Customers uncomfortable tipping fast food, survey finds


Tipping—just the thought of it—can make some people anxious. How much is enough? How much is too much? Do I really need a tip for a basic cup coffee? While most of us are used to tipping 15 to 20% at a fine dining restaurant or tipping a dollar or two at Starbucks for a fancy frappuccino, many would resist tipping a worker at McDonald’s or Burger King, or adding 20% ​​at Chipotle, or Five boys. But digital tipping seems to be becoming the norm everywhere, and fast food chains could be next.

This week’s “Deeper Dive” podcast features Robert Byrne, director of consumer and industry insights at Technomic, and Restaurant Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Maze discussed the findings of a survey that clarified where customers stand on the tipping debate. Most respondents were found to be somewhat hesitant about tipping at these limited-service locations: 33% believed that fast-food restaurants should not ask customers to tip at all; 10% admitted they don’t like it but will tip anyway; 10% said they don’t mind being tipped but won’t tip. That leaves less than half of those who are okay with the practice.

RELATED: Here’s how much experts think you should tip at restaurants right now

In the past few weeks, Starbucks employees and customers in particular have done so have expressed mixed opinions about the company’s new digital tipping initiative, which requires the customer to add a dollar or two before the transaction can be completed. Some are outraged, others disinterested, others happy to help.

In the podcast, Byrne bets that the real issue that many consumers find annoying is the default 20-25% tip at a fast food restaurant or fast food restaurant. While that percentage isn’t much on a $5 check (about $1), it is looks like excessive asking for a 25% tip on fast food or fast casual check out. The request for percentages seems to him a mistake. He suggests that rounding up would make more sense compared to presenting a percentage tip option.

Maze agreed that the tipping process might be a little too confusing. Fast food transactions are supposed to be quick and the tipping issue adds another layer that customers don’t want. They don’t even want to think about whether tipping makes sense in this case. Byrne agreed that when you go to McDonald’s or Burger King, you don’t spend time with the person taking your food. In fact, most of the interaction could be through an electronic device. In this case, 20% just doesn’t make sense, Maze said.

Also, while an extra 20% on a $5 Starbucks or $10 McDonald’s order isn’t a huge amount, for some quick casual purchases, the tip percentage could be especially irritating to customers shopping for a family. Its example is a recent bill for $74 at Five Guys, which does not warrant a 20% tip. In this case, $1-2 is more appropriate; $14 is simply outrageous. Ultimately, Byrne said, it’s up to each restaurant to decide what type of tip makes sense, as digital tipping should be affordable but could scare away customers.

Ours own Facebook reader poll found the same thing as RBIUser survey. People were divided on the practice, with many saying it depends on the service, the context, and what the restaurant is asking for—ie. a percentage or a few dollars. “I don’t like the ‘demanding tip’ that starts at 18%, nor that the tip amount is the total amount including tax. It should be a subtotal,” wrote one. Another was more direct: “Hell no! The same goes for cafes. If I’m not sitting while you actually cook the meal and bring it to me? You don’t get tipped ‘just because.’” Of course, some people had the opposite opinion: “If you let me [the] company, I always tip,” said one user, as opposed to another whose policy is different: “If I want to tip, I tip, if not, then don’t.” It’s hard to argue with that logic.



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