Le Pourboire en France – Tipping in France
Should you leave a tip in France? Antoine Humeau interviewed the owners and staff of a number of eating establishments in Angers to find out what people are ordering and whether they are leaving tips.
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Introduction: Antoine Humeau, our reporter in Angers, conducted interviews to help us understand how we should act in bars and restaurants. He also asked bar and restaurant workers whether they expected tips.
If you want to be able to go into a bar and easily order a beer, this track gives you the key: go in and ask for either “Un demi” or “Une pression.” Then, the server will ask you which of the types of beers on tap you would like. As explained by Thierry Landelle, manager of Le Bibulus.
Now, when I walk into a bar, it is not like a restaurant, in that I don’t have to announce how many are in my party and I can sit down wherever I wish. Is that correct? Thierry Landelle agrees and says that, generally, he would expect a person who is alone to sit down at a table for two and not a table for four. If the bar became crowded, the staff may politely ask the customer if she or he doesn’t mind sitting at a table for two. Next, they discuss tipping: if I have just a coffee, how much should I leave? If we were a table of four, how much should we leave? And what does it mean if I tip? Am I thanking you for the service? Is it for my server or for the whole staff…?
Isabelle, you are a waitress at the Foch, a bar in Angers. What do people generally order here? How do the clients choose where to sit? And as far as tipping, what do people generally leave?
Mr. Philippe ZERNI, manager of Le Windsor talks with Antoine Humeau. What do people normally have to drink here? Coffee? Half-pint? A glass of wine? And as for tips, how does that work? Have you seen a change in tipping over the past few years?
Yannick Gauthier, owner of Les Templiers, a restaurant in Angers. Antoine Humeau starts by asking how things work when a person arrives at the restaurant. What happens? Who does what? We hear about how the customers are greeted, how their coats are taken to the cloakroom for them, how they are shown to a table. Next, Mr. Humeau wants to know if the customer would ever be expected to get up and look for the waiter between dishes… Mr. Gauthier explains that the staff does everything in their power to ensure that the clients never have to get up and go look for a waiter or ask for wine: there are always waiters present in the dining room, making sure that the clients never need to take matters into their own hands.
How about tipping in a restaurant? What do people do in general? The conversation turns to the fact that tipping in restaurants has collapsed in the past 30 years. Mr. Humeau asks why.
And when we leave a tip in a restaurant, what is the reason for doing so? What is the message received by the waiter and staff? Is it “bravo for the service?” “Bravo for the food?”
This and the next track are delightful: we have the interviewer, Mr. Humeau asking questions that are not outrageous, but that certainly push the envelope. And we have a restaurant owner who diplomatically explains how things actually work, all in the interest of the guests. So you have Mr. Humeau asking things like, “Can the client get up and wander around the dining room?,” to which the owner responds, “Of course, he can do anything he likes! However, of course, since we are there to cater to his every need…”
One last question: have you noticed differences in behavior of guests from outside of France? From your experience, what differentiates customers from the US from Italians, for example?