Unlike other countries, in Portugal tips are not mandatory. Although it is uncommon, more and more restaurants are suggesting a gratuity to customers, regardless of the payment method. To ECO, companies justify the decision based on the “great weight” that bonuses have on the wages of employees in the sector, as well as because it is a more “fair and transparent” way of distributing them. Customers point to the quality of service as a criterion.
“In the table consultation, a gratuity of 5% is suggested on the total bill and excluding VAT. This value is valid, and universal, for food and beverage consumption, regardless of the payment method used by the customer”, explains the operations director of the PHC Hotels group, to ECO. Miguel Andrade also stresses that “the customer is free not to accept the suggestion”, so in that case “it will no longer appear on the invoice”.
The measure began to be implemented in August last year, with the objective of “improving conditions” for employees, since tips “always had a great weight in the composition of employees’ total income”, and in order to allow for a distribution “fairer and more transparent” of the same, justifies the responsible.
The total amount charged is divided among all employees, including the kitchen staff, and “is made at the end of the month and paid by bank transfer, together with the salary”, also denotes the director of operations of the group that owns the Hotel. Mundial and the Portugal Boutique Hotel. For the time being, the modality is only suggested in restaurant spaces, but the group is considering “extending an identical method to accommodation”, as customer receptivity “has been quite positive”, says Miguel Andrade.
This is not a unique case. The Plateform group, which owns the restaurants Honorato, Sala de Corte, Honest Greens, among others, practices this method in some establishments. “This process started in mid-2022 and was phased in”, adds an official source of the group to ECO, noting that the suggestion appears “in the ticket of the account”, regardless of the payment method used. Like the PHC Hotels group, the measure aims at “the uniformity and equitable distribution of bonuses among all employees”, regardless of “the function and responsibility of each one”.
Despite stressing that in the testing phase “there was an increase in the amount of bonuses received”, currently customer receptivity has been “variable”, given that “for some customers it is a new situation”. So and so, as mentioned by the PHC Hotels and Plateform groups, and unlike other countries, such as the United States, the decision is up to the consumer.
“Ultimately, such a requirement can only occur if the consumer is informed in advance, through the price list, since only in this circumstance is there an obligation to pay”, highlights Sofia Lima, specialist in legal matters at Deco Proteste, to ECO. But in this case, the consumer must be informed in advance.
The Directorate-General for Consumers recalls that, in this case, tips are taxed under the IRS. “According to the IRS Code, in its second article, bonuses are considered category A income (income from dependent work)“, clarifies an official source to ECO. The two entities guarantee that they have not received any complaints about this practice.
What do customers say?
There are still few customers who indicate that they have been approached with this suggestion, despite stressing that they are in the habit of leaving a tip, if the service so justifies it. “If I think that I was well served and that it justifies it, I’ll give it. When I don’t think it justifies it, I don’t give”, shoots Susana Lopes, with a prompt response, while waiting to be served at a restaurant in Cais do Sodré.
To ECO, the customer confirms that “some establishments already have the ATM terminal prepared” with this request for a bonus, but underlines that she only accesses it if she has the guarantee that the amount will be shared by all employees. “The younger generation is less likely to leave a tip, so shopkeepers do it in the sense of giving a tip. forcing to continue this tipping incentive. Deep down, to make up for the low wages they pay in catering”, he concludes.
In 2022, the average gross monthly salary per worker grew to 1,411 euros. However, in real terms — that is, if the impact of inflation is taken into account — it shrank by 4%, even though the catering sector is among those that recorded the highest growth.
Daniel Fernandes also admits to having already been confronted with this approach, but despite stressing that he usually “gives one or two euros” when he likes the service, the young man criticizes the method. “I don’t think so. Looks like they are imposing the tip. I only tip if I want to and I understand. That even takes away my desire to want to give”, he replied, to ECO, next to a restaurant on Avenida 24 de Julho.
What is certain is that, for now, most of the customers interviewed by the ECO rule out the possibility that this method will become mandatory. “I don’t think it should be mandatory. It depends on each person’s common sense… It has happened to me that I’ve gone to certain places and I don’t like the service and I don’t leave a tip”, emphasizes Nelson Cuco. Cátia Celestino, on the other hand, admits that tips can be “a way to help offset” wages in catering, but rules out any obligation.
Vítor Ferreira has a different opinion. “Although the standard of living is worse, at least it would be a way of rewarding the employee”, points out the pensioner, while reading the newspaper at a kiosk in front of the Cais do Sodré metro station”, suggesting that it could “be stipulated a value, for example, 5% of the invoice”, he concludes.
ECO also contacted other restaurants that implement this measure, such as Mercantina, Zunzum Gastrobar and Contra Lisboa, but until the end of the article it was not possible to obtain a response.