Take-out food | Difficult to digest the trio “15% – 18% – 20%”

It’s crazy how a payment terminal can pull us off morally just by displaying these few characters: 15% – 18% – 20%. Especially when picking up a takeout order at the restaurant or buying croissants at the bakery.

Posted at 6:30 a.m.

Some terminals even go so far as to offer the addition of a tip of 18%, 20% or 22%.

Customers have reason to raise eyebrows. Especially since the percentage is calculated on the amount after taxes. On an order of $50 ($57.49 with tax), a tip of 18% ($10.34) is therefore equivalent to 20.6%.

The problem is that we may find it exaggerated, we feel a little taken. We are given the choice between three possibilities, and it seems that we have no others. Or, we are afraid of looking bad by giving much less than what is suggested, while wondering if our discomfort is legitimate or if we are chick like Séraphin. Hello guilt!

There’s nothing new about take-out orders, though. Nor in tips, for that matter.

So what has changed?

First, the number of restaurants offering take-out orders exploded with the pandemic when dining rooms were forced to close. We no longer just pick up quick meals at a counter where a Styrofoam cup sits to collect tips in change. Now, the food offer is more varied and upscale, which comes with bills to match.

“The operators [de ces restaurants] have activated the tip function on their terminals to help their employees mistreated by the pandemic and it has been maintained, ”sums up the spokesperson for the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ), Martin Vézina.

Even though restaurants are now operating without restrictions.

For some reason, this trend of suggested tips has spread to other types of businesses such as bakeries and dairy bars.

At the same time, the pandemic has significantly increased card payments, even for a simple ice cream cone or a baguette. So the “15% – 18% – 20%” jumps out at us more often. And their dollar equivalent is constantly jumping with frenzied food inflation.

As a consumer, the president of the Quebec Franchise Council, Xavier Chambon, finds that “it’s a bit perverse as a way of presenting things”, while recalling that “by definition, tips are for those who do table service. However, some franchisees, he says, are imposed by their franchisor a terminal programmed in a certain way.

The ARQ adds that the terminals are programmed by the payment companies that rent them, so that the restaurateurs do not “necessarily have control” over the percentages displayed. This is how Quebecers come across the usual tips… in the United States.

Terminal provider Moneris says its customers can “change tipping options” to their liking.

In fact, until the end of June, customers of the Versa restaurant, owned by Stefano Faita, in the Villeray district of Montreal, were offered a tip of 18%, 20% or 22% when ordering takeout. It went to 15%, 18% or 20%, because “we thought 18% was too much,” a manager told me.

Restaurateur Alexandre Brunet, creator of the Pizza N chainsoh 900 and Morso, also assures him that he can “program and decide numbers”. But the terminals can neither calculate the tip on the price before taxes nor know if a meal was eaten in the dining room or is a take-out order.


At Pizza Noh 900, customers rarely leave 15% when picking up a pizza.

The good news is that tipping is never mandatory, and terminals allow you to make your own choices.

If you want to omit the tip, you can press the green button to skip this step, an unknown but effective trick. Several terminals also offer to enter a percentage other than those suggested or to enter a monetary amount.

Alexandre Brunet says that it is “very rare” in his establishments for customers at the take-out counter to leave 15%. “Most people enter an amount”, which does not offend him, quite the contrary.

The 15% is when you receive a service for an hour or two, that we bring you a starter and wine. It’s compensation, not a gift.

Alexandre Brunet, creator of the Pizza N chainsoh 900 and Morso

At Madame Thaï, in Vieux-Longueuil, a manager observes that some “leave nothing, while others really leave too much. It varies a lot.” In fact, “there is no standard yet. The standard is in the process of being built,” emphasizes Martin Vézina, of the ARQ, since the phenomenon is very recent.

Until then, feel free to use your judgment to determine a logical and reasonable amount, even if it means having to peg a little longer. It’s never pleasant to swallow a crooked bill.

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