10% service charge is not a tip for your waiter

Many people are unaware that the service charge at restaurants and hotels is usually divided among the entire staff, including managers and hostesses, and it is divided according to each person's responsibility.

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ABU DHABI // Most restaurants in hotels across the UAE add 10 per cent of the bill as a service charge.

But customers are not always aware that the charge is divided among all staff in the restaurant, not just waiting staff, so it does not count as a tip to a member of staff who has given good service.

“We include 10 per cent of service charge and 6 per cent of government tourism fees in our bill,” says a hostess at Hakkasan restaurant in Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace hotel.

“But tips are different. If someone comes to the restaurant, this 10 per cent is mandatory and it goes to all the staff at the end of the month as a service charge.”

The amount is divided according to each worker’s responsibility, from waiters to chefs and hostesses.

“If they are at the management level, they will get a bit more,” the hostess says, adding that the separate amount for tips received is not that high.

“Tipping can be done via card or cash, and waiters can only get it at the end of the month when it is shared equally.”

The same applies to Market Kitchen at Abu Dhabi’s Royal Meridien.

“People can tip if they want to and that only goes to waiters,” says Pamela Parungao, a hostess who has been working there for six years.

“A lot of people think the service charge is a tip for the waiters.”

Staff are not allowed to inform customers of the difference unless they are asked.

“If we tell them, they would leave more,” Ms Parungao says. “We try our best to keep our guests happy.

“Tipping shouldn’t be that important because, as long as the guests are happy, they will keep coming back.”

She says the 10 per cent makes a small difference in her overall monthly wages.

“I am happy we have that,” Ms Parungao says. “As long as I do well in my job, I am satisfied.”

But one restaurant in Dubai, AB’s Absolute Barbecues, has gone against the grain and implemented a no-tipping policy.

“We don’t allow tips because we believe that tipping is an aspect that normally people pay for a service that was delivered to them,” says Razeen Parambil, general manager of Mayfair Restaurants.

“But we believe that service is part of the product you get so my price includes my service, ambience and good food, so I don’t need to get paid extra for that.”

Many customers still insist on giving a tip but Mr Parambil says it is unnecessary.

“The waiters are taken care of in another way,” he says. “Part of the price of the food goes to them, based on profile and performance, so they are happy with this arrangement.”

Mr Parambil says he regards tipping as discriminatory.

“If one guest can pay more than another then he will get more special attention the next time he comes in,” he says. “Everyone here gets the same treatment.

“If customers don’t like it, they can leave money in a charity box we have for Dubai Cares.”