Should Tipping Be Mandatory?

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Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where each week Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question or topic New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com.

Last week, the Internet food community nearly popped a gastronomical gasket regarding a mysteriously sourced story that servers in San Francisco want to make a 25 percent tip mandatory. The report was unsubstantiated (shocking), but the question remains as to what our Valley food community has to say on whether a tip should be automatic. Here are a few of their answers:

Pavle Milic Owner, FnB

NO: At FnB, we don't ever add automatic gratuity. For larger parties, I normally drop off a bill and tell the guest: "I will leave a tip up your discretion." Who am I to assume my service was worth 20 percent? Almost always guests over tip past the 20 percent mark, and if sometimes you get under-tipped (less than 15 percent) well, c'est la vie. You have to look at tips based on your yearly income and not sweat the one less-than-stellar-tip. If you're a good server, you will make good money.

Tipping should be mandatory only for special events where the gratuity has been discussed as part of the contract. There is also a cultural issue here -- sometimes diners from other parts of the world have different views about tipping. This is just one of the reasons why the tip is added to most parties larger than six.

James Porter Executive Chef Petite Maison, Big Earl's BBQ

YES: You don't have to tip if you don't dine out. If you do go to a restaurant where service is involved, then you have "agreed" to tip according to the level of service you receive. If you don't like to tip, then eat at home and clear your own plates.

Gregg Troilo Owner, British Open Pub

NO: I believe most wait and bar staff consider it mandatory, but I think that represents a very arrogant position. I owe you for the food, and I tip if your service enhances the dining experience.

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

NO: Proper training of wait staff should be mandatory. At Tonto & Cartwright's, our staff reaps the rewards of proper gratuities because we test them weekly on everything. Their training never ends, and their knowledge and skill is apparent to our customers.

Kevin Jones Owner, College Dropouts

NO: Tipping shouldn't be mandatory, but is essentially an unwritten rule. Most corporate restaurants have tip-out percentages based on sales (to busser, bartender, etc.) not tips, which basically means a server could actually lose money on serving a table if [the diners] do not tip. Ninety percent of general public has no clue of this.

Craig DeMarco Owner, Postino, Windsor and Churn

YES: Tipping should be mandatory unless the staff is rude. [If it is rude], then no way. I can forgive any mistake except poor behavior.

Akos Szabo Chef de Cuisine Top of the Rock Restaurant at the Buttes Resort

NO: Great service deserves a great tip. We sometimes fail to realize that a tip can swing either way depending on the whole experience. We have become an industry that expects to be tipped for mediocre service. Many times, I have witnessed a server open up the check to see what was left for them and treat it like an expected commission on a sale of a house. Plain and simple: Do your best and you will be rewarded.

Julie Kossak Owner, The Pink Spot, Z Pizza

NO: Tipping should not be mandatory. Tipping is a reward for staff that goes above and beyond the normal course.

Domenick Montanile Owner, Venezia's Pizzeria

YES: Tipping should be mandatory at 10 percent and have an option for 15 percent to 20 percent if you wish. The food-industry pay scale is mainly based on tips from customers, and some people unfortunately are unaware of this, especially when it comes to the delivery drivers.

Dana Mule GM and partner, Hula's Modern Tiki

YES: Since tipped staff are not paid minimum wage, there is an obligation to tip something, even for a modicum level of service. Any remaining money beyond that is a reward for service that is above and beyond the basic requirement. The vast majority of restaurant patron's tips are fair and reasonable. It's only the small minority who might require a little education about tipping -- or perhaps a little help with their math.

Aaron May Chef and restaurateur

YES: Except in cases of extreme neglect, some sort of gratuity should be proffered.

What say you, Valley servers and diners? Do you think tipping should be mandatory? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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