Bad Service, No Tip — Insights West Survey

One third of British Columbians (32%) consider it acceptable to not leave a tip at a sit-down restaurant if the service was below average. — Insights West graphic
One third of British Columbians (32%) consider it acceptable to not leave a tip at a sit-down restaurant if the service was below average. — Insights West graphic

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company said a recent survey revealed a third of British Columbians refuse to tip at restaurants where they perceive to have received bad service.

However, the survey went on to say most are happy to reward food servers with a higher gratuity if they believe their performance was exceptional.

In the online survey of a representative provincial sample, one third of British Columbians (32%) consider it acceptable to not leave a tip at a sit-down restaurant if the service was below average and the server was clearly not busy — a proportion that rises to 41% among residents aged 55 and over.

“There are some noteworthy generational gaps when assessing how and when British Columbians tip,” said Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs at Insights West.

The Insights West survey said British Columbians are more understanding of below average service when the server is clearly working in an understaffed environment, with just 7% saying they would leave no tip.

When asked what they would tip for average service in any environment, most British Columbians (53%) would leave 10% to 14%. For good service when the restaurant is busy, half (51%) would opt for a gratuity of 15% to 19%.

The survey said British Columbians would dig deeper into the wallet for exceptional service when a restaurant is exceptionally busy, with two-in-five (39%) saying the circumstance would warrant a tip of 20% to 25%.

But when it comes to food delivery at home or the office, half of British Columbians (51%) would offer a gratuity of 10% to 14%, but 6% would not tip at all. When picking up food to go, seven-in-ten British Columbians (70%) say they tip nothing.

"Millennials are more likely to expect more from food servers before deciding how much to tip, while Baby Boomers are more likely to leave absolutely nothing if the service did not meet their standards, regardless of circumstances," Canseco said.

Tips are also hard to come by in other types of restaurants, with majorities of British Columbians saying they never leave a tip in snack restaurants where they take their food to go (68%), cafeteria-style restaurants (61%) and restaurants where they order and pick the food up themselves (55%). In addition, 44% of British Columbians never tip at coffee shops.

Only 15% of British Columbians believe food servers deserve a tip in all circumstances, even if service was bad, but seven-in-ten (69%) concede that if the salaries of food servers were better, there would be no need to leave tips.

In addition, 71% of British Columbians say food servers cannot get by on their salaries alone and it’s important to tip them. However, two thirds (66%) say that food servers nowadays simply expect a tip, but don’t work hard to earn it—including 71% of those aged 18-to-34.

Insights West exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations.

Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

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