Spare me the American-style service charge - I’ll decide whether you deserve a tip

5 February 2024, 10:42 | Updated: 5 February 2024, 11:59

Tipping should be optional and a reward for good service, writes Johnny Jenkins
Tipping should be optional and a reward for good service, writes Johnny Jenkins. Picture: Alamy
Johnny Jenkins

By Johnny Jenkins

A 12.5% charge shouldn’t be the standard in restaurants - tipping should be based on the quality of the service you receive.

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I’m a massive supporter of the hospitality industry. Or maybe I just love eating out.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s something special about having quality food made just for you.

Sunday morning is the perfect opportunity to indulge this desire and see friends over brunch. This weekend, I did just that. I had a double espresso and a full English. No eggs, please. Extra sausage.

The service in the café was good and I wanted to tip our waiter. But when the bill arrived, it had already been done for me.

There’s a 12.5% ‘optional’ service charge on the receipt. Except it’s not really optional. You’d have to be bold to ask for it to be removed.

It never used to be like this. Tipping is a positive action - a reward for good service - it shouldn’t be a given. Good service certainly isn’t a given.

I spent many of my teenage years working in a café by the seaside. Sometimes I deserved a tip, other times I didn’t.

Being tipped by customers was an exciting experience - you really felt you’d earned the coins you carried home in your pocket.

Sometimes I left work with no extra cash - I was lazy or bored or hungover. I didn’t offer top-class service. I wouldn’t dream of asking customers to give me money if I didn’t deserve it.

The problem now is that tips have become part of the salary of hospitality staff. It shouldn’t be like this. The solution seems simple - give waiters a decent salary in the first place.

A friend of mine told me of his hospitality horror story just last week. The food was cold and he received the wrong coffee. As a result, he declined to pay the 12.5% charge. Once my mate left, he was chased down the street by the Maître d', demanding he cough up £8.50.

I went to a bar recently and ordered my drink on the company’s app. I collected my own cocktail from the bar, only to see I had been charged a service fee. I hadn’t even spoken to a member of staff!

It’s just getting ridiculous now. I was even asked to tip my barber recently. My barber! And that was after he’d charged me north of £30 for my trim.

Customer service isn’t top quality in this country anymore. It’s usually average at best. But when we receive good hospitality, it needs to be recognised and rewarded.

I don’t want to see ‘12.5%’ on my bills anymore. It may work like that in America, but don’t bring it over here - tipping must remain optional.