If the restaurant’s menu clearly states that a large-party gratuity will be added, yes, you are required to pay it, said Diane Withrow, hotel and restaurant management program coordinator at Cape Fear Community College.
“It’s like if it said on the menu, ‘We’re charging for water,’ ” Withrow said. At the same time, “If I get terrible service and I say, ‘Look, this was ridiculous,’ it would be the same as removing (food) that’s substandard.”
Servers usually make less than minimum wage, so the majority of their paycheck comes from tips. If a server spends an extended amount of time on a larger party and the party decides not to tip them, that costs the server a lot of money. That’s why it’s common for most restaurants to add an automatic gratuity to the bill for a big party, an outside catering event, or even on prom nights, Withrow said.
“They’ve posted that that’s the charge, just like a hotel could post, ‘If you stay past checkout time, we’ll charge you for another night,'” she said. “It’s posted, so it gives them the right to do it.”
All of the local restaurants we talked to have some type of policy for a large-party gratuity, but none were opposed to removing the tip if service was terrible.
And many servers may choose not to add gratuity to a larger party’s bill, even if the menu says it will be added. If a server thinks you’ll tip even higher than the required percentage, they’ll often remove the automatic gratuity.
Withrow encourages customers to complain if they receive poor service, but she also said customers should think twice before being reluctant to tip.
“People have gotten very used to being in control over the pay of the server,” Withrow said. “I find it very interesting how people can be very reluctant. You got waited on, didn’t you?”
Date posted: July 21, 2010
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