Aussie tradition is no tipping. Restaurant workers are paid at least the full minimum wage, somewhere around $15 US, and generally more.
In the US, of course, we don’t just tip, but do so at wildly high rates and with the understanding that the whole livelihood of the server is up to us. I tip my good-sociologist 20% there.
This habit was so ingrained that I also tipped in Oz for awhile. Now that’s worn off and I only tip when service is exemplary. (Acclerating the assimilation is how high restaurant prices are here, as even without the tip I still often leave restaurants mildly dazed by how much we spent.)
What difference does American hypertipping vs Aussie no-tipping make for restaurants? I have no formal data, but (1) I’m a licensed sociologist, (2) we eat out a LOT, and (3) this is a blog. So let me give you the skinny.
I’ll get the obvious difference out of the way in this post, and then I’ll describe some subtler and perhaps more interesting ones.
Restaurant service in Australia is palpably worse. Anybody whose eaten in many restaurants in both places and tries to tell you otherwise is either oblivious or an ideologue.
Oz servers are friendly enough. Restaurants often try to get by with fewer servers–since they are the ones paying for them. But the effort and expectations are different even when a restaurant is mostly empty.
Most obvious example for me: I often like a second glass of wine with dinner. In the US, you can count on being asked if you’d like another. Your server will even ask as though they are hoping you’ll say yes. Here, often as not, I have to actively pursue a second glass of wine. But of course, tipping means that wine in the US is effectively sold on commission, where here you’re just making more work for the server.
(Part 2 to follow.)