Restaurant customers don’t like automatic tips, study finds

Even if service was good, people still don’t like mandatory tips

Restaurant customers don’t want to be forced to tip -- even if they have received good service, according to a new study.

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Researchers from Washington State University recently published a study in the Journal of Services Marketing that found people don’t like automatic gratuities.

In fact, the people that disliked mandatory tips the most were people with “the best dining experiences,” according to a press release from Monday.

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“We thought if service quality was high, people wouldn’t care if an automatic service charge was added to their bill,'' Jeff Joireman, the study’s co-author said in a statement.

However, customers who had a good experience were frustrated by mandatory tipping “because they couldn’t reward their servers,” added Joireman, a professor and chair of the Department of Marketing and International Business at Washington State’s Carson College of Business.

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Ismail Karabas, the lead author of the research and assistant professor of marketing at Murray State University, said the reason customers don’t like automatic tips is because they feel like they don’t have the power anymore.

“Being able to reward the server makes customers feel good,” Karabas said in a statement. “That’s part of the restaurant experience.”

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According to Karabas, restaurants are starting to implement mandatory tipping to equalize pay between servers and kitchen staff -- but they should be cautious of how customers feel about changing policies.

People prefer to tip voluntarily instead of gratuity being automatically included in their restaurant bill, according to a new study from Washington State University. (iStock)

“High-quality service does not compensate for the negative customer response to a non-voluntary tipping system,” Karabas said. “Managers may think ‘We’re fine as long as we provide good service,’ but we found that’s just not true.”

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The study suggested that restaurants should find other ways to make sure customers feel they have control by encouraging customers to provide feedback or vote for server of the month. Researchers also recommended including a line on the receipt informing customers that they tipped their servers or leaving a line for an extra tip.

However, Karabas said restaurant owners should be careful about how customers might react.

“You don’t want customers to think you’re being sneaky and trying to trick them into tipping twice,” he said.