Boston Diners Are the Best Tippers

A new study shows we lead the nation with a solid 20 percent average.

Tipping Massachusetts

Server picking up a cash tip photo via Shutterstock

Across the country, standard American tipping practices are in the midst of a sea change.

One of New York City’s most established restauranteurs, Danny Meyer of Union Hospitality Group (Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke at Jazz Standard, others), is currently adjusting the prices at all 13 of his establishments to eliminate the need for guests to leave gratuity on top of the bill.

Here in Boston, the vegetarian fast casual chain, Clover, is also charging more for its staff’s benefit; many of the area’s taprooms, including Bantam Cider Company and Downeast, refuse tips; and when it opens very soon, Bread & Salt Hospitality’s café, Juliet, will be paying its servers a livable wage, too. Select Oyster Bar opened last spring with an automatic 20 percent gratuity policy. The team behind Tres Gatos, Centre Street Cafe, and the forthcoming Casa Verde in Jamaica Plain, as well as the separate group that opened Yvonne’s in Downtown Crossing, have added a 3 percent charge onto bills to help close the wage gap between back- and front-of-house staff.

But it’s still necessary for guests to factor in a tip at most restaurants, here and across the U.S. While gratuity is ostensibly meant to reward good service, it actually comprises the majority of tipped employees’ paychecks. A new study by Zagat shows Boston diners apparently understand this. The Hub is home to the nation’s most generous tippers. Maybe it’s because our weather is so tough?

The travel and dining guide polled 9,248 people across the country about how much they generally leave, and Boston lead the pack with a solid 20 percent. Philadelphia was close behind with 19.9 percent, and San Antonio, Texas held it down by confessing to leave only 17. 1, on average.

Despite the moves by some local restauranteurs toward rethinking food service compensation, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association is happy with the status quo. Zagat’s survey respondents are still feeling out new gratuity policies; 38 percent are “over it,” but 35 percent “don’t mind.”  Thirteen percent “love” what they’re seeing.

In other stats gleaned from the poll, Boston cracks the top five most tech-savvy cities when it comes to online ordering. Sixty-three percent of respondents use online reservation systems here; just Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Chicago have higher phone call-averse populations.

Check out the full report at Zagat.