Why Vancouver Diners Need to Keep the Tipping Culture

Posted on March 23, 2017 - Recent failed attempts to have no-tipping restaurants in B.C. (E.g. Smoke’n Water in Parksville and Ritual in Vancouver) have many people questioning the practice of tipping.

Is it time to eliminate tipping in restaurants and bars? Absolutely not.

For Vancouver’s future and the big picture, tipping is vital as an economic endeavour and as a worthwhile cultural custom. The financial and social impact is far reaching and has implications way beyond just the service industry.

Why do Vancouverites need to continue to tip their servers? What makes the tipping culture so important?

The Rental Market

Rumours are that Vancouver has a pretty expensive rental market. Have you tried renting a place here? There are limbs required.

The majority of servers are not Vancouver homeowners. They’re renters. To make it in this market, many restaurant servers and wait staff need the supplemental income that tips provide to pay their portion of their rent.

Without tips, servers move elsewhere and now your favourite restaurant struggles to find staff.


Post secondary education comes with a multi-mountain sized bill in Vancouver (insert the need for an arm and leg that was already used for rent here).

Serving is a great way for students to earn money for tuition, books, and rent while going to school. Servers going to school can be future doctors, nurses, and teachers. Tipping provides the opportunity to earn money and still having time to pursue education and career goals.

Many of today’s educated professionals used serving and bartending to help them through school. Now with their careers in full swing, the professionals who worked their way through school in the service industry often embrace the chance to pay it forward with tipping.

Career Servers

Not everyone is made for medicine, law, or politics….and that’s a good thing.

In many parts of Europe, hospitality is considered a true and respected profession. There are people who excel in the business of a full restaurant and enjoy customer service. That’s a great asset for any restaurant.

Career servers pass on knowledge, experience, and skills to new and seasonal staff while also bringing stability to your favourite restaurants. Tips give career servers incentive and reward for their chosen career path, a path which often doesn’t get the respect it should.


Your favourite restaurant can keep costs down by paying servers the minimum while offering them the opportunity to earn tips. This reduction in staffing costs often translates to lower prices for the consumer.

A restaurant that were to pay their servers $20.00 an hour with benefits would need to make up that money somewhere else. That somewhere else would likely be increasing the price of your most beloved item on the menu.

Minimum Wage

Most Vancouver foodies know that servers actually make less than minimum wage. While the minimum wage in B.C. is $10.85 an hour, servers have a reduced hourly wage of $9.60. This is due to the expectation of the server getting tips. That is no guarantee. Customers who don’t believe in tipping or come from places where it is not part of the culture will leave little to nothing keeping a server’s wage below the minimum….or even less.

What Happens When There’s No Tip

When people don’t tip or leave very little, servers often lose money from their already reduced wage. Most servers must tip out the bartender, the kitchen staff, and other support staff at 4-6% of total sales before taxes.

That means that when customers tip less than 5%, the server must still pay the tip out from their own pocket. It is possible for a server to pay to work a shift (although most good restaurants would not require the server to pay out so much that they made nothing).

Some restaurants use a tip pool system which gathers all tips and splits it with all staff. The industry standard for tipping unofficially sits at 15 to 20% before taxes.

Hard Work and Great Service

Vancouver diners that eat out regularly all have a horror story about poor service or grumpy wait staff. It’s happened to everyone.

Servers have their own stories about difficult, hard to please customers or that night where ‘nothing went right’. Serving is a lot tougher than it might look. Good service is hard work and dedication. Former servers and current servers know this well.

Tipping is great in that each table is a new opportunity to do a good job. There is increased incentive to give diners the best service possible. Their livelihood depends on it.

Customers have the opportunity to show their appreciation for a job well done or withhold/reduce their tip if they felt the service was below par, leaving the decision in their hands. Ultimately, both sides want the same thing, a great dining experience.

Dining out in Vancouver is amazing. Having a wonderful experience at a restaurant requires great atmosphere, great food, and great service.

To keep that service strong, there must be motivation for people to pursue jobs in the restaurant industry and do that here in Vancouver. Rents are sky high and school is excessively expensive to the point where the city is losing servers as well as future professionals.

Tipping lowers restaurant costs and gives servers the the opportunity and incentive to stay.

Vancouver needs more than realtors, lawyers and politicians. Vancouver needs baristas, bartenders, and restaurant staff to keep the service industry thriving and to keep your favourite restaurants and bars going. When thinking about the tip, remember that servers make less than minimum wage and only a portion goes to them.

Taking away the practice of tipping will hurt the economy of Vancouver, its future, and the health of the restaurant industry.

Vancouverites, keep tipping your servers!

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