When the machine automatically prompts you to tip for your coffee, “you should be able to leave a loonie or a couple of quarters, whatever you can afford and feel is reasonable, without being judged,” says Bayer. “You shouldn’t have to automatically give 18% on something that you’re walking in and picking up. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me.”
What about delivery people, from pizza delivery to Instacart, Uber Eats, Door Dash and others? Although you already pay a delivery fee and, in the case of food delivery platforms, service fees, these go to the company. With Door Dash and Uber Eats, 100% of the tips go directly to the drivers, who have to cover costs like gas, auto insurance and car maintenance, and possibly even parking.
Why some restaurants have banned tipping
In a surprising turn of events, some restaurant owners have banned tipping, and a few others are avoiding the practice from day one—like Then and Now, an Asian fusion restaurant in Toronto. Since owner-operator Eric Y. Wang launched the business in February 2023, there has been no tip prompt on its point-of-sale machines, and no automatic gratuity on the bill for groups.
Wang says he has been working in the restaurant industry for 12 years, in various positions including dishwasher, bartender and server. Before opening Then and Now, he was a restaurant manager. These experiences have shaped his views of tipping. “The simplest way to say it, really, is that it’s just not fair to ask the guests to pay a portion of the salary that people need in order to thrive in the city, or really anywhere,” Wang says.
He has observed that, at some restaurants, people who work in the kitchen, and even management, make less money than customer-facing servers because of how tips are distributed—that is, servers keep the bulk of tips. Wang says this has contributed to a culture of negativity at some restaurants, because when servers make a mistake, they may face more resentment from their managers or superiors, who earn less than them because of the tip structure.
Wang adds that racial stereotyping can impact a customer’s experience at a restaurant—another reason why he has banned tipping at Then and Now. Tipping is primarily a North American practice, and it’s not common in other countries around the world, he explains: “Over time, servers and bartenders start to collect data and they see somewhat of a trend—when people don’t tip at restaurants, typically they are someone with an accent, a visible minority, perhaps a student or a tourist.” He says that servers may subconsciously judge guests by their appearance and assume that they may not tip, before they even sit down at their table. Without the incentive of a tip, a server might not give the customer their best service.
“I’ve had many instances where servers will say to me: ‘I’m not going to serve that table,’” Wang says. “It’s just not right. It doesn’t matter what they’re tipping as long as people are respectful and not causing any trouble. We should treat everyone equally.”
At Then and Now, servers and staff are paid at least the certified Ontario living wage for the Greater Toronto Area, which is $23.15 per hour, and all also get workplace benefits. Wang says that having a predictable income allows his staff to have proof of employment for rental applications, for example, as well as to experience a greater sense of stability because they aren’t relying on fluctuating tips for their primary source of income.