Back in “the day,” servers at restaurants made enough money to survive on their wages. Not only could they survive, but many people could afford to have kids, pets, and a home of their own.
Tipping 10 percent, or even $1 per person dining was acceptable. Servers didn’t need more than that. Unfortunately, the time when servers could survive on their wages alone has passed.
Many servers across the United States make minimum wage or less depending on state laws. Minimum wage is not a “livable” wage in any state, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Additionally, tips are taxable income, with the taxes coming directly out of a servers' paycheck. The only guaranteed income a server has are the tips they leave with at the end of the night, which are often shared with other workers. Without tips, servers cannot put food on the table for themselves or their children. They can’t pay rent. They can’t buy gas. Servers need tips to live, unless the system changes to eliminate tipping altogether.
This means tipping is not optional. Even if your server made a mistake, tipping below 15 percent is unacceptable. Many things that go “wrong” aren’t a server’s fault, or are simple accidents. Times are changing and 10 to 15 percent tips don’t pay the rent. Standard tipping in the restaurant industry is 20 percent, or more if your server did a good job. Serving you and many of the other guests in the restaurant is their job, and tipping is the way that servers get a fair wage, something that has been fought for by workers for centuries. We don’t have a union; we rely on our guests.
I myself am a server. Even though I live at home, I pay for everything related to my car, as well as my college education. I need my tips to ensure that I can pay for my next semester, and save money so maybe I can afford a house someday. Ten and 15 percent tips don’t get me there.
If you can’t afford to leave a 20 percent tip for your server, don’t go out to eat. Tell everyone you know — the young, the old, everyone. Your server is a person too, and they are trying to provide for their families, like everyone else. Without guests and the tips they provide, servers and their families cannot survive.