Thank you for allowing me to assist you with your question.
I have long had a problem with the notion that a server is entitled to a mandatory gratuity just because there is a large party. If a party of 8 comes into a restaurant, they will have the same demands of the kitchen and wait staff as two parties of four, perhaps less in some cases. So the mere fact that they are all together does not justify a mandatory gratuity.
I also have a problem with the expectation of a tip for restaurant servers. A gratuity is a symbol of thanks for doing a good job. I have been known to pay as much as 25% for truly exceptional service, I have also been known to leave a single penny for truly awful service.
There are no legal requirements to pay a mandatory tip, however, the establishment can trespass you and tell you not to come back.
I recently owned a restaurant and I found where there are mandatory tips, the services gets sloppy because they don't have to work for it. Isn't that just like any welfare system?
I check with a restaurant before I go if I have a large party to make sure of the house rules.
There are a few instances where it could be enforced, when you use a discount coupon and on the coupon it states that to use the coupon you will be charged a tip of 185, that is enforceable because it creates a contract
in that you received the benefit of the discount and the tip is the price for the discount. Also when you cater a party with the restaurant and either book a room, table or the entire facility, then a tip is usually included in the agreement. If you sign the agreement with a tip amount included, and you have the party, then you have to pay the tip. If you don't have a written agreement, it is a verbal contract and still can be enforced in most cases.
Remember that servers are not paid minimum wages
because they are expected to make up the difference with tips. The DOL min, for servers is $3.63 per hour. They also have to work hours before and after the restaurant closes for prep and break down. So they need the tips to just meet min. If they do not the employer has to make up the difference.
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Edited by Lawdoctor on 11/24/2009 at 2:29 PM EST