Skip to content

Distracted Dining: To tip or not to tip - that should be the question

In this week's Distracted Dining, Nancy takes on the history of tipping and today’s fine art of mastering it
Distracted Dining with Nancy Revie

Ever wonder where tipping started?

Tipping is believed to have originated in taverns of the 17th Century England. Robust drinkers would slip money to the waiter ‘to insure promptitude’ or T.I.P. for short.

Think about that for a moment. To insure promptitude as in, receiving prompt service. My — how times have changed.

In 1897, The New York Times published an article stating there was a movement brewing against tipping in America. There was an anti-tipping group that believed tipping was the ‘vilest of imported vices.’ Why? Because it created an aristocratic class in a country fighting hard to eliminate a class-driver society.

As borrowed customs go, this tipping business has got out of hand.

In my younger days when I started to go to a restaurant where you actually were served and therefore expected to tip, we left a tip based on the service we received. The tip went to the waiter/waitress and was based on the service they delivered — nothing more, nothing less. It felt good to acknowledge and appreciate the service.

A former waitress myself, I know how hard those tips are worked for. One of the jobs I had while in high school was waitressing at a pancake house/truck stop on Highway 2 just outside of Ancaster. It was brutal. I was young, the cooks were just kids with no experience; the management were tyrannical and the pay was lousy — well below minimum wage. Back then, we were supposed to be compensated by the awesome tips we received — not! Part of our tip was split out with the busboy who was pretty much useless. The whole atmosphere was not pleasant and the tips were minimal. The experience for the consumer was usually not great, primarily because food did not come out of the kitchen quick and tasty. Somehow, this was my fault and no matter how much I smiled or apologized, my tip was based on how quickly customers got their food and how delicious — or not — it was.page1image20832

Gratuities (tips) are seldom included in Canadian restaurants bills. Having said that, I recently had a drink at a local establishment. My friend had to go hunt down a server; ordered at the bar; and we got our drinks after a wait. We were the only people in the restaurant and a 10 per cent gratuity was tacked onto the bill for me. The drinks were delicious and I ended up paying $10.45 for one drink and a glass of water with less than stellar service. Check the bill. Service may already be an included item. If that’s the case, unless you feel compelled to enhance the waiters life with some additional cash for truly exceptional service, consider the add-on your tip.

In Canada, tipping has become somewhat of a custom, an expectation, a norm as opposed to something earned. As a rule of thumb, it’s customary to tip approximately 15-20 per cent on the total bill before tax, less for poor service and more for truly exceptional service. The easiest way to calculate the appropriate tip is to look at the HST amount, which is 13 per cent and round up to 15 per cent or more.

Tipping is about the service. A bad restaurant experience may not be because of the service. Food could be bad or slow — not the server’s fault. Instead of punishing the server by withholding a tip, consider speaking to the manager instead. Most managers want to know about problems and will take the opportunity to make things better for you the customer. You should do more than just withhold a tip. Conversely, if a server is rude to you — Tipping is your choice. While it is common to tip in restaurants in Canada, it is not required. Sometimes the service is worth a tip, but sometimes not.

A tipping tip — servers prefer to be tipped in cash even if you pay with your credit card. Tip the waiter cash — in their hand not on the table to ensure the tip reaches your server. Adding the tip to your credit card may mean your waiter may not see that money in hand.

Many restaurants in London, England have implemented a genius process. They list a 12.5 percent ‘optional’ tip on the bill, but you only tip what you feel the service warrants. It still holds true — any amount of tip is appreciated. Tip what you feel the service is warranted; leave constructive comments for ways to improve if required and in turn — do your part to ensure your waiter has a great experience with you — common courtesy — it works both ways.

Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at​​. Her column appears every other week.