Opinion: Diners Hate Mandatory Fees and Forced Tipping at Restaurants | Westword

Reader: Diners Hate, Hate, Hate Mandatory Fees, Forced Tipping

While many diners hate restaurant service fees, even more don't understand them. And if diners are confused, the path isn't much clearer for restaurateurs.
Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno have a Creating Happy People fee at all of their restaurants.
Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno have a Creating Happy People fee at all of their restaurants. Bonanno Concepts
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Surcharges of all kinds are a common addition to restaurant receipts these days. A lot of diners hate them; even more don't understand them. And if diners are confused, the path isn't much clearer for restaurateurs: Navigating how service charges and tip structures affect the bottom line is complex, and then you need to factor in blowback from irritated customers.

Most restaurant fees fall into three categories. Some are a small percentage used for a specific employee benefit separate from wages; others are a small percentage that does supplement wages, usually in a way aimed at solving the equitability problem. The type that's gotten the most criticism from the public is the 20 percent (or higher) service charge that is automatically added to a guest's total bill, which replaces the standard U.S. model that leaves the choice of how much to tip — or whether to leave a tip at all — in the hands of the consumers.

The 22 percent Creating Happy People charged by Bonanno Concepts falls in that category, and when El Rancho announced that Bonanno will no longer be operating the eatery, it also noted that the CHP fee would no longer be charged there.

Molly Martin talked to Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno as well as two other prominent restaurateurs for her look at restaurant service fees. And in their comments on the Westword Facebook posts of both stories, readers offer some tips for restaurateurs. Says Max:
Modern business plan: guilt people into paying more than they want to.
Adds Daniel:
We allllllllll hate mandatory, forced tipping. Hate hate hate. When will these morons get it?
Counters Lenord:
Everyone will be moving to this system eventually. It’s a service charge. It goes to the BOH and the FOH. It keeps the menu prices down so the company doesn’t change to crappy product.
Responds Steven:
I do not go to any place that has a service charge added for crap the employer should be paying. I am sorry you do not pay your back-of-house or servers a liveable wage. A dishwasher was never supposed to be a long-term job. With that said, I tip 18-25 percent based on service. In my many years on this planet, maybe once or twice in my life, I have left less, even for shit service — although I would have left 15 percent when that was the going rate for a tip.
Suggests Bill:
Mandatory tipping = Employees who could care less if you get good service. They’ll get a tip anyway.
Offers Brent:
Forcing servers to pay the wages of back-of-house employees via tip pooling is just restaurant owners admitting that they don’t pay their chefs enough.
Concludes Mike: 
Money talks. Unhappy about it, quit eating out.
And consider how your vote for that one all-important thing affects a dozen other things. If that one thing is that important to you, live with the consequences and spare us the complaining.
What do you think of mandatory tipping and other restaurant service fees? Read Molly Martin's restaurant fee story here; then post a comment or share your thoughts at [email protected].
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