The 15% tip appears to be dead

A new study shows that the typical gratuity is now closer to 20%, the result of diners being more generous during the pandemic.
Photograph: Shutterstock

The pandemic has claimed another restaurant casualty: the 15% tip.

A new study from tech supplier Toast shows that even in California, the state with the stingiest tippers, the average gratuity left by restaurant customers has climbed to 17.5%.

No other state had a mean below 18%.

The results suggest that diners are moving toward adoption of 20% as the new tipping standard. Across all 50 states, the average leave-behind from dine-in customers is 19.7% of their tab. The mean in 13 states has already reached the 20% threshold.

Toast found that a gap persists between what customers typically leave at a quick-service restaurant and what they routinely tip at a full-service place, 16.9% versus 19.6%. But the difference is not as great as the disparity between the average gratuity for a takeout or delivered meal and what’s added to the check for a dine-in experience, or 14.5% and 19.7%, respectively.

The move toward 20% as the tipping default rate comes as more consumers are placing their orders online, a channel where tip percentages and the translation into dollars are routinely suggested. Often, 20% is the lowest recommended and calculated rate.

Toast noted that its study debunks the notion of “tipping fatigue,” the theory currently in vogue that customers are tired of being asked for a tip by service providers who never did so in the past.  

It discovered that Americans are leaving 10% more in tips today then they did at the same places a year ago.

The data was garnered from the 68,000 locations that use Toast’s POS systems. A copy of the report can be found here.

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