I have worked in many roles in the restaurant business. At 14 I was a dishwasher in the Sindia restaurant in Ocean City. Then at 15 I was the busboy. Between 16 to 21 I was a waiter. Later in life, at 29, I became a part-time bartender. I understand the role of tipping and the incentive it provides. I have written before about how to tip properly and handle waiting on a drink.
Right now, the big thing is about restaurants banning tipping. It sounds sexy enough, with the clickbait headlines to ban tipping, but what most people keep forgetting is the increase in prices to offset the tip.
Instead of steak for $30, now the steak is $36, a 20% increase. Sure, everyone applauds the idea to do away with tipping, but you have to pay wait staff a fair wage which is comparable to what they made with tips based on profits. Good waiters, those that can sell well and "push" some extras to their customer, will do well. Then again, where is the incentive for speedy service and rapt attention if the customer isn't tipping you? Wait staff will do just enough to provide good service, but not great service. It's the great equalizer. It's the reason why communism doesn't actually work - the lazy people will keep being lazy and the hard workers won't have incentive to work harder than they need to.
Sure, we can talk about people getting fired for bad service, and that still is true.
What will happen is waiters will do "just enough". Just enough work to keep the customer from complaining to their bosses, but you won't see the same level of service you are used to. Perfect example is the Department of Motor Vehicles. At the DMV, the workers there know they won't get fired. Why speed up the lines? What incentive do they have for excellent service? None. If you stop at a McDonalds, the worker with the glazed look on their face says in a monotone, "Welcome to McDonalds how can I help you?" about 500 times a day. Where is their incentive to work harder? They are getting paid $15/hour now, do you think their service will improve, decline or stay the same. My money is on stay the same.
The only way it may work is to provide a incentive for people to work harder, via tipping. The other incentive is what all sales people know - comission. The harder you work, the more you sell, the more money you make. That seems pretty fair to me. Even if it was McDonalds, if you knew that selling $1000 per day would get you an extra bonus of $100, wouldn't everyone from the cashier to the cooks have an incentive to work quickly? Yes, that may mean the $1 burgers are now $1.50 burgers, but the service would improve.
The same is true for the no tipping policy.
The dirty secret is people do pay attention to how you tip. As a bartender, I do notice those that tip well and do try to help them out when they come back again to the bar. Maybe if the bar is busy, I will serve them first. Or, if there aren't any seats in the bar, I can try to find them ones from outside. Sometimes you can do "buybacks" and not charge them for every drink they order. Maybe you make them a large drink of Captain & Coke rather than the regular sized drink, and only charge them for a single. Sure, there are different ways to "take care of your customers", and any bartender who says they don't do this is lying or European.
At the bar, we have beer specials for the Eagles games. $3 pints of Bud Light and Yuengling. $10 pitchers (there are 4 pints in a pitcher, so getting a pitcher is only $2.50 a beer), or $14 buckets for 4 bottled beers. I had a guy the other day at the bar. He ordered from me 2 buckets of beer, which had 4 beers in each bucket. 8 beers total. It cost $28. He left me $4.88. I'm not exactly sure how he came up with that (technically it was .174286%), and maybe in his mind my service was good enough to give 17% tip but not quite 20%. Maybe he's thinking i'm throwing some beer into a bucket adding some ice and that's my job. Not to beat a dead horse, but there's a lot of prep work and post work that the customer doesn't see the bartender doing. Also, on another side note, I fight the owners of Mulligan's to get that special for Eagles fans - to help out the customers. $14 buckets for 4 beers is $3.50 a beer in a town where a bottle costs $5. I'm saving everyone $6 per bucket, excluding tip.
I thought about this, and thought about just increasing prices at the bar. Make pints $4. Pitchers can be $14. Buckets will be $18. Tell everyone don't tip. Work out a system with the owner that for every pint we sell we get $1. Every pitcher is $4. Every bucket is $4. No one needs to tip us anymore. It would be an interesting system, but the question is - how would the customers NOW react to the price changes? I'm instituting a system in which $1 per drink is given to the bartender, much like I suggested in my earlier post.
I guarantee you that the customers would howl in anger over it. Not so sexy now to get rid of tipping, is it? People kind of like to have that control over the waiter or bartender knowing that your performance hinges on a good tip. Something to think about.