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Restaurants Experiment with Guaranteed Tips

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Skipping the tip. It's a custom in Europe because an 18-percent gratuity is already factored into the bill, no matter the size of the party.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Skipping the tip.  It's a custom in Europe because an 18-percent gratuity is already factored into the bill, no matter the size of the party.

The reason is so owners can pay servers on a salary.

Now some restaurants in the U.S. are eating up the idea.  But locally, it's more of a taste test.    

"You look at the service and what the server gives you and you kinda base it off that," explains Alex Verdugo, a server at The Aviary Cafe in Springfield.

What to tip. That's a question everyone faces, including diners Jacob Baggs and Evan Melgren.

"If the tip is already there, where is the pressure to do well?" asks Baggs.

At The Aviary Cafe,  18% gratuity is automatic but only for parties of six or more.

"It is necessary in some occasions just to make sure the standard of living stays the same," Verdugo explains.

But with smaller parties, that's when Verdugo's livelihood depends on her service.

"Tips is everything else, your rent, your standard of living essentially," she says.

The national tip average is between 15-20% ... And at an hourly rate of around $3 ... Every extra dollar...

"Extremely important."  Even for former waiters, like Evan Melgren.  "Every tip that I got... Went straight to my savings account pushing towards a very special event in my life."

While the tip is vital to the bank account of the server, a guaranteed gratuity may not be the best way to deliver a thank you.

"Most of the customers today understand that 20% is really where you're hitting about," Verdugo says.

So even though the national tip average is between 15-20%... A possible guaranteed 18% tip... Serves to be just shy of a customer's choice.

"I actually think that makes them more ready to give a better tip because they feel like they have control," Verdugo believes.

"We came to find that people who would have tipped us 20% anyways tend to just leave it at 18%," says Melgren.

So at least at The Aviary Cafe, the people of Springfield chose choice over a guarantee.

The minimum wage is $3.67 for tipped employees, compared to a standard minimum wage of $7.35.


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