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Daily deals and tip time

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

We’ve read much about the pros and cons of signing up for the growing array of daily-deal sites, including reports of studies showing that more than half of small businesses that had used a daily-deal site wouldn’t do it again.

Another study, conducted by Rice University, points out that the key predictor of profitability with daily deals is how satisfied employees are with the promotion. The two key factors: Advanced preparation of employees so they’re ready to handle the additional customers, and adequate compensation for the increased workload — including likelihood that some patrons paying with Groupons and other deal vouchers will tip less than if they paid full price for the meal.

Increasingly, tipping is a hot topic — specifically, whether guests know they’re supposed to tip on the regular price of the meal and not the discounted check total. Evidence is mounting that many daily-deal users either don’t know it or don’t want to know it. A piece last year on Groupgro addressed the issue and detailed three different strategies for making sure your serving staff is taken care of when daily-deal users dine on discounted meals. Restaurants can require the guest to pay a fixed tip based on the price before discount; do nothing and chalk it up to the price of doing business; or politely offer suggested tip amounts, which the Groupgro writer sees as the safe middle ground.

Others beg to differ, as evidenced by a recent reader complaint to Eater that sparked debate on the topic.  The reader, who dined out using a 30% off deal from BlackboardEats, was handed a card along with the bill that suggested what the gratuity should be. Shortly after posting the complaint, Eater was flooded with comments, most of which supported the restaurant’s policy but many of which disagreed. One reader even went so far as to argue that guests shouldn’t be expected to tip on the higher amount to begin with: “The restaurant is doing this promo because business is slow, i.e. the waiter should be happy that he has a table to wait on.”

More on daily deal sites

American Public Media last week took up the question of whether consumers are in danger of daily-deal overload. The rapid proliferation of daily-deal sites, especially niche sites such as, which is aimed at the gay community, or J-deal, which is aimed at Jewish consumers, has at least one analyst convinced that bargain burnout may be on the horizon.

More tricky tipping situations

A restaurant in Waikiki, Hawaii, made the news last week when it posted and later pulled a menu notice informing guests that non-English speakers would be charged a 15% gratuity, The New York Times reported.  Owners of Keoni by Keo’s didn’t comment for the story, but others say the move was likely a reaction to serving a growing number of Asians from cultures where tipping isn’t the norm. “You know you’re not going to get a gratuity. It doesn’t soften the blow, but you just know,” one waiter told the Times.

Have you participated with Groupon or another daily-deal site? How did you handle the issue of adequate tipping?

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