A study by a sociologist at Wayne State University in Detroit finds that the wait staff at restaurants are more likely to give better service to persons they perceive will be good tippers. Thus, when waiters at restaurants have the preconceived notion that Black patrons are poor tippers, they are unlikely to give a high level of service to these customers.
Zachary Brewster, an assistant professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Wayne State analyzed attitudes and behaviors of 200 servers at 18 different restaurants in a southeastern U.S. city. He reported that “the findings suggest that African Americans, in particular, may be at risk for not only having excellent service withheld from them, but for receiving poor service in some cases.” Dr. Brewster says that racialized chatter among restaurant servers that tends to exaggerate servers’ perceptions of African Americans’ tipping behavior adds to the problem.
Dr. Brewster offers the following solution: “If restaurants promoted tipping norms for specific levels of service quality for their own establishment, over time people would learn those norms and become familiar with different conceptions of service quality across restaurants. Servers could come to expect to be rewarded for the service level provided, irrespective of customer demographics.”
The study, “The Effects of Restaurant Servers’ Perceptions of Customers’ Tipping Behaviors on Service Discrimination,” was published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management. The article can be purchased here.