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What's a good tip? 15 percent? 20 percent? Or maybe even nothing? Whatever the amount, tipping has catapulted into controversy for the restaurant business, and a key CEO recently defended the practice.
"We like it from the standpoint of it allows servers to really understand the importance of great service and what's in it for them when they provide great service," said Wyman Roberts, the CEO of Brinker International, the parent company of Chili's Bar & Grill and Maggiano's, in an interview Tuesday at the ICR Conference.
While Brinker has considered its options, the company does not plan to ditch tipping like some restaurants have done, Roberts said.
"Right now, we don't think that's where we need to go — especially on a national basis," he said.
In the U.S., tipping remains ingrained in full-service dining. Americans tip 18 percent, on average, for good service, according to a 2014 poll conducted by Harris on behalf of Michelin.
Still, several high-profile restaurants ranging from those in Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group to New York's Eleven Madison Park have announced they are ending tipping. And among casual dining chains, Joe's Crab Shack recently said it would test eliminating tipping at some of its locations. Fast-casual player Noodles & Co. also discourages the practice.
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Roberts said while ditching tips makes sense theoretically as a way of bridging the gap between wages of front-of-house staff, like waiters, and the pay of kitchen staff, it can yield unintended results in practice.
"You look around the world and see other models, and usually those models aren't known for great service," Roberts said.