Although servers in Ontario earn roughly $14 an hour, more than they would in the United States, Canadian tipping culture as a whole closely mirrors that of America’s. To most Torontonians, tipping comes as second nature.
When interacting with service providers in Toronto — whether that be waitstaff in a restaurant, a cab driver, hotel employees, or even hairdressers — customers are expected to chip in above the stated cost.
Figuring out how much to tip your server can be somewhat of a challenge. What percentage should you tip for exceptional service? Not-so-exceptional service? Should you calculate your tip based on pre-tax or post-tax amounts?
To save you from panicking when your server arrives with the bill, we’ve put together a handy guide to tipping when frequenting restaurants in Toronto.
What It Means to Tip Your Server
Serving in a restaurant is debatably one of the toughest gigs in the service industry. Waiters and waitresses are on their feet for what can be eight-hour stretches of time. They’re not standing around either — servers are responsible for balancing multiple plates of food, weaving in and out of people, and between tables in the process of getting your appetizers to you in time.
The job description for servers in popular restaurants seems constant between establishments: high workload, high stress, and low pay. While servers in Toronto make more than the minimum requirement in the States, the reality for many is that minimum wage just isn’t enough to cover the expenses of living in an expensive city, where the cost of rent alone can take a big chunk out of one’s monthly income.
While gratuity is never expected, customers’ tips can often raise a server’s earnings to rates that are able to support them. Leaving a little extra cash on the table before you head out also shows your appreciation for the worker who might’ve made your restaurant experience much more pleasant with their friendly service.
Expectations for Tipping in Toronto Restaurants
In the majority of cases, tipping between the range of 15 percent and 20 percent of pre-tax amounts is perfectly reasonable. While many will argue that 20 percent is more appropriate, 15 percent is widely seen as the standard in most restaurants. Tipping above 20 percent is generous — and no doubt greatly appreciated by waitstaff — and isn’t so uncommon in Toronto.
A tip for tipping: when paying with cash, you can use the amount of HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) on your bill, which is 13% in Ontario, to round up to 15%.
With the implementation of credit card processing systems, some restaurant owners have set their expected minimum tip percentage to 18 percent. But for most restaurants in Toronto, a 15 percent tip remains completely acceptable.
Keep in mind that for larger groups (usually of 8 or more), many restaurants will charge an automatic gratuity of up to around 18 percent.
What If the Service Wasn’t Great?
At the end of the day, tipping isn’t mandatory and should be based on the quality of service you’ve received over the course of your meal. However, if the reason for your poor experience was out of the server’s hands — such as bland-tasting food or a kitchen that’s slow to put orders out — it’s not entirely fair to withhold a tip from your server.
In rare cases where your server was rude to you, speaking to a manager is a better option than simply not leaving a tip. Restaurant managers are always looking for feedback from customers and would be more than happy to hear about how they could make your next experience better. They’re also more than likely to offer you some form of compensation, such as a free meal, which is a better solution.
When Should I Leave a Higher Tip?
If the service you received was exceptional, consider showing your appreciation by going beyond 15 percent in your tip.
What constitutes exceptional service? Servers who are attentive and readily available from the moment you sit down can transform your dining experience.
Excellent service is prompt. You may notice that your drinks are quickly refilled whenever necessary, and the sauces you asked for are delivered without needing reminders. A diligent server will rarely put you in the awkward position of having to remind them to fulfill a request.
A friendly server can brighten anyone’s meal. Servers that take a genuine interest in your dining experience by asking about your day or assisting you in making the right food selections can leave you feeling much more satisfied after the meal is over.
Some servers are willing to go beyond their typical duties in making sure your dining experience is as enjoyable as possible. Providing you with the wifi password, offering drinks to go, or bringing mints to the table along with the bill are some of the ways that servers can go above and beyond.
If you’re interested in learning more about tipping in Toronto or the ins-and-outs of running a restaurant, the team at CHI Real Estate can help. Get in touch with the CHI Real Estate team by calling 647-347-9723.