The Future. To combat inflation and labor shortages — and upgrade employee wages and benefits — many US restaurants have added service charges of up to 22% (and sometimes more). This charge has left diners, who often confuse it with the tip, scratching their heads when the bill arrives. While imperfect, the service charge might become necessary to get servers closer to a livable wage.
What is it and why does it exist?
A service charge belongs to the employer, who can choose the amount added to the check, how to spend it, and how to disclose that information to staff and customers.
- Many employers don’t want to depend solely on tipping, which can be inconsistent and inequitable, as gratuities are regulated by law and can only go to tipped workers.
- They believe the service charge is the best they can do with what they have until federal labor laws change.
Why not raise menu prices instead?
Restaurant owners aren’t convinced people will pay more for food amid ongoing economic uncertainty.
Still, some diners accept the service charge because it tells them the restaurant cares about the employees and their well-being.