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Minimum wage is up— and so are the tips

Image Credit: Shutterstock

As British Columbians get back into restaurant booths this summer, they're also paying more for the service.

Inflation is driving up the cost for food, but how much you tip also appears to be rising.

"People are tipping more generously, recognizing the tough-go (for restaurant workers) during the pandemic," Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said.

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It's not uncommon for diners to leave a 20 per cent on top of a restaurant bill, he said, when the norm was closer to 15% before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The minimum wage in B.C., meanwhile, is now up to $15.65, and the inclusion of tips does not affect an hourly wage.

In fact, there is very little regulation around tips in B.C. Provincial legislation, except those that limit an employer from withholding them.

Not only have tips generally increased since the pandemic, but they're also given at more businesses than they traditionally were, according to Kelowna-based business consultant and etiquette expert Jennifer Grant.

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"More businesses are thinking about 'how can we supplement our workers' wages?'" Grant said. "Definitely during pandemic, there was certainly an upsurge in the first few months with a concern about frontline and service workers making a living."

She's listed flower delivery drivers and lawn care workers as employees she's newly seen taking tips.

Tipping is becoming an option at "jobs that for the longest time we would not have thought about it," she said.

She added that the increase in tip percentages at service industry jobs has been ongoing for years. Around a decade ago, a 10% tip might have been common, but recently, the norm is up to 15% and creeping up to 20%.

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"It's a bit of a moving target," she said. "It just shows how far along we are in what was once considered to be the norm, and it's escalated rapidly over the last decade."

She doesn't expect the practice to go away, however, as it's been ingrained in B.C., and North America for that matter, for decades.

However, the proliferation of tip options in other industries is problematic, according to Tostenson, who has seen suggestions for tipping amounts on point of sale machines at retail locations, like private liquor stores. For him, it makes no sense to tip when there wasn't an "added service," like when a server is constantly tending to a customer at a restaurant.

"I think it takes away from integrity of what tipping is all about," he said.

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