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Obligation still driving UK tipping culture

06 November 2012

  • Many customers still feel obligated by society to tip, despite economic pressures
  • Servers are more likely to negatively affect their tips than positively do so

London, 6th November 2012 – When receiving the bill at a restaurant, there is always one familiar question: “How much should I tip?” A new study on tipping habits by Canadean Consumer shows that only 3.4% of people never tip, but the motivations of those who do can differ dramatically. Indeed, 30% of restaurant-goers leave a tip because they feel socially obligated to do so.

Tipping customs vary greatly across all demographics in the UK. In terms of frequency, 30.8% always tip, 58.2% sometimes or often tip, and 7.7% rarely tip. Men are more likely than women to tip, while the least generous tippers in the UK are based in the East Midlands.

That the waiter/waitress displays a cheerful manner (65.2%) is most important to tippers, followed by good food (52.9%) and fast service (49.5%). Moreover, 7.4% will tip if they find the server attractive (a figure rising to 11.9% for males, and 15.9% for Londoners).

Conversely, rude service was by far the biggest reason why a customer would not tip. 79.6% of consumers would not tip because of this. Meanwhile, nearly one in 10 (9.4%) disagree with the tipping culture entirely. Notably, one in five (20.5%) don’t tip if they feel they cannot afford it.

For Mark Whalley, Lead Consultant at Canadean Consumer, the results show that tipping remains a divisive element of the foodservice experience: “It appears that many customers in the UK feel as though tipping is a custom they have little choice over. That nearly a third of people feel obligated by society to tip is an interesting finding. When adding this to the fact that only half of us believe that fast service is tip-worthy, it’s safe to say many are driven by social custom and even awkwardness when deciding how and what to tip.

“Moreover, the economic crisis is forcing a fifth of us to consider our finances before automatically tipping. But, ever polite, rather than leave no tip at all, most Brits will choose to leave a minimal tip instead.”

To illustrate this, a majority (56.9%) of UK consumers tend to tip 10%, with a further 19% only stretching to 5%. Only 8% claim to tip between 15-20% - a rate regarded as common in the US.

Obligation still driving UK tipping culture

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