MONTREAL -- Tipping culture may be set to change in the post-pandemic future, but eliminating the practice would not make everyone happy, according to a survey (see full text below) of 990 Canadian respondents conducted by Dalhousie University in partnership with Angus Reid.

A few restaurants in Canada have chosen to eliminate tipping in their establishments. Richmond Station in Toronto and Larry's in Montreal have increased the price of their menu to compensate and better pay their employees.

In the restaurant industry, recruiting is becoming difficult, food prices are rising and there are health regulations to consider.

Restaurants are facing major changes, including the future of the tipping system.

Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of Dalhousie University's Agri-Food Analytical Sciences Laboratory and author of Poutine Nation, sees all these changes as an opportunity to rethink and reform the restaurant industry.

He says the fact that establishments are questioning or trying new solutions, whether it's to impose a tip or abolish it, is a sign that a problem is being recognized.

The survey's co-author explains that "the random tipping culture often damages the work environment if it is already toxic," which is less the case when dining rooms are full and a restaurant is doing well.

"This custom can encourage discrimination or inequities among employees on the same team," said Charlebois.

To tip or not to tip is based on very suggestive reasons he said, such as how a person looks or dresses. Serving staff have to please customers, which can create difficult and uncomfortable situations.

"Often the person providing the service will be penalized for something they can't control, such as the food being too cold," said Charlebois.

Charlebois himself supports the elimination of tipping to promote fairness but acknowledges that it's not for everyone.

"Restaurants that adhere to this policy will often lose employees," he said adding that the employees who stay or agree to be hired under this practice are those who buy into the culture.

He also believes that the various changes in the culinary industry are a turning point for thinking about how to elevate the profession so that more people see it as a viable career, rather than a stint of a few years or a part-time job.


Charlebois expects restaurants to raise their prices to compensate for rising ingredient costs.

However, he does not believe this will affect customers or result in a drop in traffic after a year of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Even so, 20 per cent of those surveyed plan to tip more in the future while 71 per cent of people do not plan to change their habits. Only 3 per cent of participants plan to stop tipping.

When asked about the usefulness of tipping, 34 per cent of respondents believe it helps motivate service workers, 30 per cent claim it makes their jobs more interesting, 19 per cent say tipping should be regulated and 17 per cent say it should be banned.

When asked about the option of including tipping in service charges, 37 per cent of people support this change, while 32 per cent are opposed.

Charlebois concludes from the survey results that people "appreciate having control over performance evaluation."

"Tipping based on service is important to people and would contribute to their overall satisfaction," he said. 

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 25, 2021.