Should Restaurants Include Gratuity as Part of the Bill?

Spotting the words "service included," "servizio incluso," and "service compris" on restaurant checks in most European countries means tipping isn't necessary (instead, a V.A.T. tax of 20 percent is added). But more and more restaurants in America are adopting this policy, causing the often distressful subject of tipping to become even more convoluted.

See also: Is the Michelin Guide Still Relevant? and What Are the Pros and Cons of Food Festivals?

Should Valley restaurants follow suit? Here's what some of our chefs and restaurateurs had to say:

Farah Khalid Chef and Owner, Curry Corner

I believe it should be adopted, as I have seen in this business that customers expect a great deal of service from everyone in a restaurant -- be it the chef, server, or busboy. Most customers are appreciative of this fact, but sometimes you do see an under-appreciation of service, which actually pinches the people involved. If gratuity is included, it ensures all the hard work done by people involved has not been in vain.

Eric Flatt, Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill/Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House

We need to keep dangling the carrot to keep the focus of being professional and the rewards of being paid on performance.

Chef Anthony Rivera District American Kitchen & Wine Bar

I am a firm believer that restaurants should pay their servers appropriately and take tipping out of the equation. Great service should be expected and when a server is working for their money, the genuine feeling can be lost in the hustle. A good server should be serving because they love the industry and they love interaction, not because they need to earn enough money to pay their bills.

Chef Andrea Volpi Local Bistro

Gratuity is a direct reflection of the guests' experience with their server. Without the service-included policy, the servers have more incentive to give great service which, in turn, may increase their gratuity.

Chef Stephen Jones Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

Restaurants that automatically include gratuity for all tables are barking up the wrong tree. Six or more diners I can understand, as large tables are more work and it just makes everything easier. But to automatically assume that a two-top would leave a server 20 percent is false.

Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge

No, I think it would make the prices on menus go way up. It's not just because of the tip being included, but also because it's taxed differently now. Great servers work very hard to provide great service and usually make great tips.

Romeo Taus Owner and Chef, Romeo's Euro Cafe

I would like to see that. Service means greeting, seating, beverage, and food preparation, and serving it involves a total team. While the front of the house sells everything, they make nothing. The back of the house makes everything but sells nothing. The pay is inherently inequitable; this will help even out the remuneration for the effort.

Eric O'Neill Chef and CEO, SmartKitchen.com

Restaurants should absolutely not apply a service-included policy. If the service is horrific and the food happens to be prepared poorly, why on Earth would anyone be inclined or be forced into gratuity? Gratuity is an earned amount of money the patron should have control over. Receiving gratuity is a luxury; it is not and should not be a requirement.

Chef Stephen Toevs The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix

Our industry is built on service, and when great food and great service collide, it is a wonderful thing. But when the server fails, the food should not be punished. A talented server knows that higher levels of service equal higher gratuities. Even when a meal is not very good but the server is amazing, the experience will often result in a fairly sizable tip. When a service-included policy is adopted, the diner is apt to be more critical of the experience as a whole.

Chef Massimo de Francesa Taggia at FireSky Resort & Spa, a Kimpton Hotel

It's normal in the industry to apply that theory to parties of six or more, so why not to smaller parties? I would agree that it should be printed on the bill and calculated for the guest as a suggested percentage. It may be useful for visitors who may not be familiar to the local customs. On the plus side (for the server) if service succeeds the expectations, chances are they would earn even more money.

Mark Dow General Manager, The Mint

Guests should still have the ability to tip as they see fit based on the level of service received and the quality of food presented. An included policy could cause service to decline as servers would not need to put in the extra work to make a memorable experience.

Chef Chris McKinley, Atlas Bistro

The only restaurants that should even consider it are prix-fixe and tasting-menu-only restaurants. Service at these restaurants is top-notch. Coming from Addisons in Del Mar, the front of the house put a lot of attention to detail and guided the culinary experience for the guests. A la carte menus should never be service-included due to the variation in service levels in restaurants.

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