Service charges, gratuity and tips. They aren’t what you think…

Service charges, gratuity and tips. They aren’t what you think…

Whether you are of British nationality or not the terminology of tipping in the UK can be incredibly opaque, leaving many people misunderstanding the different terms and how much of the fee actually gets passed on to employees.

Historically, the UK was not a tipping culture. We would, however, round-up the payment to the nearest pound when taking a taxi and leave the spare change in a restaurant as a tip.

There certainly wasn’t a certain percentage expected and of course, this was during the time when cash was the most common means of payment.

The current climate of tipping is, relatively speaking, a fairly new phenomenon and parts of the new rules do mirror a little of the USA’s but should certainly not be confused.

Emma Dupont | The Emma Dupont School of Etiquette | London

So, for clarity:

Service Charges

A ‘service charge’ is the most common terminology used on bills nowadays, and this is actually the opaquest of them all. To put it bluntly, the establishment does not legally have to pass ANY of the service charge to the employees.

They may use the funds to fix a leaking roof at the restaurant if they wish.Note that unless there is a mandatory service charge (normally only for parties above a certain number of people) then this is optional, and you may ask for it to be removed).

Gratuity and Tips

The difference between a gratuity and a tip is that the former is paid by credit/debit card and the latter is paid in cash. Legally, both have to be passed on to the employees.

When paying a gratuity (by credit/debit card) the amount could be divided between all of the staff, including those behind the scenes.If you feel strongly that you wish your ‘tip’ to be enjoyed by the person that served you then the best option is to tip in cash.

Simply ask your waiting staff to remove the service charge from the bill and explain that you would like to tip separately. 

They should, of course, have no problem with this request!