New Study: Higher Tipped Wage = Lower Tip Percentage

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The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) continues to spend a large portion of its annual budget trying to eliminate the tipped wage. This is despite the fact that restaurant workers support the current system of tipping by an overwhelming majority. A 2016 survey of several hundred tipped workers by industry publication Upserve found that 97 percent preferred the current system to a salaried alternative.

That’s because the current tipping system in America allows many servers to earn much higher wages than the $15 an hour labor activists are fighting for.

A recent study conducted by Professor Michael Lynn of Cornell University compiled and analyzed point-of-sale and customer survey data. This method is in contrast to prior studies that have depended on server reports or cash tips to their employers which could lead to bias. The study conducted by Professor Lynn found that workers in states or localities with higher base wages for tipped employees experienced a decrease in tip percentages. So while tipped workers base wages may be higher, their take-home pay could be lower due to a loss in tips.

The author reasoned that this could be due to several factors. It’s possible that an increase in menu prices could cause price-sensitive customers to tip less. It’s also possible that by increasing workers’ wages, consumers might perceive tipped workers as less in need of tips.

Another recent study conducted by Drs. David Macpherson from Trinity University and Bill Even from Miami University found that in markets with a higher tipped wage, tipped workers account for a nearly 18 percent lower share of employment in full-service restaurants. Additionally, these tipped employees worked, on average, 19 percent fewer hours than their counterparts in lower-cost states.

The tipping system in America allows many servers to earn much higher wages than the $15 wage that labor activists are fighting for. So here’s a free tip for the labor activists: listen to the workers you claim to represent and allow them to keep their tips.