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Here's Why Your Next Restaurant Tip May Anger Your Server

Some restaurants are switching to tip pooling during the pandemic.
Waiter wearing protective face mask while disinfecting tables at outdoor cafe

As businesses attempt to return to a sense of normalcy during the coronavirus pandemic, there have been countless changes to how things work. Customers have seen some of them right away—the lack of paper menus, the wait staff wearing face coverings. But other changes aren't as obvious to customers, and they're making a huge difference for restaurant staff. And one major change the pandemic has brought about is the switch to tip pooling.

What does tip pooling mean?

SHRM reported this week that a number of bars and restaurants that have received the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the government are restructuring their tip policies and scheduled hours for workers. Tip pooling means that tips are shared among restaurant employees, so your tip will be divided among servers and back-of-house workers.

Of course, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't leave a tip if you're dining out at a restaurant during the pandemic. If you have the means to eat at a restaurant, you should thank the workers for risking their own health to serve you. But just know that if you leave an especially high tip for a server who's gone above and beyond, it might not all go to that person. (And the days of people leaving $500 tips to help servers' families or to fund their education could be over, too.)

It's not all bad, though! As SHRM explains, tip pooling helps make sure all workers get fair pay. If one server is stuck with multiple tables who don't leave a tip, they won't go home with a lighter paycheck.

Right now, there's no definite answer on whether this will become a permanent policy for restaurants, or whether it will end when the pandemic and the PPP loans are a thing of the past. For now, the best thing you can do is leave a generous tip if you eat at a restaurant, and know that you'll be helping all of the employees, not just your server.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Meghan De Maria
Meghan De Maria is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food, product, and restaurant coverage. Read more
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