Tipping has become a much-fraught topic of conversation in Toronto, especially as more places have begun asking for tips outright, and many customers feel nervous about how to navigate the etiquette around it.
If this is you, don't worry — you're not alone.
Is tipping when getting a coffee or picking up your takeout food mandatory in Toronto? Well, the answer might shock you.
Narcity spoke with Julie Blais Comeau, chief etiquette officer at etiquettejulie.com, about tipping practices in Toronto and what customers should expect to do when the tipping options appear on the machine.
Blais Comeau said it's important to remember that tipping is a "cultural custom" that's been developing in Canada for a long time. So it's not new, and it varies from country to country. But in Toronto, when we look at the food and beverage industry, "we're at about 15%" before taxes as the tipping "norm," she says.
Also, contrary to popular belief, the recent rise in tipping is not a phenomenon created after or during the pandemic. It was something that happened before, Blais Comeau clarified.
"It started before [the pandemic] with the arrival of all those terminals. Because when the terminal would come to the table, it would suggest different percentages," the expert said.
So, when a person hands you the card machine and the prompt you've been dreading appears, here are some rules of thumb for when and how much to tip as a starting point on pre-tax prices in Toronto.
On average, the recommended tipping percentage is 15% if you are at a restaurant in the 6ix. However, if you want to build a relationship with the restaurant — for example, as a business professional planning to do a lot of dining there — then you'll want to give 18% to 20%.
The question a lot of us have been asking ourselves is, do you tip when grabbing your coffee from the coffee shop to go? And the answer, according to the tipping expert, is no.
"There's no need to. I love baristas, and if you go back to your favourite latte place every morning and they recognize you, they put you top of the line, they put that smiley face on you," then you can tip a dollar, or so if you'd like, but otherwise, "Definitely you don't have to," she says.
However, these rules do change when the circumstances change. For example, if you're going to sit at the coffee shop and there's a form of service presented to you — they bring your coffee to your table, offer you a refill, bring you napkins and milk, etc. — then, "Yes, service is service." You are expected to tip, Blais Comeau adds.
And in this case, "If your coffee was, let's say $5, you're always going to give the minimum of a dollar or two."
Amount: 10%, if not already included.
Make sure to read the fine print, Blais Comeau warns. There are times when the tip is included, and other times it may not be.
The etiquette expert said people using the apps should recognize the things a driver has to go through to get the food delivered to you, such as the price of gas.
In that case, you should "usually add about 10%, and the minimum is usually about $5."
Bars and clubs
Amount: 10% to 20%
Things get a little bit tricky around this topic because it depends on what the circumstances are when ordering a drink in Toronto.
So Blais Comeau says the rule of thumb is to tip around a dollar or two when ordering a drink.
To get into the specifics, if you go to a bar and order a $10 glass of wine then 20% should be good, that's a $2 tip. But if you're getting a round of drinks and it's around $100, then 15% is good enough, the expert explains.
Also, when you're at a club, and the bottle service people are bringing over your drinks, snacks and mixers, then around 10% to 15% is also a great tip contribution.
But you would never go below 10% for drinks, she added.
Taxis and rideshares
Amount: 0 to 10%
Blais Comeau tells Narcity that in this scenario, it also depends on the element of service provided. Did you have your luggage with you and they helped you put it in the car? Was there water provided? Was the cab warm and cozy during the wintertime?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, then you should be tipping around 10%.
The answer here is "generally speaking, there's no tipping," Blais Comeau says.
But, if you're feeling like the Toronto restaurant is going above and beyond to accommodate your takeout request, then a tip doesn't hurt — but it's not necessary.
Salons and barber shops
The average a customer should tip at a nail or hair salon or a barber shop in Toronto is 10%, according to the expert. But she does add that people also typically round up to the closest bill.
In other words, a typical tip would be around $5, $10 or $20, Blais Comeau says.
Garages and mechanics
A place like this where the service is the job requires no tipping.
If you go see your doctor, you probably wouldn't tip them either.
"Don't forget about the power of social media, how that can contribute," Blais Comeau said. "A good comment, a post, a review — the power that can have into the livelihood of that person who served you" is another way to show your appreciation for good service.
In other words, posting about your experience on social media or writing them a glowing review is also a great way to boost a business and give the same sort of feedback as a tip would.
Blais Comeau adds that "tipping is getting used for the wrong reason." Nowadays, businesses are trying to compensate for the "manpower shortage" by asking for higher tips — and that's wrong.
So, don't feel pressured to tip above the amount that you feel comfortable with, but also think about what kind of service you received and how much tip you should be giving.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.