Robots are the way of the future, and we are seeing more and more restaurants use them. With a restaurant robot, customers typically place their own order, whether through an app on their own phone or through a tablet. Once the food is prepared and ready, a restaurant worker will simply deliver the food to the appropriate table. Servers act more like food runners, and contact with restaurant staff is limited. So this new way of the future begs the question – should you tip restaurant robots?
It’s not as straightforward as it seems
When asked if customers should tip restaurant robots, the most common response was a resounding “no.” But there’s more to consider than what meets the eye.
The restaurants still rely on workers to prepare and deliver the food to the customer. If a customer is unhappy with their order, someone from the restaurant still has to talk with the customer to rectify the situation. Even if you are ordering through a robot, there are still humans behind the scenes.
Conversely, isn’t tipping based on the quality of customer service you received? And if robots are eliminating opportunities to interact with customers, why tip? One important factor to keep in mind is how restaurant workers might be paid. In the United States, the pay laws affecting restaurant workers are vague in their definitions. Many restaurants can get away with paying their staff less than minimum wage, because the law allows them to do so if they can supplement their income with tips. In fact, the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is only $2.13!
So, if restaurants determine their workers are eligible to receive tips, they can pay their staff as little as $2.13, depending on the state. Therefore, as a customer, your decision not to tip could deeply impact the staffs’ livelihood. Of course, it’s impossible to know how much the wait staff is paid without directly asking them. Until legislation around the new robot trend becomes more clear, you can’t really know whether or not you’re supposed to tip restaurant robots.
To tip or not to tip?
While the etiquette on tipping restaurant robots is unclear, there are a few things you can do to determine whether or not you should tip a restaurant robot. Firstly, know the pay laws in the state where you live. Some states, like California, require restaurants to pay restaurant workers at least $13, even if they could technically be tipped workers. Other states, like Oklahoma, abide by the $2.13 federal minimum wage for restaurant workers. If your state has higher pay requirements, you can ensure the restaurant workers aren’t necessarily depending on your tips for their livelihood (although they certainly help and are always appreciated).
Another thing to consider is the level of interaction you had with a particular restaurant staff. Even if you ordered through an app, you may still want to tip if the food was good, timely, and the restaurant was clean and the staff was friendly.
Lastly, the decision to tip is truly up to you. If in doubt, it never hurts to leave a small tip!
Rachel Slifka is a freelance writer and human resources professional. She is passionate about helping fellow millennials find success with their finances and careers. Read more by checking out her website at RachelSlifka.com.