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Over half of diners confused by tipping and want clear legislation

06 January 2017 by

More than half of British diners find UK tipping etiquette confusing and awkward and would welcome clear legislation on where money from tips and service charges should go.

That's according to a survey by AA Hotel and Hospitality Services which quizzed 19,317 restaurant-goers on the issue via an online Populus poll.

The results showed that there is bewilderment about how much to tip and uncertainty about who gets the money left as a tip.

Among the findings were:

• Over half of customers said they felt awkward about tipping because they were concerned their tips would not go to the waiting staff.

• A third of customers never know how much they should tip. Young people were the most confused about this and over half felt the most inclined not to tip at all.

• Uncertainties around using credit card machines to add a tip affected 75 % of the over 55s, while a third of Brits overall found the process confusing.

An independent online survey of 75 UK restaurants showed that they were all pro-tipping but would like the process to be made more transparent.

Findings in this survey included:

• Almost all (96%) of UK restaurants welcome tipping

• Restaurants are divided on their policies regarding optional service charges with an almost even split (54.17%) between those excluding and including service on their customer's bill

• 81% of UK restaurants would welcome new legislation that requires all restaurants to share tips with waiting staff

• Over three quarters (73%) offer the ability to tip via credit or debit card.

• Over half exclude service charge from their customers' bills

The survey comes at a time when several businesses in the hospitality sector have come under fire for the way in which they handle service charges.

Earlier this week, London department store Harrods was threatened with the prospect of a demonstration by its employees for the way in which it retains the majority of money contributed to the tronc at its 16 cafes and restaurants.

The United Voices of the World union (UVW) claims that Harrods retains up to 75% of the service charge collected. Harrods said it was improving the system through which it distributes its service charge as part of an "ongoing review".

Meanwhile, chef patron of two-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche in London was the subject of criticism before Christmas after it was revealed that some of his chefs were paid below the minimum wage and that the restaurant did not pass on the service charge added to bills to its staff.

Roux announced that he would be scrapping the service charge altogether shortly prior to this revelation and has taken steps to raise salaries and pay back staff who received less than the minimum wage.

In 2016, the Government set out a series of proposals on how restaurants should handle tipping and the service charge following a series of controversies over the issue.

The consultation, called by former business secretary Sajid Javid, concluded in May of that year.

It suggested that charges imposed on staff tips by employers should be scrapped or limited (except for those required under tax law), and that service charges on customers' bills should also be clear and voluntary.

The government also said it was considering:

• how to incentivise and increase the prevalence of well-managed tronc systems;
• updating the current voluntary code of practice and putting it on a statutory footing to increase employer compliance
• The proposals went out for consultation, in a process that lasted until 27 June this year. The industry is now awaiting the results of that consultation.

Caroline Walford, customer support manager, AA Hotel and Hospitality Services said: "Tipping is optional and while there is no legal obligation to leave one, our research brings to light a social dilemma affecting the majority of British diners.

Perhaps this survey points towards a lingering British embarrassment surrounding money or perhaps it's time for more clarity for both consumers and those in the hospitality industry. It's always advisable to ask whether the service charge is included on a bill at the end of a meal. If not, a standard tip tends to be 10% of the total. However, this amount is discretionary and if your service or dining experience has been exceptionally good or unusually disappointing the amount you leave can reflect your experience accordingly."

Harrods attacked over service charge policy >>

Le Gavroche to scrap service charge >>

Michel Roux Jr: "I ballsed up on pay but it won't happen again" >>

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