Slashfood’s Hanna Raskin makes an interesting case for announcing your intended tip prior to a meal to ensure better service and to be fair to your server. She admits her notion of pre-tipping is a radical one, as it would involve more modest tippers to, say, fetch their own water.
I’ve waited tables at a number of restaurants and I don’t think Ms. Raskin’s idea would work in reality. A diner may promise a 30% tip, but what happens if the meal goes awry through no fault of the server? For example, what if the steak is over- or undercooked? Or the kitchen 86’s a menu item, but neglects to promptly tell the wait staff? Or…you get my drift. That diner is certainly going to balk at the initially agreed upon tip and insist it be reduced.
At fine-dining establishments, service is usually a collaborative effort. The server (and those he must tip out at the end of the evening — bussers, bartenders, runners, and so on) and the rest of the wait staff could suffer a loss of wages for a mistake made by a salaried employee who isn’t tipped out (i.e. the kitchen staff).
I’m a generous tipper (at least 20% based on the post-tax total), as are most folks who have worked in restaurants. I often tip much more than that. And when faced with abominable service, I have also tipped much less. While I wouldn’t be opposed to a mandatory 20% service charge (as is the custom in France, according to Ms. Raskin), within our current system, I don’t want to agree to a larger or smaller tip when service has barely begun.