Why tipping 18% is the new norm in Toronto's restaurant scene
Diners have noticed an uptick — so why are people encouraged to tip more in 2017?
Sonia Neacsu started noticing a trend while dining out in Toronto: The expected tip at restaurants was often 18 per cent, up from the 15 per cent of years past.
"The expectation that that's a minimum is a little bit silly," she said. "Not all service is equal."
She's not the only restaurant-goer who has noticed the uptick. From food bloggers to casual diners, Toronto residents are buzzing about the trend towards bigger tips. So why is it happening?
- Minimum wage hike drives menu prices up, restaurant owners say
- Mysterious customers hand over $1K tip to Etobicoke waitress for her 'honesty'
According to Tony Elenis, president and CEO of Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, it's a trend sweeping across North America, in part because of changing technology.
"Most recently, the automation in the credit card processing systems created options and offerings for the diner to leave a greater tip, and thus we've seen the tip portion move from about 15 per cent to about 18 or 20 per cent," he said.
Government policy is also a factor, he added. In Ontario, despite rising minimum wage, Elenis said people making just above the minimum — including many servers — aren't keeping pace with the cost of living in cities like Toronto, and tipping is where they make the bulk of their income.
18% considered 'new standard'
Still, not all restaurants have shifted to a tip-more mentality.
On the bustling dining strip of the Esplanade, some restaurants are encouraging an 18 per cent minimum tip, while others like Amsterdam Bicycle Club are sticking to the old 15 per cent suggestion.
"Prices go up every year, and that's due to the minimum wage going up, so when [customers] see their bill they're less likely to add more on there," said bar manager William Smith.
"But it varies. Some tip small, some tip huge. Whenever you get a bad tip, you get them on the next table."
So what's the bottom line when it comes to tipping in 2017?
Etiquette expert Lisa Orr said it's all subjective, but 18 per cent is definitely the "new standard."
"I think sometimes if you have a massive, massive bill, 18 might feel onerous," Orr said.
"On a regular bill, 18 might make a big difference to the person working — and not a disaster for your pocket book."
The one thing people should never do, she added, is skip the tip.
"Leaving nothing isn't reasonable," she said.