Tipping is likely here to stay in Ontario — but should it?
With minimum wage increasing on Jan. 1, hospitality prof questions culture of tipping
When I was little, I was always under the impression that leaving a tip was meant to recognize really good service and that doing so or not was a customer’s choice to make. In spite of the fact that I’ve learned to act like everyone else and tip for every damn thing anybody does, I’ve never quite been able to shake that notion. Why should I be obligated to pay extra for the privilege of being treated like shit? Or what about those times when the food is great, but the people bringing it to me aren’t? I have no way of making sure my thanks goes to the people who deserve the credit. And why are we tipping people simply for doing what they’re supposed to be doing and not because they’ve gone above and beyond for us? Cab drivers, for example. The minimum requirements of your work day are to get me safely from one place to another. If you do that, lovely. And thank you very much for being competent. But why am I tipping for that if I’m not supposed to tip, say, the person at the grocery store for bagging my things logically and without breaking any jars? If the driver goes the extra step of helping me find my way inside of a building I’m not familiar with or the grocery person helps me carry things some distance, that’s a tip. Otherwise it’s just you doing your job, and the entire reason I’m expected to tip is because your employer doesn’t want to pay you properly. If you’re going to get the money out of me one way or another, I’d much rather be charged what something is truly felt to be worth than have to make that decision for myself but have no real choice in the matter. And no, that doesn’t mean a line item on a bill that says gratuity. That’s just a forced tip, which is insulting garbage to me.
“We strongly also felt that perhaps [the tipping model] was not the fair and equitable distribution of … service charge,” said Chaudhary, referencing how some employees in the “back of the house” are not as visible as servers, such as sous-chefs and line cooks.
His restaurant instead charges what it thinks guests should pay, which provides enough margin to pay staff a living wage — calculated at $18.60 in Ottawa, according to the Ontario Living Wage Network.
“Getting away from [the] tipping model, it really empowers the entire team,” Chaudhary said, adding his staff members also receive benefits thanks to this model.
Bruce McAdams, an associate professor of hospitality, food, and tourism management at the University of Guelph, said Alberta and British Columbia have both already eliminated the special minimum wage for alcohol servers. The practice of tipping remains, though.
What may happen instead, he says, is a business could readjust the distribution of tips evenly among staff who are either serving or cooking.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think tipping will go away,” McAdams said of Ontario.
It’s unfortunate, he explained, because after decades of working in and researching the industry, he realized tipping may be at the root of many issues.
“From pay, to discrimination, the sexualization of servers — it’s just the more I look into it, the more I wish it would go away,” said McAdams.