26 April 2011

Hooters Tipping Around the World

Recently, a conversation developed over on my Facebook page that I thought deserved a little closer examination. Basically, what it came down to was one of my German fans saying that though tipping is not the norm in Germany it is still expected at Hooters. Here’s what he said:

Tips are very low here. You can read on every bill that Hooters Girls are tip motivated :( Some people won't understand this as in Germany tips are included in all other restaurants...This concept is really poor.

How can you say no when she's being so polite?
This was an interesting to point to me. As I understand it, though Germany – along with most of Europe – includes tips in their prices (therefore making tipping unnecessary), Hooters doesn’t follow this system. Being that my family is from the Netherlands and I’ve spent quite a bit of time there, I am familiar with the fact that people don’t tip. In fact tipping can be seen as rude to some people. Or at least the surest sign of a tourist.

Now let me make it clear that I think this system works. I also think that our American system of tipping works as well. In the end, I don’t care what the system is as long as the server is getting properly compensated. And that is where the system at the German Hooters totally falls apart.

While it’s nice of the German Hooters to put a reminder on the bottom of each check that “Hooters Girls are tip motivated,” it doesn’t seem like a very effective plan. I mean if I lived somewhere where I never tipped, a subtle note like that isn’t going to tell me that this one place is somehow different. And even if it did put the idea of leaving a tip in my head I still probably wouldn’t assuming that like every other restaurant my tip had been paid as soon as I plopped down the dough for my wings.

My question is why? Why is that Hooters gets to make it’s own rules and confuse the shit of everyone in a country that does things a different way? After all I see nothing wrong with spreading American foods to other cultures – the Dutch love KFC just as much as I love their pannenkoeken so I suppose it’s only fair. What I do see a problem with is trying to be so American that you end up screwing your own employees out of proper reimbursement for all the hard work they do for you. It sounds like a great way to make money that (sort of) gets the business off the hook. That I don’t like at all.

So this makes me curious. Are other international Hooters the same way? Do they all run on a tip system even if traditional tipping isn’t culturally the norm?  And of course what are your thoughts? Lets have a little healthy discussion, friends.

Don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook! Maybe you’ll inspire me next post!


  1. Just because it says that they are tip motivated does not mean they are not paid the same hourly wage. I would take that as more of a "tip jar" than an actual representation of what they are paid. The difference in the US is that in most states servers are paid less than the minimum wage because they are considered "tipped employees." This means that the employer is allowed to take a credit for a portion of their wages based on the tips the earn. So instead of paying the minimum wage of $7.25 an hours, servers can be paid as little as $2.13 according to federal law. Most states have set a minimum slightly higher, but in only four states (AK, CA, OR, and NV) are servers guaranteed the federal minimum wage. This means that a guest's meal costs less because the employer can pay their employees less. That is why a tip is expected. Your server is payin for part of your meal.

    Back to your original question. I did some research and there is a minimum wage requirement for servers in Germany. The tips would be extra, but the company still has to pay at least the minimum wage. A friend and former co-worker helped launch the franchise in Australia. He said the girls there were making the equivalent of $14/hour in US Dollars. He also explained that it resulted in a significantly higher menu price since that was over 6 times what the wage for a server in my state was at the time.

  2. i've been a longtime reader but i am usually too effing lazy to comment. i'm trying to get better!

    i've never been out of the country so i'm unfamiliar with international tipping. but if i lived somewhere with a system like germany's i would probably forget to tip at hooter's, thinking it was like everywhere else. they should just do it how everyone else over there does so their employees don't get the short end of the stick.

  3. That *is* interesting. I'd like to know why the German Hooters does that myself. I've always thought the concept of tipping was interesting anyway. From a sociological perspective.

  4. David, I appreciate the insight. My take was based on information that sounded as if the servers where paid differently than the average German employee - meaning they were expecting to be tipped to make up the difference.

    Obviously if they were compensated the same way as other restaurant employees who don't expect tips I'd have no issue. My issue is only with the idea that they are going off a more American system that doesn't pay a livable wage without tips in a country that doesn't usually reward it's employees this way.

  5. Contrary to what you wrote in your blog tipping is in fact customary here in Germany and most of Europe (including the Netherlands) – just not in the same way (and amount) as it is in the US. It seems to be a common misconception among some Americans that one doesn't tip over here – American tourists often don't.

    Tipping is done to reward good service, but not in the same percentage range as in America. One usually tips around 5 - 10 %. If the service is exceptionally bad it is possible to not leave a tip, but that is rather uncommon.

