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Talking About: Tipping

Tipping has become somewhat of a hot topic, particularly in the fast food and small business retail sector over the past few years in the wake of the pandemic. For a more comprehensive understanding, here’s a bit of history on the subject.

The habit of tipping dates back to the 1600s in Europe. It became part of American culture in the mid 1800s, taking root as a business strategy during reconstruction. “By 1895, the average tip in European restaurants was five percent of the bill, while in the United States a common tip was 10 percent.” 

Source: JSTOR

“By the 1970s and 1980s, that percentage had jumped to 15%. In 2023, people typically tip anywhere from 15% to 25%.” Source: CNBC

“The Fair Labor Standards Act established a bare minimum floor for tipped wages only in 1966. The federal tipped minimum wage has remained at $2.13 an hour since 1991…” However, the employer is required to make up the difference should the tipped employee’s tips be insufficient to meet minimum wage, which in Colorado is $13.65 per hour.

According to, many food establishments have moved toward tips and service charges to cover employee pay and health benefits.” Link

Price increases of over 18% since 2020 have made it more difficult for businesses to meet financial needs, including attracting and maintaining their workforce. At the same time, the increases have affected consumers.

In conversations with a number of local residents on the subject, few if any tip for fast food, let alone cafes and baristas or retail. And they found it annoying to be prompted to do so. Reactions varied from “Why should I pay someone at a counter to hand me my order?” to “Their employer should pay them minimum wage.” On the other hand, all of those interviewed were happy to tip a minimum of 15% at full-service restaurants and upwards of 25% for outstanding service.  

MZ, a manager and server at a local Mom and Pop restaurant, explained the average tip is 20%, with the server receiving 13% after sharing with bussing, bar, and kitchen staff. He said some of the servers are offended when they receive less than 20%, especially when they know they performed well. When that happens, he encourages them to consider the average and to not take it personally. 


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