Tipping used to be an automatic reflex when you went out to a restaurant. There have become many factors that have changed the dynamics of tipping and to put it frankly it’s affecting server’s incomes here in New Jersey.

Back in 2021, I did a story where New Jersey was ranked high in tipping, in the top 15 on a national average with servers here in the Garden State getting 19.44% on the average. That number has dipped down to 19.0% in 2023, according to Money magazine and New Jersey now ranks 41st nationally for tipping. When you look at the number a decrease from 19.44% to 19.0% doesn’t look like a big difference but in reality, it is.

According to a study in 2022 by the site Meal Delivery Experts, New Jersey ranks number 2 in the nation in spending more money eating out with the average New Jersey household spending a whopping $4,918 a year or about $94.50 a week.

With over 3.27 million households here in New Jersey, that .44% decrease in tipping now becomes a $71,940,000 decrease in revenue to a workforce that depends on tipping as their primary part of their income.

There is a misnomer that servers make the minimum wage and get tipped on top of that so that they are doing just fine economically. While it’s true that Gov. Murphy signed the minimum wage bill that increased the minimum wage to $14.13 an hour, that increase did not apply to servers who are currently at $5.26 an hour. So that loss of close to $72 million in tipping revenue becomes very relevant.

Add the hard fact of a published 3% or more in credit card fee that is now attached to most restaurant bills and some consumers assume that fee goes to the server and or the restaurant. As a result, some consumers are reducing their tips to the servers based on this misinformation. The 3% or more in credit card fee that restaurants pass on to you is the amount that the restaurant must pay the credit card company for your “convenience” of using a debit or credit card.

Credit card companies have become diligent in collecting those charges and this fee unfortunately has to be passed on to us every time we use our credit cards. It’s a fee that while collected by the restaurant goes right out the door back to the credit card company, which is already receiving our monthly APR interest.

There is no doubt that servers work hard to make your meal a better experience. Sometimes they have a day where they may be off their game and they’ll be the first to admit that they don’t deserve a standard tip of 20% but more times than none, your server works hard for that tip and deserves at least the 20%.

I am a big fan of the best restaurants here in New Jersey and the servers who work at them. Please go out and support the restaurant industry and take a little more time before you add the tip and understand the tough obstacles that are ahead in a great service industry.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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