Mandatory tipping: Money grab or good etiquette?

Earls.67 in downtown Calgary has changed the way customers tip by tacking on a 16 per cent hospitality charge. Does this make you want to sing or scream?

Unconventional Panel debates 16% tip built into bill at Calgary Earls

Should the decision as to how much a customer tips its server actually be left up to the customer? (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Many Canadian restaurants automatically tack on an 18 per cent gratuity to the check for large groups, but few have dared to go any further than that.

But now, a downtown Calgary Earls is rocking the boat and experimenting with the mandatory tip.

​Customers at Earls.67 pay a 16 per cent hospitality charge on their bill, which will be shared among all the staff.

"The restaurant industry is evolving. We want to test this to gain information and knowledge to see if there's a different way to reward and pay our employees," Craig Blize, VP of operations for Earls Restaurants, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

  • Do you think Canadian restaurants and eateries should bring in mandatory tipping? Leave your comments below.

Craig Blize, VP of operations at Earl's Restaurants, stands outside the Earls.67 location in Calgary. ( Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The members of this week's Unconventional Panel couldn't wait to give us their two cents on this topic.

How much do you tip?

"Generally, 15 to 20 per cent of the meal and I appreciate the opportunity to do that," said George Brookman, CEO of West Canadian Industries

"Mine is totally discretionary based on the service and the food that I'm provided," said Manjit Minhas.

This week's Unconventional Panel: Calgary comedian and writer Jeff Kubik, Dragon's Den star Manjit Minhas and the CEO of West Canadian Industries George Brookman. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

Calgary comedian and writer Jeff Kubik is a big tipper.

"I do flat 20 per cent on tax," he said. "The Interac machine has that button, I love it."

Should tipping be optional?

Absolutely, said Minhas.

"We shouldn't be told what we have to pay them. We are told what our salad costs and what our steaks cost and what our veggies [cost]," she said.

But both Brookman and Kubik said that's a moot point — because tipping is not really optional.

"It's a fake option," said Kubik.

"We've bought into a scam that's lasted for decades. It's not optional. It's codified into our laws in Alberta. You are allowed to pay a lower minimum wage for anyone serving alcohol. So not only do we socially know that, the law at the moment knows that."

The Earls.67 location in downtown Calgary has changed the way customers tip, adding a 16% hospitality charge (before tax) to every bill, which will be shared among all of its staff. (Neil Herland/CBC)

Final thoughts on mandatory tipping?

Kubik is in favour of it, but thinks it's time to end the practice of tipping altogether and raise wages for servers.

Brookman doesn't like idea of the restaurant determining the amount he should tip.

"I just like the option of making a statement about the service I receive."

Minhas is against the practice of mandatory tipping and said it's time for restaurant owners to step up and treat their service staff better.

"If they really believe that their chef should be paid more — they pay them more! Then what they get as a tip should be above and beyond."


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