Restaurant adds an 'automatic gratuity' for grade school customers, and people aren't impressed

Restaurant adds an 'automatic gratuity' for grade school customers, and people aren't impressed

Although this writer has never worked in the hospitality business, you don't have to spend much time working for minimum wage managing demanding (and sometimes even outright hostile) people to realise that it's not always a fun gig. Not only that, in America, a waiter's pay automatically factors in tips, so you're at the mercy of these customers to help you put food on the table.

Speaking of putting food on the table; I can't imagine that being a restaurant server is always butterflies and rainbows, and that experience is made all the more awful when you pull out all the stops only to receive a substandard tip. It's enough to make a waiter or waitress lose their temper, and one restaurant has come under fire for adding an automatic tip for a specific subset of customers.

Picture, if you can, a child. Like a regular person, but smaller, and more prone to supermarket breakdowns if they happen to be out of a specific brand of cereal. One of the defining features of a child is that they haven't got any of the responsibilities of a regular adult, and as a result, might not have as much of an understanding of the world of hospitality, or the importance of a tip in that industry.

Which (I guess) is a coherent argument for the Iron Horse Pizzeria And Sports Pub, who are adding a customary gratuity of 15 percent for all of their young customers. Dane Peterson and his friend Jacob Howes - who are both in sixth grade - found this out the hard way, when they got quite the surprise on their bill after finishing a meal on their way home from Central Elementary School in Simsbury, Connecticut.

“I said aren’t we supposed to factor [the 15 percent gratuity] in because it kind of threw me off a little bit,” said Howes, before the waitress pointed out that it was spelled out on the menu. The restaurant's owner, Rob Bylykbashi, says that in the past he's had problems with school kids and tipping - he revealed that on a recent half-day, only two of the 12 tables filled with school-age kids remembered to tip.

It's a sad situation, and Elizabeth Peterson, Dane Peterson's mother, says she understands both sides of the issue. “That [the gratuity] feeds into servers not getting a fair wage in what is customary in how we do things here, so then the other side of it is you can’t just say that all kids don’t tip,” said this wise mother, but also felt like the restaurant could have done more to highlight the issue for prospective customers.

I think in all things in life if you are up front and you’re clear then people can make their own decision based on that. If you tell them literally when they walk in the door and if the kids decide they don’t want to stay because of the tip then ok, but at least they didn’t feel tricked you never want anyone to feel tricked.

Despite this, the boys say there are no hard feelings about the added automatic tip, and even say they're looking forward "We love eating there because they have great food," said Howes, and I'm tempted to agree with him; on the surface of it, it might seem a little bit like profiling, but in places like the UK gratuity is often added on, so it's not as if this is a completely new development. If the wait staff are getting paid and the customer is happy with the service, then I feel as if everyone wins.