Who tips the best at restaurants?
The rate-comparison website CreditCards.com teamed with a research firm in late June and found that the best tippers were:
• Baby Boomers
• Those using a payment card
Those groups generally leave a median tip of 20 percent of the total bill at U.S. restaurants, the survey found. Women leave a median tip of 16 percent, and the median tip for Southerners and Democrats is 15 percent.
Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted the poll from June 22-25, and interviewed 1,002 adults in the continental United States by telephone. The margin of error was 3.7 percentage points.
The survey results indicate “tipping is alive and well in restaurants throughout the nation and that tippers are getting more generous,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com. “That’s a great thing for those hard-working service industry folks because it means they’re likely to take a little more home at the end of the night than they used to.”
About 2 percent of those surveyed said they never left a tip in a sit-down restaurant, and 7 percent said they tipped “only sometimes.”
A number of full-service, independent restaurants have tried a service charge or service-included model, but few chains have done so. In 2015, Joe’s Crab Shack tested the model in 18 restaurants, but pulled back from it in less than a year.
“The system has to change at some point, but our customers and staff spoke very loudly,” said Bob Merritt, then-CEO of Joe’s Houston-based parent company Ignite Restaurant Group. “And a lot of them voted with their feet.”
The survey found that four out of every five people always leave a restaurant tip, with the median being 18 percent of the bill.
Schulz said restaurants that try to eliminate gratuities “may face an uphill climb because tipping at restaurants is such an ingrained part of our culture.
“And the fact that customers are getting more generous with their tips means that if a restaurant tried to do away with tipping they might have to increase the wait staff’s pay a bit more than they thought to make up for it,” he said.
The study found that those earning $75,000 or more a year were the most frequent and generous tippers.
“Generally, it all comes down to income,” Schulz said. “The tie that binds all of those groups of big tippers is that they tend to make a little more than their counterparts, and the more money you have, the more likely you are to leave a little extra on the table at the end of the night.”
However, at coffee shops, the tipping rate dropped significantly: 29 percent said they always tipped the barista, while 30 percent said they never did.
At restaurants, 59 percent of men said they leave a tip that exceeds 15 percent of the bill, versus 47 percent of women.
Geographically, 62 percent of those in the Northeast said they left a tip that exceeded 15 percent of the bill, followed by those in the Midwest at 57 percent, those in the West at 51 percent and those in the South at 46 percent.
Age also played a factor, with older diners leaving larger tips. Baby Boomers left 20 percent, Generation Xers left a median of 18 percent and young Millennials, those ages 18 to 26, left a median of 16 percent. Median tips slipped to 15 percent for those 72 and older, the survey found.
About nine in every 10 of those who paid with credit cards said they always left a tip for the wait staff, but that dropped to 76 percent of those who paid cash. The groups that paid tips in cash were general those earning $30,000 or less a year, as well as those residing in rural areas and 72 years or older.
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