent, would leave servers absolutely nothing if they received below-average service in an establishment that was not clearly busy.

Boomers polled were far less likely to support their servers with gratuities, according to Mario Canseco, President of Research Co, who said that "Two-in-five Canadians aged 55 and over (40 per cent) would walk away from a sit-down restaurant without leaving a tip if they perceive that their server was idle and aloof."

Canseco says it's a different story with the younger crowd, citing lower proportions of people who'd leave without tipping among Canadians aged 35-to-54 (29 per cent) and aged 18-to-34 (24 per cent).

People seem more willing to tip food delivery drivers, with only 11 per cent thinking it is acceptable to forego a tip for home or office delivery.

Though more people seem willing to tip in this scenario, the actual gratuities paid are lower, with 40 per cent saying that 10-14 per cent is the acceptable tip range for this service.

Canadians are almost evenly divided on whether or not to leave a tip for pick up or take-out orders, with 54 per cent saying that a tip is not necessary for these circumstances.

An almost identical 53 per cent say they never tip at snacking/to-go establishments, 49 per cent forego tips at cafeteria-style restaurants, 48 per cent skip the tip for restaurant pick-up orders, and 43 per cent go gratuity-free at coffee shops.

But a full one-third of respondents said that food servers deserved a tip no matter how bad the service was. An even greater share of the younger crowd believes this, with 41 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 agreeing that a tip is due regardless of service woes.

Though most seem on board with tipping, it could be a case of social pressure and other factors, as just over two-thirds of Canadians (at 67 per cent) believe that servers expect a tip but don’t work hard enough to earn it.

One of those factors could be the knowledge that server wages alone just don’t cut, with 70 per cent agreeing that salaries are not enough to live on, and almost as many (69 per cent) agreeing that if salaries were better, there would be no need for customers to leave tips.

The latter is already the case in many countries around the world. Restaurant tipping is most common in the Western Hemisphere, though it is uncommon and often considered a dining faux pas in some European countries where gratuity is included in the bill.

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