Should Australian Pub And Restaurant Workers Be Tipped?

Should Australian Pub And Restaurant Workers Be Tipped?

Australia is one of the few Western nations where tipping isn’t expected — but this could soon be set to change if the results of a new national survey can be believed. According to bar tab app Clipp, nearly 60 per cent of Australians regularly tip, despite often making less money per hour than their servers. What do you make of all this? Cast your vote in our poll!

Barmaid image from Shutterstock

Clipp — which we have reviewed in the past — surveyed more than 2000 pub- and restaurant-going Australians about their tipping habits. It found that almost 60% of Australians are on the tipping bandwagon, with fast and attentive service the main motivator. Other factors that contributed to tipping included great meals, special privileges (such as a nice table) and attractive wait staff.

When broken down by age, older customers are the most likely to tip, with 71 per cent of surveyed Australians in their 50s tipping at restaurants, compared to just 29% of people under 20. As you’d probably expect, high income earners (over $150,000) are most likely to tip, but the average amount they tip is a paltry 5-10 per cent of the bill.

“While Australians aren’t obliged to tip, our survey suggests we are happy to as a reward for wait staff for great customer service,” said Clipp co-founder Greg Taylor. “Generally, most Australians believe tipping between 5-10% is considered reasonable, with the survey identifying one in three (37%) tipping this much.”

Personally, I’m not certain that tipping culture belongs in Australia. After all, our minimum wage is significantly higher than in the US and we currently pay generous weekend penalty rates. A part of me thinks this trend has been caused by American TV shows and movies which frequently discuss tipping: monkey see, monkey do.

On the other hand, bar and restaurant staff are among the hardest working in any industry. It could be argued that the tip jar is adequate compensation for the sore feet and stress. We’re keen to hear what you guys think: should tipping be expected or something that only happens on special occasions? Cast your vote below!

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  • I don’t know, I tell them to keep the change sometimes but that is less about service and more about not wanting a pocket full of coins when I’m out all night.

  • I normally won’t tip a pub worker at all, I might round up a restaurant one just to prevent shrapnel.

    However if the Federal Government does reduce the minimum wage or cut penalty rates then I likely would.

  • Tipping isn’t and shouldn’t be expected, but I do reward great service. Being served by someone who really knows their stuff is an incredibly obvious and rare experience, and I want to reinforce that behaviour.

    I worked in the industry for fifteen years, all the way up to Michelin star venues around the worlr, and making customers want to tip you is a great motivator. We’d always share the tips throughout the staff, and generally used it all at the pub after work. It was fun, but not critical.

    I’ve also worked in the US briefly and absolutely hated the system. Dining service becomes much more like pushing gym memberships, and everything suffers. Bad service still gets almost as much as good service, and the value as a motivator is completely destroyed.

    The system we have here is my favourite, the lack of expectation means a tip has a real effect on the staff. So many times even the good ones will skip past the tip screen on the eftpos terminal out of embarrassment, and it shouldn’t really be that way.

    • I agree heartily. Tipping should not be obligatory, but tipping to reward good/great service rewards the best workers for going that extra mile and makes the tip actually mean something.

      It then combines in one action a compliment – an expression in the most solid possible terms – and a reward.

      On the other hand, I’ve occasionally been in restaurants (or taken a cab) where I would have tipped negatively if I could have.

      The US system is broken; it just shifts the responsibility for paying a living wage from the restaurant owner to the customer. I expect basic, competent service when I sit down, and I expect to pay for it as part of the price. For exceptional service, I like to have the freedom to reward while forgoing the obligation to ensure the server is getting a living wage.

  • I always tip, rounding the bill up to the nearest $5 or $10 increment, even when paying on card.

    I’ve done my time in hospitality work – it’s hard, demanding, and demoralising, and the pay is terrible compensation for that stress (yes, it’s better than America, but it’s still minimum wage).

    I have no trouble throwing a few extra dollars their way. Often the gesture, far more than the actual amount, is enough to improve the outlook of the workers.

    • do the staff actually get the tip $$ when you add it to your EFTPOS payment, or do owners / managers just pocket the extra $$?

      • Likely owners tbh, it’s extremely good chance that any work contract will specify that employees are not to accept bribes/tips of any kind.

    • I’ve just been reading their first book. Truly fascinating stuff. Going to get straight onto their next one.

  • I tip when the service warrants it, not otherwise. Australia still has a high minimum wage, it’s not like the US where waiters etc are paid peanuts and rely on tips to be able to afford to eat.

  • TLDR: No, tipping as a regular or expected behaviour is damaging to everyone involved. It should be reserved for exceptional service.

    Tipping is one of those things that can really snowball out of control. Tips as a reward for exceptional service is perfectly fine, but if tipping becomes the norm then salaries tend to be adjusted to take it into account. Employers are more inclined to pay minimum wage because they know the staff will get more than that from tipping anyway. Customers end up feeling obliged to tip and order less food so they can afford to pay the tip, which means less income for the business (and more for the staff).

