Restaurant Workers – Tips vs. Salary

One of the things I have found different between restaurants in the U.S. and Europe has been how long it takes to get your bill.

Prior to getting the bill, the service is similar on both sides of the Atlantic (usually, but more on that later). However, in Europe it takes a looooooong time to get your bill once you have finished your meal.

At first I thought it was just an isolated instance, but it has happened at EVERY restaurant we have been to, even when the restaurant is busy. And I find it quite surprising, and mildly (OK, more than mildly) annoying.

Surprising because it seems as if the restaurant would have a vested interest in having people leave their restaurant once they are finished so that it opens another table for a new customer, which means more revenue for the owner.

It’s annoying, because when I am finished, I want to leave. And sometimes it’s hard to get the waiter’s attention to bring the check over. I remember how excited I was when I went to a restaurant in London that had an app you could use to pay your bill. It solved my problem.

I think part of the reason for the difference is that in Europe, the wait staff are paid a salary, and are not really counting on a tip to supplement that salary. As a result, there seems to be little incentive for a waiter to focus on table turnover, since they will be paid the same regardless.

In the U.S., tips often make up a significant portion of a waiter’s income, and thus they have a stronger incentive to turn over the tables so that they can serve more customers and earn a higher income.

But it seems that the owners of the restaurants in both the U.S. and Europe would want the higher table turnover, so I am not sure why the European owners would not encourage their waiters to get the bill to the customer as quickly as possible.

And while the service in nearly all the places we’ve eaten in Europe has been great, there have been a couple of instances of less than stellar service.

While poor/rude service is annoying, I did not find it surprising, because of the incentives. If the waiter is getting paid the same regardless of whether they provide great or mediocre service, it seems like there would be a greater tendency to provide just average, or even below average service.

Fortunately, that has not been the case very often. In fact, it seems like it’s just as likely to get bad service in Europe as it in the U.S., despite the major differences in incentive to provide good service in the U.S. because of the tipping culture.

I am a big proponent of restaurant personnel being paid a living wage, exclusive of tips. It seems from my small sampling of experience doing so would not cause much of a change in the level of service, with the possible exception of getting the bill to the customer on a timely basis.

And if the owners are concerned about slow turnover of tables because of such behavior, then a simple solution would be to have an app that customers can use to pay the bill when they are ready to do so.

So there you have it.

My solutions to all that plagues the restaurant industry, and all at no cost.




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