Whether you're for or against the practice, here are five things you probably didn't know about it.
1. Waitresses who wear red get more tips.
Women who wear red shirts are more likely to get tips from male customers, according to a study published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. This isn’t surprising. Another study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2010 found that when shown pictures of a woman in a dress, men were most “amorous” when the woman was wearing red.
Touching patrons on the shoulder, squatting so you’re at eye level with the customer and giving candy along with the check can also help waitstaff – male or female – get more tips.
2. Tipping wasn’t common in the United States until after the Civil War.
Tipping didn’t catch on in America until after the 1860s, when wealthy Americans traveled to Europe and brought back the practice in order to look worldly. But the custom wasn’t welcome in the United States – in fact, it was met with feverish opposition. For one thing, tipping underlined class differences. Some states even passed anti-tipping laws in the early 1900s (although they were all later repealed). Even etiquette queen Emily Post was not wild about tipping. In the 1950 edition of her ubiquitous blue book, “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” after listing the appropriate tips for hotel personnel, she notes, “Tipping is undoubtedly an undesirable system, but it happens to be in force.”
3. The waitstaff provides better service in restaurants where tips are eliminated.
Some restaurants have seen great success in eliminating tipping entirely. For example, before restaurant owner Jay Porter recently closed his San Diego eatery, The Linkery, he eliminated tipping from the establishment. Instead, every check came with an 18 percent service charge.
After making the change, the service improved. Porter explained in a Quartz article that this resulted from waitstaff not worrying about how they would be compensated while working. He also cited research that demonstrates for many people, the amount a person tips isn't actually related to the quality of the service – it has more to do with personal tipping patterns.
4. In Japan, tipping is often considered an insult.
When New York City restaurant Sushi Yasuda recently eliminated tipping, owner Scott Rosenberg said he was just following Japanese custom. In fact, tipping in Japan is uncommon and can be considered rude. If you must tip someone in Japan, it is acceptable to give the tip in a white envelope – don't just slip cash to the person.
5. Your restaurant tip doesn't always go to your server.
At some restaurants, your server – the person who you think you're rewarding for excellent service – doesn't actually receive your full tip. Rather, all tips are pooled and split among the staff. If it's important to you to reward your server, ask what the system is at that establishment – and if you really want to reward someone, you can give him or her cash directly.
Meg Favreau is the senior editor for Wise Bread and the author of "Little Old Lady Recipes: Comfort Food and Kitchen Table Wisdom," which features recipes like Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.