Customer tipping survey – the results
In 2018 the Prime Minister announced an intention to introduce new measures to ensure restaurant staff received all tips from customers. To provide clarity on the thoughts of those who pay tips and service charges, we carried out a survey.
Our aim was to discover how customers think the money they pay should be handled. Our survey prompted over 300 responses from those who eat out regularly.
The results highlighted some strong feelings on how customers prefer to pay tips and why. They also showed divided opinion on who of those involved in the overall dining experience should take a share of the gratuities.
Overall there was strong support for a system that provides fair distribution of gratuities to restaurant staff, alongside a call for better clarity to support customer confidence. We have highlighted some of our key findings below.
About the customer
86% of those surveyed eat out at least once a month with 20% of those eating out more than once a week.
The majority of those surveyed (68%) spend between £20 – £50 per person every time they eat out. For those that eat out at least once a week, that is an average monthly spend of up to £200 on dining experiences.
95% of customers surveyed leave a tip when dining out, of which 79% generally tip between 5-15% of the total bill.
For those that leave gratuities, a huge 78% would prefer to leave tips in cash. When asked why they tip in this way the resounding reason was down to customers having greater faith in cash tips reaching those that they are intended for (the staff responsible for the service), rather than being kept by the restaurant operator.
“I think staff are more likely to receive tips if it’s in cash”
“More likely to be given directly to staff”
“I think staff prefer cash, and I feel more sure that it goes to staff”
“I like staff to get it. If you pay by card I expect they don’t”
“So the business doesn’t keep it for itself”
“I don’t trust companies to hand over tips paid by card”
An overwhelming 88% of respondents said that a form of accreditation scheme would give them more confidence in whether to tip and how they paid that tip, clearly showing that it is a perceived lack of clarity from businesses that results in many consumers tipping in cash.
For the 6% that preferred to leave tips on card, the main reasons were ease, convenience and the ability to leave a preferred amount without “scrabbling around for the correct coins”.
Customers had a mixed view when it came to thoughts on paying discretionary service charges suggested on the bill.
Reasons for leaving a tip or service charge
The top reason for leaving a tip or service charge was the standard of the service from the waiting staff with 73% of respondents noting this as important. This was closely followed by the quality of the food and the overall dining experience.
Almost three quarters of respondents (69%) felt that tips and service charges should be shared among the wider team who have delivered the guest experience. Only 25% wanted their tip to be kept solely by waiting staff.
Interestingly however, over two-thirds of those who thought that the tips should only go to waiting staff stated that the quality of the food and the time taken for it to arrive was a factor in whether or not they tipped or paid service charges – a factor that is generally down to the kitchen staff, not the waiting staff.
A third of respondents believe that an independent third party should be responsible for decisions on how tips are distributed in a business. Another third believe that a member of staff within the business should decide. Just 6% thought this decision should be down to the Government.
Who covers the cost?
There are inevitably costs incurred when collecting and distributed gratuities including credit card charges and transaction fees.
Nearly 50% agreed that these costs should not be deducted from the ‘tip pot’ before tips and service charges are distributed to staff. 25% would support this, but others commented on need for greater fairness and transparency:
“They should only deduct the additional charge that the tip incurs and not for example the fixed transaction charge”
“Only if it is completely transparent that costs are incurred”
“Only actual costs, nothing more”
“If it is fair and proportionate”
42% of respondents would not support a ban on tipping. 27% were not sure, or stated that they would only support a ban if staff wages were raised to make up for the loss of tips/service charge:
“Yes if they raise the wages of the staff to cover the money lost”
“If the pay was fair and staff are still rewarded for a good job”
“Only if staff are paid a decent wage which obviates the need for tipping”
Interestingly, 40% of those who said that they would support a ban on tipping and service charges would not be willing to pay any more for their meal.
Making it clearer
Of the 332 restaurant customers that completed the survey, 96% thought that an accreditation scheme for recognising restaurants that follow best practice principles for the distribution of gratuities could be a good idea. 92% thought it could help them better understand how gratuities are distributed and 88% thought it could help increase confidence in leaving tips and paying service charges.
More than half of the respondents said they would be more likely to leave a tip or pay a discretionary service charge if a restaurant’s approach to distributing tips was independently accredited, and they displayed a ‘best practice’ logo to communicate this to customers. Not one person said that seeing an accreditation logo would make them less likely to visit a restaurant.
Comments added at the end of the survey provided further confirmation of the lack of trust in tipping (particularly in service charges) and reaffirmation on reasons why tips are left in the first place:
“If the service charge is included in the total bill we cross through and leave a cash tip”
“I always ask staff before I tip quietly whether they get the tip or not, especially if I have to give on the credit card if I have no cash – I only tip if I’m satisfied with the answer including whether I think the staff can be open with the answer.”
“Tips should be given if the overall experience is more than satisfactory”
“It’s a simple matter to tip generously if the staff make the experience a good one. Tips should be distributed fairly to the staff, not used for management expenses other than recovering any direct costs.”
Our customer tipping survey was run alongside a similar survey of restaurant managers and operators. The next step will be to compare the results of each survey and propose guidelines for the future of tipping based on the views of both businesses and their customers.
We would like to thank all those who took time to take the survey. If you have any questions on any of the results, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 158 5829.