Restaurants use 'auto grats' after trend in low tips - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Restaurants use 'auto grats' after trend in low tips

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(WMC-TV) - Most of the time a tip is automatically included with the bill when a table at a restaurant has a large party. Now, some Mid-South restaurants are imposing auto-gratuity polices on parties as small as one person.

The new trend in the restaurant industry is getting an icy reaction from some customers. Gratuities from 15 to 18 percent are being automatically added to checks no matter how big, or small, the party.

"I may have a problem with having to tip 18 or 15 percent if I have bad service," said customer Amber Long.

They are called auto grats.

"If I'm being forced to tip and the service has not been good then that presents a problem," said customer Rick Harrell.

The Half Shell on Winchester Road adds auto grats to every receipt after 10 p.m. East End Grill on Winchester Road also does it after 6 p.m.

Another restaurant that participates in auto grats is Midtown's Sidestreet Bar and Grill after 10 p.m. on weekends.

Ashley Boggs Williams of Huey's said it is something they had to do at three of their locations. They started using autograt after an audit of server's receipts revealed a disappointing dining trend.

"For whatever reasons, customers were not tipping. We were losing good employees over it. We thought about it long and hard, and we actually audited a lot of their checks, and indeed they were getting zero tips," said Williams.

"You're getting $2.13 an hour. So, really, you're depending on 15 to 20 percent," said server Diana Owen.

Customers said they depend on stellar service.

"That means I'm forced to give someone a tip that may not have deserved it," said customer Amber Long.

At Patrick's Steaks and Spirits owner Mike Miller does not add gratuity to any checks, not even large parties.

"I don't ever want to give my staff the excuse to not give great service," said Miller.

He understands why some restaurants do chose to auto grats.

"There are lots of people out there they treat servers poorly that don't tip," said Miller.

Some servers said auto grats are the only incentive to do a good job.

One restaurant manager said the attitudes of his wait staff improve tenfold after autograt service hours begin. He said they stop worrying about getting stiffed.

"You can't tax a certain group of people because they come in at a certain time as opposed to coming in early in the day. That's just a stereotype," said server Andre Sims explaining restaurants should not necessarily target certain hours with auto grats.

Restaurant managers said it is typically the evening and late night crowds who are terrible tippers.

"I feel like it's just started in the last year or so, and I couldn't tell you why," said Williams.

Tipping is not mandatory, but it is customary.

"I tip cause it's the decent thing to do," said customer Derrick Passero.

If auto grats leave a bad taste in your mouth, you can always take your business somewhere else.

When entering a restaurant, patrons are encourage to look for a sign, either on the wall or the table, regarding autograt policies. Policies can also be found on the menus, or customers can ask a server.

Every manager Action News 5 talked to said if a customer does not feel the service was up to par, and wants to leave less than the gratuity included – then they are happy to work with that customer.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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