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Millennials tip less? I call ‘B.S.’

A recent report in the restaurant-industry media is claiming that millennials are by and large worse tippers than their older counterparts. It professes that nearly half of my peers don’t tip as well as other generational groups. As a millennial, as someone who never tips less than 20 percent and as someone who tended bar and waited tables for many years, I’m calling that bullshit.

All personal rage aside, I was skeptical from the get go. Why? One statement right out of the gate: the older, the better. It claims that those 65-plus are the best tippers. Are you kidding me? Who among us hasn’t sat down with a grandparent (or older parent) to explain why you can’t tip 15 percent anymore, that it is considered extremely cheap to tip anything less than 20 percent. A good number of seniors gripe that service is the same as it was umpteen years ago, so they aren’t tipping more than they did “back in the day,” completely disregarding or willing to account for the cost-of-living increase. While it is a generalization, seniors are notoriously bad tippers. And if my six years of experience as a server says anything, that generalization isn’t far off.

Besides claiming that millennials are “tightwads,” the write-up ridiculously suggests that millennials may be tipping less because of where they eat most. It states that millennials frequent fast casuals and takeout operations a lot, places where tipping isn’t expected, “so perhaps they simply aren’t familiar with acceptable tipping practices.” Now that’s just dumb. That’s like saying just because I wear zip-up boots everyday, I don’t know how to tie my shoes (I do, I promise). Among millennials, how to tip is pretty basic knowledge, even if they don’t do it each day.

Part of the reason is that, aside from being frequent restaurant users, restaurants have played a large role in many millennials’ lives, specifically in their take-home pay. One in three adults had their first job in the restaurant industry, says the National Restaurant Association. So if a person wasn’t in the industry themselves, it’s a safe bet they had a friend working in a restaurant. Chances are, these younger consumers remember what it’s like to be living off of tips more clearly than their older counterparts—and they all did so in a time when 20 percent was the norm—upping the likelihood of their generosity.

Ready for more fodder that proves my point? Another modern factor affecting tip percentage is tabletop technology. Many restaurants that give diners the option to pay via tablet present a suggested gratuity tier (15 percent, 18 percent, 20 percent or other) versus having guests write in their own amount on a paper bill. While there’s been a call from consumers of late to remove the suggested tip amounts, 40 percent of diners say they would pay the same tip via tablet as they would if a server presented them the check, finds Chicago researcher Technomic. Some 45 percent of the overall population, though, actually reduces their typical tipping amount when paying via tablet. Yet that percentage of those that would reduce the tip is less among younger adults (41 percent).

And, to add fuel to the fire, 26 percent of younger consumers say they would increase the amount they tip when paying via tablet versus traditional check. So if this is the direction that many casual-dining spots are going, wouldn’t it be a safe bet to guess that millennials are, in fact, some of the best tippers?

Just a word of advice: I’d think twice before listening to the advice to switch gears and go after a more seasoned crowd to give your servers a better take-home. 

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