    Then you end up on the cycle the US has, where food/drink prices get reduced to razor thin margins so customers will still actually buy things, while business owners put considerable pressure on the government to lower or at least not increase the minimum wage so the business can have a hope of still attracting a steady income. Customers don’t benefit from the low margins because they’re still paying the usual amount, just who it goes to changes. Tipping quickly becomes a requirement so the staff can get a decent income and everyone not in a tipping industry suffers because minimum wage doesn’t move with CPI like it should.

  • Unless you also consider tipping workers in other low paid jobs then I’m not sure why the hospitality industry should be any different. Nothing wrong with giving an extra reward for those that give you great service in any industry though, but it seems unfair that workers who only have face to face contact with customers would ever be considered for a tip, its not like you can tip your local abattoir worker for killing a cow humanely for instance…. perhaps if there was such a reward system in place where the general public can reward “behind the scenes” workers for exceptional work then perhaps those people would be more inclined to do a better job and feel better about their work/themselves.

  • I’ve tipped $5-$10 for exceptional service for the last 10 years.

    But that’s because they’ve gone well and truly above and beyond to ensure my night has been amazing.
    Australians are paid good wages and unless the government reduces their award there is no need to implement compulsory tipping.

  • Neither survey (Clipp’s or Lifehacker’s) should be considered even remotely accurate. On the one hand people want to sound are generous (even though they probably wouldn’t actually tip in real life), and on the other hand Lifehacker’s demographics very likely skew towards the thrifty.

  • Definitely NOT! Sure people like extra money, but this leads directly to lower wages for everyone in the industry. It’s a bad thing for our country people should be penalised for doing it.

    • I agree.

      Some say tipping is essential to “reward excellent service”, but you never tip doctors or nurses and they do a hell of a lot more for you than bringing you food and drink.

      Give the money to charity instead.

  • god no… this is Australia… Our service industry workers aren’t making $2-3 an hour they have exceptionally paying jobs in most cases. let their work pay them not you. If you start tipping its just going to skew wages bloody downwards, just like the United States.

  • and attractive wait staff
    This seems more a disturbing thing than it is a positive thing…

  • Most of the tips I get (retail telco) consist of Tim Tams, beer and wine. Better that way because it is more personal and it feels less dodgy than pocketing money in retail.

    • Just be careful with “tips in kind”. Many companies have an official written policy to deal with “harmless little thank-you’s” like Wine* and Chocolates.

      * thinking of a certain NSW premier brought down by a bottle of wine.

      Serious though, make sure in the official company rules that you are allowed to keep the “gifts” or if you must declare them, or even give that box of chocolates to the girls in HR, who wrote the rules in the first place.

  • I generally do round up the bill but sometimes that’s like only $2.80 or something, but really only if it is warranted.
    It has to be a really overall exceptional experience, wait staff, food, the atmosphere to get great tip, I’m a teacher my feet hurt at the end of the day also – no tips for me.

  • Tipping is really us subsidising shitty minimum wage laws, at least thats how it works in the US. What most diners don’t realise is that in most cases the tips are divided up amongst staff and the split is rarely favourable for wait staff as bar staff and other front of house staff tend to get a larger share, often when they’ve had nothing to do with the tipping customer.

    The real issue shouldnt be should we tip or not tip, it should be holding governments to a living wage for wait staff and a decent minimum wage standard.

  • I might tip for exceptionally good service, or when we’re a big group of people. Otherwise I might round up just to make life easier all around and avoid coins.

    I found tipping far more awkward somewhere like Vietnam. It’s really not a part of their culture, and a lot of people there find it awkward and embarrassing, but then the more touristy areas have a massive culture clash where it’s almost expected because Americans run around tipping everyone with $100US bills…

  • I tip only for really good service, unless I’m in America. And by that I mean above expectations – I’m already paying them via the margins on the food to provide me with service. Australia has laws about wages, and staff should already be receiving fair compensation for their work.

    Especially in places where people are likely to tip – McDonald’s workers and similar are probably getting the shortest end of the stick when it comes to actual wages, but very few people would ever dream of tipping someone there, no matter how polite or fast or helpful they might be. People tend to tip staffers in higher end restaurants and bars, where they should really already be paid properly.

    I’ll drop my change in the tip jar in a bar sometimes, but I’m more inclined to wait till later in the night, and if the staff have been great all night, I’ll leave them a twenty or something (in one case, while visiting Melbourne for the comedy festival, and spending part of most evening’s in the festival bar, my friends and I got together and left them a really big tip and a note telling the staff how awesome they’d been at the end of the month. We got hugs for that one :D).

    No one should NEED tips to survive. The American system is so screwed, places can hire servers to work for, essentially, TIPS ONLY. No one should be able to get away with not paying someone for their work.

  • Australia is one of the few Western nations where tipping isn’t expected

    As far as I’m aware, it’s just the US and Canada where it’s expected, due to their awful minimum wages. Australia, New Zealand and the UK are all very much non-tipping places, and I hope it stays that way.

  • i will only tip when the person has gone above their duty to give me exceptional service, I wont tip just because the person has done their job

  • I do not tip and will not tip. Service staff make more than enough in this country on their wage and do not require tipping. If they’ve done a good job I will commend the employee, which is reward enough.

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