Automatic Gratuities and The Continuing Free Fall of Fine Dining

Here are the top reasons I think corporate restaurants should have an automatic gratuity added to their guest check.

1. It would create a better clientele in most cases. You would find yourself not having to serve a bunch of kids with ipods who don’t have any money to begin with from coming into your restaurant. Of course if you work in a place with a high end clientele you do not need to read any further.

2. Because of the above reason you would encounter less separate checks to deal with. When the party of 11 kids come in and they all want separate checks that is a big hassle that takes you away from serving other tables. And it usually is not worth it.

3. Servers would stick around a lot longer in the establishment. Especially servers who have kids and mortage. Needless to say that is why you see a lot of younger people working in a restaurant that doesn’t add on the automatic gratuity for large parties. They can get by on the bad night.

Those are my top 3 reasons.

Now here is my number reason it will never happen.

Corporate restaurants serve to the masses. Everybody and their uncle comes to the restaurant and that is how they can bring such high numbers. It is a business decision plain and simple. In and out pay the bill and next please. It is all about volume and as long as people know they can get away with tipping less they will go there.

The chain restaurant is taking over. Fine dining is heading out. Only in select places does it still exist. Downtown near financial districts it still happens but out in the suburbs it has but disappeared. Even in the city where I work there has been a few recent closures of fine dining establishments that I thought were doing quite well not too long ago.

In the small town where I live the highest average check in the busiest restaurant is $25 per person. That is drinks and food. One chicken and rib place the waitress told me $11-$13 per person. I mean you gotta go through a lot of people to make your $100.

That is probably why I don’t work in the town where I live.

I am rambling on here but for those of you who are just starting out in the business and waiting on tables , the future tends to lean toward fast in and out style of restaurant. Gratuities will not be added on because you will be seen as too expensive. So in order to compete….leave them off.

With the looming next recession about to take place people will be tightening their belts even more and the waiter will be affected. The gratuity and business will be hurting. I suggest do something else like go back to school cause this industry will just be chicken and wings 20 years from now.

It has changed a lot since I started and it doesn’t appear anytime soon the gueridon will be making a comeback.

What do you think?


  1. As a customer, I am never put off adding gratuity on large tables if I am reminded of that when they bring the check. I usually add more on. I just want to be reminded, even if it is posted on the menu or somewhere else.

  2. cd0103…for sure. It is a bad thing when waiters do not tell you and you have added a gratuity already on the automatic gratuity that is already on the check. That is dishonest and pretty much stealing if you ask me.

  3. I am never put off by the added grat either as long as I am told ahead of time [or it is on the menu.] And like cd we always add more.I think the reason they don't auto grat at chains is because the argument could be made to just raise the prices and pay the staff [at least] minimum wage instead.And we all know THAT is never going to happen. 😀

  4. I always enjoy reading your posts.. a few things from my 2 cents :It is undeniable that our world, dining out included, is becoming increasingly 'corporatized' and there are growing masses of unsophisticated diners who march lockstep into mainstream chain restaurants daily. At the same time, though, I see a renaissance in food. Roll back a few years and there was no food network, no iron chef, no.. no reservations. People are getting into community gardening and farm to table restaurants are gaining more popularity by the day. There is a chef-driven restaurant just like this in the city where I live that will set you back $125+ per person to eat at.. and they are booked solid. The surge towards cheap meals and chicken wings is there.. no doubt about it.. but there is a counter force of food sophistication and a turning away from the mainstream that is also taking place. Keep the faith!

  5. SkippyMom….true but the guest should just be tipping that anyway. It shouldn't reflect on the price of a meal. If a person tips me it doesn't drive down the cost of a meal nor the opposite. But I see what you are saying.

  6. The Jaded Waiter…a good reason why I blog is so others can disagree with me or have a different opinion. I try to talk of something a bit different at times. Where is this place at $125 a person so I can apply there?lolI cannot disagree with you. I think it depends on where you live. No doubt there is a lot of sophistication out there too. But I think the market out there is shrinking quickly for that kind of dining. I even think more people with families are eating at home now. And the baby boomers retiring now just go for the chicken specials at lunch time.They will soon in a decade represent the majority of diners. Indian , sushi and Pakistani restaurants are coming on with the influx of immigrants from those countries. I think the dining landscape is evolving let's put it that way.Thanks as always for your comments jaded waiter.

  7. I'm with the Jaded Waiter on this one. Fine dining still exists but it looks much different than it did a couple of decades ago. Fine dining now is more about culinary skill and pushing the limits. I live in Kansas City, which by no means is overly cosmopolitan, but we have our share of James Beard winners who are really pushing the envelope. The new style of fine dining is focused on well executed food that is not pretentious. Guests demand more than just Beef Wellington on white linens. They want exceptional dishes with premium ingredients in a relaxed environment. I recently went to one of these places and racked up a $100 tab without drinks. It was owned by a James Beard winner and we had Duck Tongue Tacos as an appetizer. Our server was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and we sat at a high top table despite being their only 7:00 reservation. It is a different set of priorities than previous generations.The restaurant I work at runs a $50-60 per person average. It is an incredible building with mahogany walls and a large stained glass doem above it. About 20% of our guests will come in wearing jeans. They are willing to spend the money, but also expect to be comfortable while doing it.Fine dining hasn't died, but it looks muh different than it has in the past

  8. David…this is great cause these comments I am getting provide a wide spectrum of thoughts. Where I live which is outside of Toronto and Niagara with it's wineries there isn't a big concentration of restaurants that you speak of. A la carte pretty much happens on Friday and Saturday nights. During the week unless you live in Toronto not a lot is going on. Restaurants here are more inclined to try to get group business , parties , and weddings. I like your comments but here I am afraid it is not like where you are. Fine dining places are finding it is a tough market. Places are hanging on unless they have a banquet space attached. People seem to come out here and go to places where no reservations are required. Eating out is not a big deal.Where you are it probably is cause you are tasting something special. Last night I had people come to the restaurant that were with others that didn't even want to eat. The restaurant is just a meeting place and the food is secondary it seems. Do you see what I am getting at?

  9. Dude, excellent post. I don't like to auto-grat people and about 95% of the time I come out ahead, a lot of times WAY ahead. But you gave us a lot to think about, next big recession? Scary. At least you live in a real country where they might do something about it.

  10. Joe…thank you for joining in and your kind words. Certainly I agree that I do well nearly all the time but what would be good is to just auto grat the tables where it looks like it is going to be dismal. Like the table that comes in 1/2 hour before closing time and is sharing their meals and all want separate bills. There you go I think I hit something. Leave it to the waiter's discretion to put on the grat for the party.

  11. OMG – all the memories you are bringing back – right now I am just going to read – maybe add my two cents later – so far good for you – love the BLOG.One Million Tulips

  12. Rabin…thank you for your nice comments. Glad you like the blog!

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