What makes San Francisco a bad place for tips? 

click to enlarge Cost-conscious coast: Zagat co-founder Tim Zagat says although San Franciscans tip badly, “the West Coast for years has been the lowest tippers.” (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner) - COST-CONSCIOUS COAST: ZAGAT CO-FOUNDER TIM ZAGAT SAYS ALTHOUGH SAN FRANCISCANS TIP BADLY, “THE WEST COAST FOR YEARS HAS BEEN THE LOWEST TIPPERS.” (MIKE KOOZMIN/THE EXAMINER)
  • Cost-conscious coast: Zagat co-founder Tim Zagat says although San Franciscans tip badly, “the West Coast for years has been the lowest tippers.” (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)
  • Cost-conscious coast: Zagat co-founder Tim Zagat says although San Franciscans tip badly, “the West Coast for years has been the lowest tippers.” (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)

Blame it on the penny-pinching tourists. Or the cheapskates who won’t tip on a post-tax tab. Or the bright young things with no more money than the bills in their pockets.

San Franciscans can point the finger at whomever they want — Zagat co-founder Tim Zagat stands by the restaurant bible’s ranking of Bay Area diners as the worst tippers in the country’s 45 Zagat-rated areas.

“The pattern is not just San Francisco, but the West Coast for years has been the lowest tippers,” Zagat said.

Zagat’s 2012 survey reported 18.6 percent as the average percentage tip in the Bay Area, 0.6 percent below the national average and 1.1 percent below the most generous tippers, in New Orleans.

The results are based on an online survey of 10,672 regular restaurant diners who live and work in San Francisco and other Bay Area cities.

“I would give money to anybody who can give a good explanation to why people on the West Coast tip less,” Zagat said. “I’ve never understood it.”

San Francisco diners don’t get it either.

“My wife would slap my hand if I left less than 20 percent,” said Rob Black, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

The only clientele the association’s restaurants ever have tipping complaints about are European tourists, who are accustomed to the tip being included in the bill, Black said.

Nick Bovis, owner of Lefty O’Doul’s, said his bartenders often have to explain to foreign customers that the price of their Anchor Steam does not include gratuity.

“It’s definitely not San Franciscans,” Bovis said. “I find them to be very generous.”

But tourists aren’t to blame, either, Zagat said. The survey intentionally avoids visitors, targeting instead a city’s residents who eat out most often, he said.

Another culprit could be the 4 percent health care tax tacked on to restaurant bills, staff and patrons suggested.

But others interviewed Thursday said they always leave a hefty tip, even if service wasn’t fantastic.

“Anybody that’s going someplace they might want to go again are not going to stiff the hard-working wait staff,” said San Francisco-based publicist Lee Housekeeper, who lunches out daily and eats dinner out about twice a week.

Bill Musgrave, who works in The City and lives in Belmont, agreed that generosity pays off — well-tipped wait staff remember him and welcome him warmly on his next visit.

“You get that good feeling when you walk in, you get that good feeling when you leave. They know your name,” said Musgrave, who had just finished eating at one of his regular dining spots, the Tadich Grill. “I will pay for that.”

sgantz@sfexaminer.com

 

Gauging generosity

Average percent tip in U.S. cities:

City/locale Average
New Orleans 19.7
Philadelphia 19.6
Las Vegas 19.4
Boston 19.4
Atlanta 19.4
Chicago 19.2
New York City 19.1
Los Angeles 18.7
Seattle 18.6
San Francisco 18.6
National average 19.2

Source: Zagat 2012 San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants Survey

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Sarah Gantz

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Tuesday, Jul 28, 2015

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