I have written way too much lately about inflation, the economy, wages and the grim realities of wrestling employment in our industry back to normalcy. As we continue to navigate a climate where the effects of the pandemic are still bringing very real challenges, we have lacked true innovation in foodservice – not only in products and services, but content. 


Yet I feel compelled to bring up yet another economic topic. One that comes with encouragement to reflect on how our personal behaviors may be contributing to some industry difficulties. 


The importance of tipping is something near and dear to me and my colleagues. And a typical blog would likely focus on the factors driving reports of tipping declines – consumers feeling pinched by inflation, a natural shift downward from larger tips they may be been giving to service workers over the height of the pandemic, tipping “fatigue” as mobile payment systems invite opportunities to tip in settings where that may not have previously been the norm, etc. 


But instead, I want to raise a call to action. If you are one of the foodservice patrons who is pulling back on tipping, remember the importance and be the continually supportive industry partner we all need to be. 


To bring your reflection on this into focus, here is an exercise: below are five rationales against tipping foodservice staff. If you find yourself agreeing with even one of these, then you, my friend, are a lousy tipper. And should feel chagrined as someone who is employed in the same industry. 


My server was inattentive, rude or late with my order


Terrible excuse and reasoning. Keep top-of-mind the foodservice labor situation we so often speak of when you are a foodservice patron yourself. Imagine not having the teammates who help you perform your job. Consider this is a daily reality for servers, cashiers and drive-through workers at restaurants as well as foodservice settings in hotels, colleges, hospitals, etc. TIP. 


I am ordering from a QSR/counter so no need to tip


See above. Also, have you ever truly observed the entitlement and nastiness that can occur routinely at a coffeeshop counter? Next time you are in Starbucks, take just a minute to witness the 200-word special orders and the tantrums that can result if a pump of one of the ingredients in those creations is even a smidge less than expected. TIP.


The service fee is included


This applies to room service in hotels and also to delivery drivers from say, DoorDash or Postmates. Do you know how much of the tip actually goes to the delivery person? I have a colleague who always pays a tip in cash to ensure the server/driver receives the money. Plus, there was the news from a delivery service that was taking tip money from drivers. My suggestion is, when in doubt, tip. Use cash when possible too.


Foodservice workers now make $15 an hour or more


If you are reading this essay, you are likely an executive in the foodservice industry. There’s a decent chance you are reading this in the comfort of an office (or even home office). You are probably sipping an Americano and will peruse Amazon during a spare moment, looking at replacement bags for your corn hole set or whatever “necessity” you currently need. You might be thinking about where to get lunch. Don’t be a cheapo. TIP. 


I don’t want to pay the extra 20% because my meal is too expensive anyway


Really? Cancel your Zumba class today. Don’t buy trail mix by the bushel at Costco. But don’t, by any means, cut back on the coffee at the gas station. Or the breakfast wrap from the drive-through. Our industry needs those. 


The foodservice recovery depends on this just as much as all the strategies we debate to deal with high food costs, supply problems and labor shortages. You know, the things we do to earn the salaries and benefits our other industry colleagues may lack. We are all fellows in foodservice. So be understanding and supportive when you are on the patron side of the equation. And once more, for good measure, TIP. 


Tim Powell is a Managing Principal of Foodservice IP. Tim serves as a trusted foodservice adviser to management at several food companies.

To learn more about FSIP’s Management Consulting Practice, click here.

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