Category Archives: Travel

Restaurant Tips Reach a Tipping Point

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From New York to California, restaurants are adopting a “no tipping” policy. Establishment owners have cited various reasons for doing away with the tips altogether. No doubt, the policy change has generated substantial publicity for the businesses and social media is lighting up with savory comments for and against the “no tipping” policy.

Until recently, many restaurant employees would receive lower wages with the promise that the tips generated during the shift would cause the wages to jump substantially higher. Restaurant tips have motivated wait staff to provide better service in the hopes of receiving a generous gratuity. This was a win-win for both business owners and front line staff. Owners benefited from satisfied customers while employees went home with a fatter pay check.

The problem with the policy is not only an extra burden on customers but also a cold war styled territorial dispute between servers, at least in some establishments. In fact, some employees had boiled the process down to a science. Flower in the hair, red dresses, blond hair, smiley faces on checks … these were some factors that generated higher tips, at least from men. 1

That is about to change, though.

A new breed of employers is favoring higher wages and a more stable paycheck over restaurant tips and gratuities. A major change is sweeping restaurants nationwide and from East Coast to West Coast, establishments are doing away with restaurant tips. New York-based Restaurant Riki cites Japanese customs for its no gratuity policy, while Sushi Yasuda chases customers to return what was left behind. According to some business owners, the idea of rating server performance with tips was downright condescending.1

Restaurant tips are disbursed individually to the server or added to a common pool that is distributed to all servers at the end of the shift.

The eateries that favor a no restaurant tips policy try to make up for the difference by offering staff higher wages and a more stable takeaway. The policy is receiving mixed reactions from guests. Some prefer not having to do the extra math after a wonderful meal, while others are concerned about the impact on service quality. This is a major cause of concern for frequent guests who often build a personal rapport with their servers.

On the flip side, a sluggish economic recovery is forcing patrons to lower their tips, especially for unemployed folks who have no choice but to eat out while interviewing and traveling.

How to tip at a restaurant

Despite the shift away from restaurant tips, many owners will still consider redistributing the tips to employees or giving them away to charity.

At a surface level, restaurant tips may sound like a simple issue but many guests are still not sure about the amount they should be leaving aside as gratuity. A good restaurant tipping guide would spell out the tip percentage to 10% to 20%, but we have seen ranges as low as 5% as well (especially if the service is extremely poor or unreasonably rude).

Not all restaurants allow customers to do the math, though. I once visited a Malaysian restaurant in Flushing, NY. While the service was good and the food was descent, the check had a pre-calculated gratuity added to the bill. I had no discretion to tip more or less. When questioned, the disgruntled server simply asked me to pay up. No option, apparently!

Here are some ideas if you consider tipping:

(i) If you decide to leave your server a tip, cash is preferable because it can be used right away. Credit card payments are not bad, but there is generally a lag period before the server gets paid. There is also the issue of a portion of the bill going toward credit card processing fees (can range between two percent to five percent, depending on the merchant service being used).

(ii) Generally, the total is based on pre-tax amount and is computed without considering discounts.

(iii) How satisfied were you with the service? If the drinks were on the table within two minutes of seating and the server was providing refills before asking, you are receiving exceptional service.

(iv) Give consideration for local cost of living. If you live in an expensive city, a higher tip is probably a good idea.

(v) The server’s personality and needs are also given consideration, at least by some guests. Students often resort to waiting tables to make their way to college. Giving them an extra hand does not hurt.

(vi) Some restaurants make their wages public. If you are aware of the wages being paid, you will be in a better position to judge the amount you need to add as gratuity.

Restaurant Tipping Chart

Level of Service and Restaurant Tip Percentage

Exceptional Service – 20%

Good Service – 15%

Average Service – 10%

Extremely Poor Service – 5%

1. CBS News

2. Image Credit: Elviz Low via Creative Commons

How To Really Save Money On Vacations

By John

Before the military embarks on an operation, it makes a plan. And before it can make a plan, it carries out an assessment of all the factors relating to the operation. The aim is to ensure that the objective is successfully met with the optimal use of available resources. In a civilized way this process can be carried out when planning for a vacation. In that wasting something is the opposite of saving it, good vacation planning will actually help you to save money.

What is your budget?

This is a fundamental question these days. Until you know how much you can afford to spend on your vacation, you can’t make a sensible plan. Having set a budget, you must stick to it.

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Strange question, but why are you thinking of going on vacation?

Unless you are going it alone, everybody’s view must be taken into account. Let’s say that Dad wants to go hiking and he likes some local culture; Mom hates walking and swimming but likes shopping and eating out; teenager Susie just wants sun, sea and sand, while little Jimmy likes theme parks. Somehow all these aspirations have to be accommodated, which will probably mean some compromise.

Once you have decided on the aims of your vacation, where should you go? Can the goals be met without going abroad? Or is going abroad one of the ideas?

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Slicing the pie

When you know broadly what you want to do, and where, you should apportion the budget according to your priorities. For instance, a budget airline may not be convenient but would free up money for shopping, and a top-notch hotel might be desirable but could leave you with little to spend on anything else. A real balancing act.

Don’t fork out more than you need to – look for best deals

From here on it’s all research. Here’s what to look for:


  • Coach versus air. If opting for a vacation Stateside, or even a ‘nearcation’, consider travelling by coach or bus. Coach travel is fast, convenient and cheap as compared to flying. If not, map out a train path and see if it leads to your destination. The savings may not sound like a lot of you add up the savings for each family member, you could really be on a roll.
  • Compare travel fares. If you are flying, Internet sites will throw up good deals, but cheaper tickets can sometimes be had by comparing travel packages online. Night flights are often cheaper, especially in Europe. You shouldn’t necessarily limit your research to flights from your nearest airport, though. Sometimes, a few extra miles to the airport could translate into substantial savings. Beware budget airlines’ policies on baggage.
  • Package deals may not be to everyone’s liking, but they are generally cheaper than buying each component of your vacation individually. The fixed price means that you don’t run the risk of having to negotiate rates on the ground, which can be a challenge in some countries for a foreigner.


  • As with air tickets, internet sites for hotel bookings will often produce good deals but a direct inquiry to the hotel might result in a better one. Hotel rates never seem to stand still and as a rule of thumb, the earlier you book the better. Keep trying!
  • When choosing a hotel, it’s worth looking at local taxi rates at the same time. A medium quality hotel in the prime area of the city may be far more expensive than a better one on the outskirts of town that requires only a modest outlay on taxis to get you back and forth to the action.
  • Many hotels associated with local attractions, especially theme parks, offer really good deals incorporating admission to the attraction. A typical deal may represent as much as fifty percent off the hotel rate as well as off the theme park entrance fee.
  • When at your destination, check the local newspapers. They often contain special offers and coupons for local attractions.

And off you go….

If you have done your planning properly, you should now be able enjoy your vacation knowing that it is the vacation you all want and that it is all budgeted for. And if you agree that not wasting money is the same thing as saving it, then you are indeed saving it.