This study examines the relative effectiveness of using gratuity guidelines to encourage restaurant patrons to be more generous with wait staff. The study compared the effects on tips of an educational approach which informed guests about tip norms against an actual calculation printed on the check (as well as no guidelines at all). Using an internet simulation experiment, the study found that potential restaurant guests’ reaction to tip reminders depended in part on whether the restaurant’s service was excellent, average, or just plain shoddy. It’s clear that offering suggestions influenced tip amounts, but not always in the expected way. Offering educational guidelines tended to raise tips when service was adequate, but it reduced the highest tips when service was excellent. When service was poor, however, mentioning tip norms encouraged patrons to take revenge on the hapless server. Offering a calculation on the check improved tips under all service quality levels, although the increase in tip levels was not significant when service was poor. Since the study is a simulation, the authors encourage restaurant operators to contact them to engage in a real-life experiment of tipping guidelines.
Karniouchina, K., Verma, R., Karniouchina, K., & Mishra, H. (2008). Exploring consumer reactions to tipping guidelines: Implications for service quality [Electronic article]. Cornell Hospitality Report, 8(8), 6-16.