Online poll: Most say they tip wait staff well at restaurants

Nearly 80 percent of the respondents to a online poll said they would tip at least 11 percent of the bill if a restaurant didn’t add automatic gratuities and they had no complaints about the service.

The majority of sit-down restaurants in the Cayman Islands add automatic gratuity to customers’ bills. Of those that add automatic gratuity, 15 percent is the most common, but a few restaurants have increased that to 18 percent in recent years.

Like restaurant workers in North America, wait staff in the Cayman Islands tend to get low hourly pay and rely heavily on gratuities to make a livable wages. This contrasts with other countries, including those in Europe, where wait staff generally receive higher base wages and patrons pay minimal gratuities, at their discretion, on restaurant bills.

Automatic gratuities

Automatic gratuities are not the norm in the United States, except with groups, usually of six or eight diners or more. However, when automatic gratuities – which are classified as a service charge – are added in the U.S., the amount is usually 15 percent. The recommended gratuity rate for good service in the U.S. is generally between 15 and 20 percent of the food and beverage bill, excluding sales tax. The suggested rates are a little higher in major cities with higher costs of living like New York.

Of the 613 total respondents to the one-week poll, the largest segment – 229 people or 37.3 percent – said they normally tip between 11 and 15 percent of the bill.

“Traditionally in the country I am from, a 15 percent service gratuity is added, which I have become accustomed to and think is fair in most instances,” said one person.

“Fifteen percent is the basic tip,” said someone else. “If service exceeds the norm, then I increase accordingly.”

“I don’t mind gratuities on restaurant tabs and will add in more if the service warrants it, but I hate when gratuity is put on a bar tab and I will never leave extra when it is,” said another person. “If I go to a bar and there is no gratuity added I always tip, and probably more than grats would be.”

“If a gratuity is an acknowledgement of service, I want the option to determine the amount based on the service, which is not always the same,” said one respondent. “If it is automatically included, it has nothing to do with service and is just a tax on your bill.”

“I get so irritated when they automatically add the service,” said another person.

“I always tip in cash to ensure the server receives it,” said someone else.

Tipping 16-20 percent

Almost an equal number of respondents – 226 people or 36.9 percent – said they normally tip between 16 and 20 percent of the bill.

“Servers here don’t make much for their wage,” said one person.

“As long as I get good service (takes my order in a timely fashion, keeps my drink glass full, is friendly and respectful, etc.), the wait staff will receive 20 percent from me,” said another respondent. “If the restaurant automatically adds the tip (usually 15 percent), that’s usually all they’re going to get. I have found that most of the time the wait staff don’t deserve any more than that due to the fact that they know that they don’t have to work hard in order to earn it. In fact, there are some restaurants that I won’t even frequent anymore because of the lousy service and the automatic tip.”

“At a sit-down restaurant, I will normally leave 15 to 20 percent gratuity if the server at least tries,” said someone else. “Bad or indifferent service will lead to a lower tip, but I will at least leave something.”

“I have two rates that don’t tax my mental math abilities,” said one respondent. “Twenty percent seems fair for smaller orders and 10 percent for orders over CI$60.”

“If 15 percent is included, that’s normally all they get,” said another person. “If it isn’t included, I give 15 percent for competent service up to 20+ percent for outstanding service, probably averaging 17 to 18 percent overall. If I recall correctly, Bermuda passed a rule that if tip was included, an “additional tip” line was not allowed as a lot of tourists don’t realize grats are included and double tip. This adds to the perception of Cayman being expensive, when their foreign currency credit card bills arrive.”

“I find that often the auto grat is not disclosed on credit card slips so that customers are prompted to tip on the baked-in gratuity,” commented someone else.

More than 20 percent

Another 35 people – 5.7 percent – said they generally tip more than 20 percent of the bill.

“If service is good,” said one person.

Eighty-five people – 13.9 percent – said they generally tip between 6 and 10 percent if automatic gratuity isn’t added.

“That’s reasonable,” said one person.

“As you add more and more, you just promote inflation of gratuity,” said another person. “Start adding 20 percent now and you’ll see 30 percent added automatically in a few years.”

“I do not believe that I should be tipped for doing my job, so for me tipping should be for service over and above the call of duty,” said someone else. “People should be paid a living wage and this be reflected in restaurant prices.”

“Ten percent is nice and easy to calculate,” said one respondent.

“I tip for exceptional service, not because I have no complaints,” said another.

Twenty-four people – 3.9 percent – said they generally tip 5 percent or less if gratuity isn’t automatically added.

“A tip should represent over-and-above service and not an expectation,”said one person.

No tips

Another 14 people – 2.3 percent – said they tip nothing if gratuity isn’t automatically added.

“Why should I pay my waiter’s salary?” asked one person. “That’s the restaurant’s job.” “They already get paid to provide service,” said someone else.

“I’ll only tip them if they can prove to me that their establishment recycles,” said another person.

“I don’t get tips in my job, so why should they?” asked one respondent. “Pay them a living wage and scrap this Americanized rip-off.”

Next week’s poll question

The government says it has decided to implement daylight savings time by moving the clocks ahead one hour between March and November starting in 2016. Do you support that decision? [Explain why in commments]


I’m leaning toward agreeing

I’m leaning toward disagreeing

Absolutely not

I don’t care one way or the other

To participate in this poll, visit