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    Jan 09, 2015

    Tipping finds favour with more eateries

    TIPPING is becoming more common here, as a wave of new eateries do away with the service charge and leave diners to tip at their own discretion.

    At least 10 new eateries have opted out of levying that extra 10 per cent, going by a Straits Times check of restaurants that have opened here in the past two years. And the Restaurant Association of Singapore said more are doing so, although it could not give estimates.

    The service charge is not compulsory but most eateries, except self-service ones, levy it.

    Another sign that tipping may have reached its, well, tipping point: Those that have long embraced tipping and dropped the service charge, including La Petit Cuisine in 2007 and Windowsill Pies in 2012, are now getting more than double the tips they used to.

    Australian barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends waived the service charge when it opened in 2013, a move its manager, Thomas Koh, 32, hopes will change the "big fat lie in the industry".

    "Being in the industry for so long, we know that service charge seldom goes to service staff," he said. "Hopefully, we will also help start a positive movement in the local scene."

    Mr Koh reckons that four out of 10 of his customers leave a tip. The largest was a $2,000 tip from a table of 10 Australian diners - 40 per cent of their bill. Tips add an estimated $600 to the monthly pay packet of each employee.

    At Mexican joint Super Loco in Robertson Quay, even the dishwashers get a cut from the tip jar - which can mean an extra $500 per month. Six in 10 customers tip, said the Mexican restaurant's co-owner, Christian Tan, 44.

    Staff who get tips are recognised for good service, and if they do not receive any, they know that maybe they could have done better, he said.

    "Singapore is not known for its good service, so we were looking for a different way to motivate staff," he added.

    Other new eateries that have gone this route: Wheeler's Yard in Lorong Ampas, Milagro Spanish Restaurant in Orchard and EatPrayLove cafe in Aliwal Street.

    All restaurants contacted said they give tips collected back to staff, typically by splitting it with back-end staff as well.

    Customer service trainer Ron Kaufman, 58, said few restaurants which charge for service share the proceeds with staff. The tipping trend means more business owners are giving staff what they are entitled to.

    But he warned against rushing to abolish the charge, as tipping might work only if a restaurant's clientele is "well travelled, or because the price point of the venue is in that kind of world where people regularly tip".

    However, tipping does not seem to work for everyone.

    BAM! Tapas & Sake Bar, which opened in 2013, made a U-turn and started imposing the 10 per cent service charge recently.

    Kelvin Lim, 30, who waived the levy when he opened Rokeby in Jalan Riang in 2013, reckons that only one in 10 customers tips.

    "People don't even tip 10 per cent. They just leave their spare change," he said.