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It's showing up as the suggested minimum at some restaurants.

April 03, 2017

If it feels like the expected gratuity at restaurants has inched higher over the years, you’re probably right – at least when it comes to what suggested gratuities restaurants are printing on their receipts. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, more restaurants are ditching the traditional 15, 18 and 20-percent suggestions, instead starting with a minimum suggested tip of 18-percent.

“Tipping in the U.S. has traditionally been considered to be in the 15- to 20-percent range,” NRN writes. “But that appears to be changing.” The industry publication then goes on to cite a laundry list of restaurants and restaurant groups who have done away with printing a 15-percent suggested tip on receipts – from casual dining chain Houlihan’s to slightly more esteemed groups like Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup to independent restaurants. Instead, suggesting the tip amounts of 18, 20 and even 22-percent seem to be the new normal.

Michael Ekwall, co-owner of La Bodeguita in Palo Alto, the restaurant who helped spark the tips discussion after they posted a copy of one of their receipts as part of an unrelated campaign, told NRN that printing 18-percent as the minimum suggested tip is more in line with the actual tips his servers receive. He didn’t want a suggestion that would lowball his staff. “There’s a different level of affluence in the Bay Area, and a lot of people dine out, and I think the standard has gone up,” he said.

Of course, on the other side of the coin, tipping has emerged as a bit of a controversial topic overall as major restauranteurs like Danny Meyer have advocated for ending tipping entirely. But whether you believe in tipping or not, the simple mathematics of rising percentages don’t entirely add up: In theory, a set percentage shouldn’t have to inch upward; instead, increases in food prices due to inflation should keep tips competitive year to year without having to tip a larger portion of the bill.

Although, as recent research has found even if the amount of money per table is going up, working for tips is still a tough way to earn a living.