Continued inflation has caused Americans to cut expenses in a lot of areas, but it hasn't made us stingier when it comes to tipping. A new report from payments company Toast indicates that dining gratuities held steady during the economic downturn, and even improved in some cases. Still, tipping largesse varies from state to state.
Prices at restaurants rose 7.6% between July 2021 and July 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the average tip amount rose by nearly 10%, "showing consumers' willingness to tip remained strong during economic changes," according to the report released this month by Toast, the company behind a touchless point-of-sale payment system used in more than 68,000 restaurants, cafes and coffeehouses nationwide.
"We have seen some evidence that tipping is slightly up compared to the time right before the pandemic in 2019," Toast co-founder and president Aman Narang told CNET in an email.
Overall, diners nationwide tipped an average of 19.6% at full-service restaurants and 16.9% at quick-service eateries during the second quarter of 2022, slightly higher than they did a year ago.
Typically, in-person diners were more generous, leaving an average of 19.7% extra, compared with 14.5% for takeout or delivery customers.
Toast also found that overall revenue at sit-down restaurants, which were hardest hit by shutdowns and social distancing regulations, finally returned to pre-pandemic levels in the second quarter of 2022.
Not all Americans tip equally, however. Toast broke its data down by state and found that diners in Indiana were the most generous, leaving a 21% tip on average.
West Virginia, Ohio, Delaware and Kentucky rounded out the top five tipping states, with customers in each leaving a gratuity of more than 20%.
The worst tippers, leaving on average just 17.5%, were Californians. Narang, however, points out that California's $14 minimum wage applies to tipped employees, too.
But gratuity isn't always a quid pro quo based on a waiter's salary, Narang said.
"Washington state has one of the highest minimum cash wage laws for tipped employees [$14.49 an hour] and it ranked 49th on our tip list," he said. "However, a state like Texas has one of the lowest minimum cash wage laws [$2.13 an hour] and it ranks 45th."
Joining the Golden State at the bottom of the list were Washington state (18.3% tip, on average); Florida and New York (both 18.5%); and Nevada, Texas and Hawaii (all 18.8%).
Narang said many factors, including the cost of living and restaurant taxes, can play a role in how much people tip.
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