Industry News

The Practice of Tip Pooling is Killing Service at our Restaurants

June 6, 2017, Source: Murad Alnasur, Restonalysis FZE, Dubai, UAE

What Happened to tipping in the GCC region?

In the early days of the 1980's I recall a sign posted at a bar that read: Tipping is not a city in China. The goal was to make the guest aware of tipping their bartender. 

Nowadays, when I deal with the tip topic, I increasingly hear operators complain that their team does not make much in tips. In addition, I hear servers complain about tip sharing (Pooled tips). In my opinion, tip sharing must end if we are to improve service. Why should a good server be motivated to give good service when at the end of the night his tips are shared with lazy, careless, and non-attentive servers?

Take it from me. As a consultant, I advise all operators to switch to personal tips where the server keeps all the tips. You will see the service level at your restaurant improve 10 folds. As a customer, I refuse to give tips when I know that my server will not personally benefit from them. I want my server to know that I took care of him/her. This way, they will take care of me next time I visit.

TIPS: To Insure Prompt Service

Tipping is an incentive to encourage the server to do his/her best. Taking that incentive and either keeping it to pay for breakage or divide it will de motivate the servers to give excellent service. In turn, the server, the guest, and the operator all will suffer.

I used to be a server. I remember how many bad servers I worked with. I also remember how much more money I made than they did, and how guests lined up waiting for my section to become available to sit at it, because they know they will be taken care of.

Let us stop the insanity of rewarding the incompetent. Let us stop the practice of pooled tips and allow the servers to highlight their talent (Or lack of it) and either benefit from it or not.

If our service team knows that we do not care who gets the tips, they will never try to please our guests.

Good server / Bad server

Finally, and to drive the point home, allow me to illustrate:

Server A is a great server. He/she is on time, in good looking uniform, always within reach from the guest, helps the guest throughout the dining experience, and makes it fun to dine at the establishment. Takes care of kid’s needs, guest special needs and serves as a lobbyist on behalf of the guest to get a great dining experience. Serves the food properly, clears the table properly, and suggests the best desserts which he/she knows the guest will love. Does not take cigarette breaks and never on his/her phone while working. His/her side work is always done, and his/her station is immaculate. That server ends up making AED 500 in one night on the average.

Server B is a lazy server, comes to work late, uniform is not tidy, takes 10 cigarette breaks a night, does not contribute to side work and his/her station is a mess. In addition, and most importantly, he/she is only an order taker. Does not follow up to ensure guest satisfaction and could care less if the guest returns or not. Most of you say, he/she should be fired. The reality is that we do not fire him/her. After all, recruiting a new one is costly. Instead, we ask server A the super star to help him/her. On the average, this server if lucky will make AED 50 dirhams because he got lucky and one table left the change.

Now it is the end of the month. Server A contributed AED 13,000 to the tip pool, and server B contributed only AED 1200. What we do when we pool tips is that we add up the tips totaling AED 14,200 and divide them between them where each one takes AED 7100. Is that fair to server A? What message are we sending server B when we reward his/her bad performance. The message is that we do not care about guest service. I only used 2 severs. What happens at a place where there are 4 A servers, and 6 B servers? The cut for the A server is even less.

What I just illustrated is the reality of what takes place when you pool tips. Let’s stop this madness and reward the performers based on their performance.


How should diners deal with tipping?

To our guests, if you want your server to get the tip you leave at a place that pools tips, ask for the manager, and make a point that you want your server to keep his/her tips and not put it in a jar. That should serve as a wakeup call to the operators. In addition, my dear guests, please leave tips when service is great, and do not leave tips when service is bad. Do not make emotional decisions on tips as all it does is give the bad servers a sense of confidence that they are not entitled to.