Are You a Skimpy Tipper?

By Falande Swain

Going out to dine-in restaurants is a pleasure for many people, but when the meal comes to an end you have to pay the bill. Not only do you have to pay the bill, but you have to consider how much of a tip to include— is it necessary or is it an extra? Many Americans are not aware of what it’s like to be a server, so a few servers shared their thoughts and experiences on what it’s like to rely on tips as an income.

“The restaurant industry is the second largest employer in the U.S., providing jobs for nearly 11 million Americans,” Saru Jayaraman, Co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, wrote in a recent article in Time Magazine. What many may not know is that servers only make a minimum of $2.13 an hour in almost all , including Utah. According to U.S. Department of Labor, “The tipped minimum wage has been $2.13 an hour since 1991.”

Trip Advisor says, “While tipping is not mandatory in most of the United States, it is customary in many circumstances for service, especially at almost all sit-down restaurants which offer table service and many food servers depend on tips as an essential part of their wage.”

Brio Tuscan Grille at City Creek is an Italian restaurant that has been open since the summer of 2013. The servers say even when the food and service are excellent, the tips that the guests leave can be rather disappointing..

Javier Chavarin has been working at Brio for over three years. The thing that he loves

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Suggested gratuity is usually included at the bottom of the receipt.

about his job is getting to be part of the guest experience. Guests come in to celebrate their birthdays and Chavarin is glad to share that moment with them and always hopes to get good tips from his efforts. As a server he says that he gets paid $2.13 an hour and relies on tips to make up the difference. Chavarin said, “Anything below 10% is a slap in the face.” Most restaurants include suggested gratuity at the bottom of the receipt.  The average tip is usually between 15% to 20% of the bill.

Tina Knowlton, a server at Brio, said that she recently served a group of ladies who were in town for a hand bag convention. After the ladies paid she looked inside the check book and saw a disappointing tip—but they did leave Knowlton a pamphlet for their hand bags. Knowlton joked, “How do they expect me to even buy their hand bags if they don’t even tip me enough?”

The reality of working for tips is hard because although a server might get really good tips at times, there’s no consistency. One week you may make good money and the next week you may only make half of what you did the week before. Another server, Mikelle Poulson, says that she has been serving for over 10 years and likes it because she can make decent money without having to work a full time job. “The only thing that sucks is the inconsistent money you make.”

According to Trip Advisor, “In most larger restaurants in the USA, the server has to pay back a portion of their tips to the bartender, busser, hostess, and food runners.” Once the shift is over, the servers at Brio tip 15-20% of what they made in tips to the server assistants and bartender. The $2.13 an hour the servers never get because it all goes to taxes. At the end of the year servers still have to pay taxes on the tips that they made for the year.

Servers say that guests can be rude and under tip, but when someone leaves a generous tip everything seems to be rosy again. Restaurant goers might want to remember to consider the tip when looking at the menu prices and factor that in rather than thinking of it as extra. Although tipping isn’t required it is expected at almost every dine-in restaurant. So the next time you go out to eat don’t be a skimpy tipper.