#69 Don’t forget the service charge

Going out for a meal with a whole bunch of people is lovely.  Then the bill comes, you’ve all decided to pay separately so calculate what you think you owe, put in your share, and uh-oh, surprise surprise, you’re £25 short.  I’ve lost count of the number of times this has happened when I’ve been out for a meal.  Someone’s forgotten their share of the starter, someone’s miscalculated their contribution to the wine, and half of the table have failed to notice the 12.5% service charge.

A way I’ve found to get round this is to get everyone to calculate what they think they own, then add each add a pound to that total  That way you should cover any minor mis-calculations, and it won’t fall to one or two people to cover the £25 that’s missing.  Good luck!  And check if the service charge is optional, if you haven’t received good service, or if it’s not going to go to the waiters / kitchen / bar staff, you don’t have to pay it.


If you go to America, you should tip.   Staff working in industries where tipping is the usual etiquette are likely to be on a wage of about $2.13 an hour; their tips make up a huge amount of their income, remember that.  If you don’t tip them, they will presume they offered you an incredibly bad service.  You should tip between 15%-20% for good service.

In the UK it’s slightly different.We have a minimum wage, although, as usual with all of the huge companies, the people at the bottom are paid the absolute bare minimum while those at the top are sitting on a nice fat salary.  A lot of companies do not allow their employees to accept tips.  I know this from working in Wetherspoons; I was not allowed to accept tips or have drinks bought for me.  If someone offered to buy me a drink though, the company ruled it was rude to say no, so we had to accept the money, put it through the till and not have the drink.  Who’s benefiting?  Those at the top, of course.  While I was living off baked-beans in spaghetti in a small house which I shared with a scary Frenchman in East London.  I think it’s always worth asking if the waiter will get the tip, although Tragus, a huge company that own lots of big restaurants like Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge and Strada were firing employees that were being open with customers about their tips.  Because Tragus were using the tips to pay employees the minimum wage, so the employees were still earning a tiny amount, whilst the company took ALL the profit.  I’ve also heard reports that some curry houses on Brick Lane are just as bad for this.  I try to get round this by eating in family owned restaurants, their ethos and treatment of staff is usually much better (and the food also so much nicer than the stuff being mass produced by chains.)

For your London visits, I’ll recommend L’Artista, a fantastic Italian restaurant under the railway arches in Golders Green.  Italian owned and run, you’ll need to book a table most evenings of the week as it is packed out with Italians (a good sign that they’re serving the real thing.)  They also make their own Limoncello, and the staff get to keep their tips. (They also have a really good way of extracting tips from you by getting you incredibly drunk on their free Limoncello refills!)


L’Artista with some of my pals

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