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Is a 'no-tipping' policy ready to be adopted by Canadian restaurants?

What was once viewed as an extra “thank you” for pleasant service, tipping in Canada has been described as a societal pressure by some Canadians who say rising living costs have dumped the onus on a patron's bill.

"I understand that everybody is trying to squeeze all financial angles to make it work, but I too need to be fiscally responsible," Andrew McIntoch on Halifax, N.S. wrote to CTVNews.ca in an email, explaining his strategy for dining out is 15 per cent for table serve and 20 per cent for he would consider "above-average" service.

Elaine Hampson of Duncan, B.C. in Vancouver Island says she would rather businesses move away from tipping all together.

"I would prefer that the Canadian business model move away from any kind of tip included business plans. Pay your employees well, and evenly distribute the costs of running the business to the consumers," Hampson said.

"I’m not a business expert, I’m a frustrated customer," she continued.

But are Canadian restaurants ready to adopt this no-tipping policy?

For Jennifer Low, the owner of Toronto restaurant Sarang Kitchen, she says it's possible.

Low, who opened her Korean restaurant along with her husband six months ago, says all her employees receive a wage of at least $23.15 per hour, which is a living wage according to the Ontario Living Wage Network .

Inspired by her home country of Singapore and time spent in New Zealand, where neither country has a tipping culture, Low explains patrons can enjoy their food by not being surprised at their subtotal and staff don't argue over splitting tips.

"By discouraging tipping, it's creating more equity and we're able to be more inclusive," Low told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

Rising food costs and supply chain issues have been challenging on the restaurant but Low says she's had to make adjustments to ensure food prices remain reasonable for customers and staff continue to be paid fairly.

"For us to care for our employees and our customers, it means we have to make sacrifices," she said.

ARE CANADIAN RESTAURANTS READY TO MAKE THE SWITCH?

Since the pandemic, restaurants have taken a massive hit to profits following dining closures, rising food costs, and labour shortages that have led to mounds of debt many are struggling to clear today, Tracey MacGregor, vice president of the Ontario branch of Restaurants Canada explains.

"Operating a restaurant in Canada has never been more difficult, more volatile or more costly than it is today," MacGregor told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Thursday.

According to Restaurants Canada, 84 per cent of restaurants in Canada are reporting lower profits today than in 2019 and nearly half are operating at a loss or breaking even. While a no-tipping policy across the board might not be an overnight change, MacGregor says restaurant owners are making more of an effort to retain their staff and pay them fairly.

"We want our employees happy, we want to keep them in careers and in hospitality, so you're seeing things like health benefits coming in, dental benefits, [and] higher wages," she said.

Folke, a vegan restaurant in Vancouver, has similarly adopted a no-tipping policy as owner Pricilla Deo explains each staff member is paid a salary wage with health and dental benefits as well as a lifestyle benefit to cover other personal expenses.

Deo told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Thursday that while her restaurant had the advantage of starting off with this pricing model, she understands it can be difficult for other restaurants to switch to since it will involve changes for their menu, consumers, and staff.

"We didn't do it to try to change the industry, we did it because we wanted our small restaurant to be a nice place for people to work and that's important to us," Deo told

"It would take a lot of time to catch onto that change, especially from an employee standpoint if they're already used to making a certain amount of money."

While no-tipping restaurants make up a small percentage of businesses in Canada, for those that follow a more traditional system, how much should Canadians tip?

MacGregor says while there are many restaurants who have adjusted their tipping percentage prompts, the decision to tip and the amount will always be up to the customer.

"These prompts are meant to be simpler of course but at the end of the day it really is up to the customer," she said,

"These employees are showing up every day, they're trying to deliver those great guest experiences so it's really what you feel that's worth and recognizing."

YOUR FINANCES

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