    The "tip" isn't included in the price of the food but since the server is usually adequately compensated by the employer that wage is certainly factored into the price. (Of course practically that is the same as saying that the tip is included, but technically it is different - the employer doesn't get away with leaving their employees to their own devices). So servers don't have to rely solely on tipping to earn money, but it still makes up a portion of their earnings.

    I have no idea what Hooters Germany pays their servers, a little research on the internet indicates that it is somewhere between 6 - 10 € / hour (plus benefits) and my guess is that Hooters waitresses manage to earn a bit more in tips over here as well, just not 30 - 40 % instead of 20 % but 15 - 20 % instead of 5 - 10 %.

  6. Intriguing, Anonymous. Perhaps my German source - who is a frequenter of Hooters - is getting fed inaccurate information? Also, the location in question is an airport Hooters, so I'm not sure if that makes a difference.

    Here is a comment he just left on my Facebook:

    "Quite interesting to see the comments on this - the living standart in Germany is very high, so if I see that a Hooters Girl earns 6 Euro an hour, you do not earn enough for living - if you have to pay the rent, the car and so on. It is too less looking at the price level. As a customer you will never leave Hooters without paying 10 -12 Euro for a meal. So nobody would tip more than 50 cent or one Euro. In other places the salery is higher and that really makes the difference. That is the reason why young people are working at least 2 jobs twice a day."

  7. I think, that no matter where a company is from, that it should adhere to whatever host country's standards are. Ever place is different, and I think it shows a sign of respect that an international company complies with that. After all, this is a working-world!

  8. Hey Sauce and hey everybody again,

    my prior post was really mostly about tipping in Europe and specifically Germany in general, not meant to justify the actions of Hooters in Germany. I just wanted to point out that with "tipping" they did not introduce an entirely foreign concept with their little notice on the receipt. And it was also meant to clarify that all waitresses and waiters in Germany do expect a certain (but lower than U.S.) amount of tips to contribute to their income.

    Your other German source certainly is correct, 6,30 €/h - which does seem to be correct - is very little money – (although I do maintain that Hooters girls will manage to earn a little above average tips).
    A quick search on the internet indicates that it is on the low end of what (unqualified) servers typically earn in Germany but still in the range of what is common.

    The notice on the receipt certainly indicates that the company is trying to get away cheap on the back of the servers. So I do agree with your sentiment.

    P.S. This is an interesting article, worth reading:

    And here with Goole translate: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ruhrbarone.de%2Fmach-was-du-willst-meine-erlebnisse-als-hooters-girl-in-bochum%2F

    Certainly sounds a lot more bleak than the stories you are reporting.

    Best regards!

  9. I think it's safe to say that the majority of servers are 'tip motivated'. I work for a popular chain in the UK and am paid minimum wage of £5.93ph. Generally, I will make 5% of my total shift takings in tips. Very occasionally I will hit the 10% mark.

    My experience is that most people leave something, generally around %5. I feel anything less than that is rude. Though a lot of people leave nothing, even when everything has been great. This is not a reflection on me or the service but of their own philosophy. Maybe they themselves for a min wage job in a shop. They don't earn tips on every sale, why should I?

    On the other hand you do get those that always will leave about %10 as a matter of course. Those people are the ones that ask if I get the tip if they leave it on a card or if cash is better (cash is always better!).

    Anyway you slice it, the outcome is that in most of Europe, we get a fairly decent minimum wage and I don't think employers are even allowed to make up a wage with tips. I should imagine the German Hooters (I don't believe we have one in England) would pay their employees a proper minimum wage and remind guests that tipping is at their discretion. I worked for a restaurant that had that printed at the bottom of the bills to remind folks to tips us!

  10. I worked at a Hooters of Germany store. "Hooters Girls are tip motivated" was added to help avoid confusion with the German and American guests. Some Americans tipped and some Germans did as well. But it was always a common question, "Do I HAVE to tip?", which I am sure if you ask any server, they will answer "yes" or "it would be appreciated". Although tips are appreciated, they are not required.

    Hooters girls are tip motivated and typically provide stellar service/entertainment that is in accordance with the Hooters Brand (Hula Hooping, Dancing, Birthday/Bachelor celebrations, etc). I understand it may come across as tacky, but Hooters is after all "Delightfully Tacky, yet Unrefined".

    PS - The average pay did not include (nor make up for) tips. Yes it was higher than most US states, but it was similar to CA min wage for servers... Just my two cents. Hope it helped :-)



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