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When it comes to tips, where do you stand?

By Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2005

Food for thought
How should restaurant servers be paid?
Nominal hourly wage and 15-20% tips from customers.
Management should be responsible for paying servers a fair salary.

Restaurant tipping is the American way.

It is so ingrained in our culture that restaurateurs get away with paying servers a pittance: sometimes as little as $1.50 an hour, less than the average babysitter. Tips give servers the possibility of a living wage.

Tipping has been in the news lately because Thomas Keller has abolished the practice at his ultra-pricey New York restaurant, Per Se. Diners will no longer have the privilege of withholding gratuities for bad service or giving more for exceptional.

They will have to pay a 20 percent service charge. Keller says the service charge, a common European practice, will bolster pay of kitchen staff. The New York Times reports that one Per Se cook traded the kitchen for the front of the house so he could pay some bills.

What do you think of tipping? Is it a practice whose time has gone? Or does it seem like a fair way to compensate servers?

How would you react if the price of the meal cost more, and there was no tipping at all? What changes make sense to you?

Whether you are a server, restaurateur or diner, we'd like your opinion about tipping. (Read what Times food critic Chris Sherman has to say on the topic, page XE.)

Send submissions by Aug. 31 to Tip Talk, c/o Taste, St. Petersburg Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 or e-mail put TIP TALK in the subject line. Please include your name, city of residence and daytime phone number.

[Last modified August 23, 2005, 17:54:04]

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