Most Americans would agree that tipping 15 to 20 percent of their bill is standard after enjoying a restaurant meal. But according to a recent poll, diners are holding back when it comes to compensating their servers.
The Pew Research Center poll indicates that the majority of U.S. diners are now tipping 15 percent or less for a sit-down meal at a restaurant. Of the 11,945 adults surveyed, 37 percent said that 15 percent is their standard tip, 18 percent claimed to tip less than 15 percent on average, and two percent claimed to tip nothing at all.
This overall decline is possibly a result of what many are calling “tip fatigue,” a now-common phenomenon born from people being asked to tip more frequently on transactions they haven’t traditionally tipped for — think buying a water bottle at a convenience store, a burger at McDonald’s, or merch at a concert — through the now-ubiquitous contactless payment systems made more popular by the pandemic.
Pew’s poll also cites that 77 percent of people claim that service quality is a “major factor” of consideration when deciding how much to tip, but there’s an increasing belief that social approval is a bigger driver for tipping than gauging the level of service.
In an industry where tips can account for the majority of its workers’ incomes, it’s disheartening to see these numbers fall. Widespread empathy for service workers made people more generous tippers during the early pandemic, but if whatever goes up does indeed goes down, we’re in for a major tipping slump. The average nationwide tip at restaurants sank to 19.4 percent in the second quarter of 2023, the lowest percentage since the start of the pandemic, according to Toast data.
In many European countries, a gratuity of 15 percent is built into every transaction at a café, bar, or restaurant. While full-blown gratuity reform might not be in the cards stateside, the American practice of unregulated tipping is proving to be a growing concern for people who rely on tips to make ends meet.