The unanswerable question I get a lot from visitors to the UK is 'how much do I leave as a tip? '
As talking cash in the Former European Country of Great Britain is still considered terribly rude to most of us and simply not the done thing dear boy, I am here to give you some answers.
The culture of leaving or receiving a gratuity is still very alien to us Brit's so the perennial problem for any fair minded North Americans heading this way (and knowing you will tip), how much you should leave can become as complex to you guys as 'how many times do I apologise for Donald Trump?' When the first question when here is actually 'should I tip?'...you should always apologise for Trump.
The first and most important thing you need to know is that 'WE ONLY REWARD GOOD SERVICE'
Whereas in the US it seems that it is an (unwritten) part of the Constitution to leave a tip, you do need to reset that thinking when calling in on us here in the UK. For, brace yourself, a tip here is NEVER expected but ALWAYS gratefully received. To explain, most of us (I'll come back to that) are happy to reward good service but can as easily register our disapproval of bad service by 1) NOT tipping before 2) 'tut tutting' our disapproval loudly while shuffling out of the restaurant.
Traditionally, rule of thumb says that, we leave a gratuity of between 10-15%, my wife gives 10%, me 15%. But then it gets a bit more complicated...
I'll Keep it Simple..
A £100 check - with ok service and you all getting the correct burger, leave £110.
A £100 check - the service was good, lots of smiles and directions to Abbey Road, leave £115 - £120
However, you'd be no less thought of in sticking to the £110 tip, as in Scenario 1, as long you back it up with a pleasant 'thank you' to your server as you depart.
A £100 check - the service was exceptional, burger cooked to how you, not the chef, like it, leave £130......you are now more popular than a Downtown Abbey Christmas Special and should have the restaurant door held open and next Royal baby named after you.
Simple Eh? Hmm, buckle up.
Most restaurants now automatically, and somewhat sneakily, add a thing they call 'Service Charge' to your final bill, which we Brit's do not consider to be Cricket.
For example purposes, and sticking with the £100 bill, a 'typical' service charge added would read:
Service charge. £12.50
The British do not like Service Charge as it is the management telling us that we are happy with the experience, before we have had the experience, we do not like being told what to do (A little German fellow tried similar bully boy tactics back in the 1940's so we took the cane from atop the cupboard and administered a damn, sound thrashing) . Restaurants do this because should the meal turn out to be a bad experience most of us, being British, will never ask for the check to be adjusted (we consider public confrontation unacceptable unless up against the French). Restaurant management guilt you by saying that the Service Charge is introduced to ensure all waiting staff received a gratuity (nessacery because of the terrible wages they pay them!! ) Very worthy.... except remember? 'WE ONLY REWARD GOOD SERVICE!!!!'
Back to our £100 check..
Scenario 1. Pay the Service Charge but DO NOT ADD A FURTHER GRATUITY!!
Scenario 2. Pay the Service Charge then add £5 - £10 cash tip directly into the servers hand.
Scenario 3. Pay the Service Charge and add extra cash to server of around £20.
If you have had poor - terrible service then be brave, you are not going to like this next bit, but ask for the service charge to be removed from your check AND DO NOT TIP. They won't argue but simply return an amended check with you paying for only the food/ drinks you've consumed. Service Charge is NOT a law or an official tax (unless it is clearly brought to your attention, usually on the menu, prior to you ordering) and is, ultimately, them deciding what gratuity you should pay. A few years ago it was exposed that a lot of restaurants, not all, were charging you the service charge then NOT passing it onto their staff. Scandalous!!!
Here's what I do.
Assuming I first want to leave a tip, when the bill arrives I, quietly, ask the server if they actually benefit from the service charge. You will be shocked at how many of them give you a discreet shake of the head.
So, I insist the service charge be removed from the check then pass the cash tip (pertinent to Scenario's 1, 2 or 3) directly to the waiter/waitress. The restaurant will not/cannot complain as that money was going to the server anyway, RIGHT??. If the server tells me that the management are fair and that they split the gratuity then I would keep it official ensuring all, waiter to chef and dishwasher, benefit.
Remember, if *Service Charge is going to be added then the restaurant should inform you of that on their menu before you order.
My particular field of expertise and should I ever have the pleasure of driving you please don't forget to add your tip for these tips to my driving tip. You have several options with ground transportation so I'll break it down again as you'll get away with paying less to some than others.
London Black Cab
With over 6000 'Cabbies' swarming the city they count many fantastic, polite and knowledgeable drivers on their ranks.
For a Heathrow to City Centre a £70 fare can be rewarded with a £7 - £10 tip
Journeys across city. If the meter reads £17.20p give £20 and a 'keep the change' victory speech, if it is bang on £20 give £2. If you have no change for that, just say so, pay the £20 and leave ' as a tip is never expected but gratef..... yeah, you get it.
Good to know:
All, but all London Taxi's have a credit card machine but you wouldn't believe the amount of times the machine is faulty or lost Wi-Fi. Reflect that in your gratuity. Also, conversations best avoided are Uber, Brexit and 'which soccer team they follow?'
Black Car/Chauffeur Service
Heathrow to City Centre, Tip £10 - £15
Journeys across City - all depends on service, vehicle and competence (as ever) but if making single journey £5 is good. If making several journeys then always wait until after last drop off and give £20 - £40.
Heathrow to City Centre £10.
Journeys across City: £3 - £5
Always much more appreciated in cash and not on the app, as they have to wait for. (and declare) that.
Concierge/Door man - give him/her £20 as soon as you arrive.
Luggage Delivery £5
Taxi hail - £2
Hotel restaurant - see Scenario 3 in Restaurant section.
Concierge/Door man - give him/her £20 as soon as you arrive.
Luggage Delivery £2
Taxi hail: £1 - £2
Hotel restaurant - see Scenario 2 in Restaurant section.
Concierge/Door man - you'll open your own door
Luggage Delivery: lifts are over to your left
Taxi hail - you will hail your own taxi
Hotel restaurant - do not eat in a 3* hotel restaurant, you deserve better.
Good to know: while at the airport money change load up with £5 notes and £2 coins, very useful.
Private Tour Guides
A tip should be between £40 - £100 depending on length of day and enjoyment of tour.
Good to know:
Please do not proffer cash towards your guide while in the hotel foyer, especially towards a lady, Other guests will witness this and could jump to the wrong conclusion on the type of service she has provided. On the flip side the same applies if you have enjoyed a 'lady of the night' as other guests might, again, jump to the wrong concussion and begin testing her Henry Vlll knowledge when all she wants to do is go home and sleep.
In summary :
A tip is never expected but always gratefully received.
'WE ONLY REWARD GOOD SERVICE'
Service Charge is still at your discretion* and not compulsory to pay.
Lastly, believe it or not, some people in the UK never, ever leave a tip, some will even ask for the service charge to be removed then still not tip the waiter even when the experience has been excellent!
So, believe me, you leaving any form of appreciation will be appreciated.
Enjoy your visit to the UK
I am Kevin Willis and I Travel for...My clients.
Chirton Grange Ltd. Award winning Chauffeur Company
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