Tipping the scales
Blame it on the fine-dining culture in the city: when it comes to tipping, unlike Bill Gates, Delhi residents don’t seem to mind the extra buck. Call it the new status symbol, or simply a way of expressing pleasure (or even, displeasure), but city diners are happy doling out tips amounting to at least 10 percent of the total bill, if not more.
“Delhi is extremely status conscious. They want to be recognised and handing out tips is one way,” says Sohrab Sitaram of tony joint Tabula Rasa at Saket’s Square One mall.
“People here are fairly generous. Five percent is what the staff expects, over and above that is considered good,” adds Saeed Shervani of Rodeo’s at Connaught Place. A good tipper would ideally hand out anywhere from 15-20 percent; a party or celebration could mean up to 25 percent.
Most restaurants anyway charge you a mandatory ten per cent service charge, which is distributed equally amongst the staff. So why expect a tip? “No one expects. It’s voluntary and a measure of customer satisfaction. It also helps motivate the staff,” insists Visheesh Nanda, manager at the tony lounge bar, Shalom.
While staffers across most restaurants tow that line, tips could well be coded as To Insure Prompt Service. Once you are recognised as a generous tipper, you do receive some special treatment or what is known as silver service i.e, the highest standards of table service. “Good tippers naturally get some personalised treatment by waiters,” admits Ranjeet Singh, floor manager and tip in-charge at Urban Pind, restobar at Greater Kailash. The “treatment” could range from recognising your tastes in the menu, extra care in laying out the table to frills like pulling out your chair and extra courtesy, depending on how heavily you tip.
While Indians aren’t new to the baksheesh culture, it’s a huge phenomenon in countries like the US, where tipping etiquette is part of the well-heeled strata. Some international cruise liners don’t pay their employees, the tips form their salary. Here, a waiter could make anywhere from Rs 500-1,500 as tips in a single week, and end up with more than his measly salaries.
The norm has even extended to fast food chains like Pizza Hut, where about 60 percent of the customers leave tips. “Tipping has gone down ever since we started levying service charge about three months back. But people still leave behind about 10-15 percent,” says Vikrant Khushwaha, manager, Pizza Hut, Connaught Place. Even IF soliciting isn’t common, aspirational values of Delhi’s nouveau rich render them vulnerable to hand out tips. As an employee puts it, on condition of anonymity, “You are just plain cheap if you don’t tip.”