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Abby5205 Mar 4th, 2019 12:23 PM

Tipping and the Service Charge
Hi Fellow France Travelers
I just heard something interesting today that questioned my understanding about the standard 18% service charge in French restaurants. I was informed that the 18% goes to the house. This statement made me question what I had assumed in the past, namely that the server received the full 18% added to his/her wages. In the past, I have left small change in addition to the 18% to recognize great service. So, what is the story for France and the rest of the EU.
Thank you, Abby

PalenQ Mar 4th, 2019 12:55 PM

Service charge pays for the services of the wait people not their salary which in most countries is a living wage with benefits and free or affordable health care. Thus no need to tip as these folks are paid a decent salary - one reason for years I would see the same folks working at McDonalds because they got a living wage and benefits. If you want a tip to go to your server, leave it on the table or change tray not on a credit card.

We've had this debate on Fodor's for years now - most French I know (in-laws) do not even leave a little loose change and when I would do that they asked my why I am throwing away money.

That's my take.

Seamus Mar 4th, 2019 01:36 PM

What 18%? Are you referring to some extra charge for large parties? I have never, in dozen of visits, seen an 18% (or any other) service charge added to the bill. Rather it is typically <<service compris>> where the menu rices include service.

janisj Mar 4th, 2019 01:39 PM

>>I have never, in dozen of visits, seen an 18% <<

Ditto. What 'standard' 18% are you talking about?

StCirq Mar 4th, 2019 01:48 PM

There is no 18% service fee. You are automatically charged a 15% service charge, plus the VAT. Almost every bill anywhere in France has a "service compris" notice at the bottom of it, and that means you're being charged the standard 15%. The money does not go directly to the servers; it goes to the establishment, which uses it to pay the servers' salaries. If you want to tip on top of that, it's up to you, but it's entirely unnecessary.

PalenQ Mar 4th, 2019 01:52 PM

If you want to tip on top of that, it's up to you, but it's entirely unnecessary.>

But do tips go to server -if say you put them on a credit card? Be sure to give direct to server - leaving on table may mean they go to the table clearer not wait person.

Abby5205 Mar 4th, 2019 02:08 PM

Hi to All
Oops, I should have used 'service compris.' But, I always thought, I guess incorrectly, for 12 years now, that the 'service compris' went to the servers. In my mind, that explained why most of the French would leave just a small amount on the bill/tab tray. That was the example I followed in my travels.
Thanks all for the input and the correct terminology. Il est important, non?

PalenQ Mar 4th, 2019 02:14 PM

C'est tres important pour les touristes naive bien sur. especially for Americans who are used to tipping 15-20% at restaurants and may not realize at first about what service compris means and that people do not tip - locals - save some loose change.

historytraveler Mar 4th, 2019 02:47 PM

Not sure why so many Americans are concerned about the tips not going to individual server but to all wait staff. This happens often enough here. In fact I imagine it occurs far more often than people think. It's much easier to calculate a total from receipts and divide it up among all servers rather than trying to divvy up individual tips for each check.

MaineGG Mar 4th, 2019 03:00 PM

Interesting article (from 2014) on the subject of tipping waiters in France. It's interesting that the money collected through the 'Service Compris' is subsidizing the establishment owner's obligation to pay his waitstaff a living wage. Any comments from our contributing Parisians or other French residents on this system? It seems the French millennials are not interested in true 'tipping' for good service. Perhaps things have changed since 2014?

MaineGG Mar 4th, 2019 03:01 PM

Forgot the link for the article:

Cowboy1968 Mar 4th, 2019 03:13 PM

I would also make a difference between:
Tourists in "vacation mode", who may not think much about leaving relatively large amounts of tips when they enjoyed the cafe or restaurant.
And locals who need to feed themselves day in day out - especially in Paris.
The check shown in the BBC article has a total of €24 for the "cheap" lunch and just a tiny glass of wine and an espresso.
The same type of lunch in Madrid would probably cost just €15.

Abby5205 Mar 4th, 2019 03:36 PM

Tipping and the Service Charge
Hi MaineGG
Thanks for supplying the link. I am reading it here in Maine's largest city. We now have the most restaurants per capita in USA I read recently. Somebody must be doing OK from tipping, at least here in Maine.

MaineGG Mar 4th, 2019 04:31 PM

A couple of the restaurants in Portland tried to do away with tipping at some point and it was not successful. I'm not much of a foodie and don't follow restaurant developments too closely, but I think the waitstaff was not happy with the loss of tips.

kerouac Mar 4th, 2019 07:53 PM

The service charge also goes to the kitchen and cleaning staff. Some of them work harder than the waiters.

There is no specific rule about it being 15% but that is what most places apply. Chain restaurants often apply 12 or 13%.

Sarastro Mar 5th, 2019 03:47 AM

Americans, in particular, have great difficulty understanding European rules in reference to compensating waitstaff. By contrast, the hourly US federal wage minimum for waitstaff is $2.13 and little else (some states provide higher hourly amounts). Minimum wage per hour is roughly 9 in France. Add in the fact that French law provides full healthcare, retirement, 5 weeks paid vacation per year, virtually any other time off that an employee requires, and free meals during work hours, there is a huge difference between how waitstaff is paid in the USA vs. France.

There is absolutely no requirement to leave additional money for waitstaff. Doing so ignores those who work just as hard behind the scenes.

Envierges Mar 5th, 2019 05:59 AM

Thanks Sarastro

And likewise Europeans have trouble realizing that wait staff in the US is hardly paid at all. and gets no benefits so many tourist destinations in the US have added a tip percentage to the bill eliminating the stiffing European tourists customarily give wait staff, tour guides and others who count on tips.

Tulips Mar 5th, 2019 06:58 AM

Indeed, you should follow the tipping customs of the country you are visiting, that would seem obvious.

StuDudley Mar 5th, 2019 07:17 AM

In San Francisco, tips are usually around 18-20%. Restaurants with more than "N" employees are required to provide health insurance - and restaurants often charge customers 2-5% for that. The minimum wage is $15. per hour. So don't make a "blanket" statement about the entire US.

>> many tourist destinations in the US have added a tip percentage to the bill <<
I've seen "suggested" tip percentages (plural) printed on the "invoice" about 5% of the time, but I have never seen anything added to the bill by the restaurant. There are several restaurants in SF that have "tip included" prices - but they are almost always the higher end restaurants.

Stu Dudley

Envierges Mar 5th, 2019 07:24 AM

Common in Miami, Miami Beach and other South Florida locations.

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