The low-down on tipping in New Zealand and US rules

Jessica Satherley
The low-down on tipping in New Zealand and US rules

When Kiwis visit the US they expect to leave a 15 to 20% tip on top of their restaurant bill, but here in New Zealand should we be tipping as well? 

Tipping has not traditionally been part of our culture and as minimum wage has increased to $17.70 an hour, we know that even junior staff are compensated fairly. 

However, leaving a tip is becoming increasingly popular for outstanding service and in certain situations, leaving some confusion over what services we should be tipping for.

Fine dining restaurant The Grove in Auckland say on average the tips they receive vary from 4 to 8% of their total revenue at the end of each week.

“We are lucky enough to have quite a few Kiwis leaving us tips but also many foreigners, so there is a 50/50 ratio between New Zealanders and foreigners tipping,” The Grove’s group beverage director Andrea Martinisi said.

“Having said that, we sometimes have very little or no tips and sometimes we receive pleasant surprises.

“The tips are spread through the whole team, the kitchen staff also receive a fraction of the total amount as they are always very accommodating to satisfy any request from our guests and deserve their share,” Martinisi said.

Unlike the US, where one is expected to tip taxi and Uber drivers 10%, New Zealand has never adopted this practice but it is common to round up the total fare.  As for hotels, tipping seems to be common practice.

Sofitel’s Food and Beverage Manager says that around 30 to 40% of their clients leave a tip at the Auckland Viaduct Harbour hotel chain.

“Concierges almost always get tips and the restaurant also receives tips for dinner services regularly,” F&B Manager Harleen Gulati said.

Gulati said that although Sofitel’s big tippers are mostly foreign clients, in particular Americans, tipping in New Zealand has certainly become more common over the last five years.

“There are no guidelines for tipping and it’s generally not expected in New Zealand, but concierges are often tipped for carrying bags or sometimes by guests who enjoyed conversing with the staff or were informed about an activity of their choice which will make their trip special,” Gulati said.

“Concierges and room service staff keep their own tips if it’s cash.  If the tips are written on a check and charged to their room, whether it’s for room service or restaurant dining, it’s generally divided between the kitchen and front of house staff at the end of the month,” he said.

Managing director of BlowUp hair salon in Wellington, Matthew Kane, says tipping in his business is a rarity and most people who do tip are either visiting from overseas or have recently moved to New Zealand.

“Tips are usually $5 or $10 on a service that can range from around $75 for a haircut or up to $175 for a cut and colour. Our policy is that hairdressers get to keep their individual tips,” Kane said.

Although tips aren’t essential in New Zealand, Manager of Retail and Development at World Travellers, Nicole Knapp, recommends that Kiwis traveling to the USA follow these local guidelines.

  •      It is standard tipping practice to leave $1 or $2 at the bar after buying each alcoholic drink.
  •      Leave 20% for wait staff at restaurants or 15% if service was average (that tip is for service, not the food quality because wait staff have no control over the quality of the food).
  •      Leave a 10% tip for taxi and Uber drivers.
  •      Tips for spa or beauty treatments can be from 10% upwards, depending on service quality.
  •      Make sure to keep cash for tips in your pocket in the US, especially in smaller towns. In bigger cities credit cards are easier to use regularly, but even some New York restaurants only take cash.

“Unlike New Zealand, sadly the wages and earnings of a lot of American workers are very much in the hands of those who directly use their services. Employment laws are so much better here in New Zealand so I’ve never felt that it’s necessary to tip here,” American-born Knapp said.

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