Experts: 25% tip is the new norm

tip at restaurant
Photo credit Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic really put a new light on the service industry and the importance of gratuity. So much so that the standard for tipping has changed.

In a post-pandemic world, experts say tipping 25% is the new norm.

Before the world was thrust into chaos, with shutdowns leading some restaurants to close completely and others left hanging on by a thread, most people would leave a 10% to 15% tip -- 20% if the service was exceptional.

Then, life as we knew it changed. Experts say the pandemic brought new awareness to the nation's hourly workforce and their wages.

With service employees earning the bulk of their paychecks from tips, many were forced to find new jobs as restrictions made it next to impossible to earn a living wage. In turn, those left behind picked up more responsibilities caused by a shrinking workforce, all while their wages stayed the same.

"People in the service industry are earning minimum or less than minimum wage, tips are absolutely critical," Eric Plam, founder of San Francisco based start-up Uptip, told CNBC. "It's a core part of their compensation."

Acknowledging the gap, many Americans started to leave bigger tips -- partly to help the workers and partly out of gratitude and appreciation for having a service return that was momentarily taken away.

When restaurants opened back up and sit-down dining returned, 42.1% of consumers said they began leaving bigger tips as a way of supplementing difficult times, according to a recent survey from Time2Play.

Additionally, restaurant payment systems also introduced the concept of prompting customers to tip when picking up their takeout orders, with predetermined options ranging from 15% to 25% -- something many wouldn't have considered doing in a pre-pandemic world. In fact, 44% of people said they would not tip if the point-of-sale system didn't prompt them to do it, according to Time2Play's survey.

The survey also shows that pre-pandemic, people were leaving an average tip of about 17.1%. Now, that number has grown to 22.8% on average.

Another survey from PlayUSA shows Americans have been especially generous with tips in 2022, with nearly 90% tipping 15% or higher. Of those, nearly 1 in 5 tip more than 20%, per the survey.

While some follow suggestions for gratuity that are more commonly being printed on receipts, others admit it's easier to just figure out 20% or 25% of the total and leave that as a tip.

Whether or not we are just feeling generous or maybe even guilted into tipping more, experts say the trend of leaving larger gratuities is here to stay.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images