Australian restaurants better than New Zealand’s when it comes to service

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I have just returned from a holiday in Melbourne with my Mum and a dear friend from my school days. We ate out a lot and tipped every time we had an evening meal. In Australia wait staff are paid differently and tipping is a key part of their income. I had often wondered if our system was fairer than those countries where tipping is normal. I wondered if everyone being paid a set amount was a fairer way to pay people rather than making a good portion of it dependent on customer satisfaction.

I cannot tell you if it is a fairer system and whether or not good Australian wait staff earn more than New Zealand wait staff in general, but I can tell you that their service is outstanding. Earning part of your income in tips clearly motivates staff to bend over backwards to be of service.

Hardware Lane Melbourne

Hardware Lane Melbourne

One of the many places we went was Hardware Lane. What blew me away was how a staff member stands out in front of the eatery in the lane to greet everyone who goes past. They don’t pressure you to come in they just smile and say hello. If you stop to talk they will answer any questions you have about the menu etc. Even in the most humble cafes for lunch where we didn’t tip, staff were incredibly helpful. They were happy to assist with all kinds of queries. In one cafe we loved the goats cheese on top of the mashed avocado on toast so much we asked what brand it was. The owner went onto her laptop and soon we not only had the brand but also the street in Onehunga where we could purchase it it back in New Zealand.

I have encountered friendly and helpful service in New Zealand but I have also encountered average and poor service quite often. In Australia, for a solid week, every single interaction was outstanding. Maybe it was because our accents gave us away as tourists but just maybe it was because staff are rewarded for superior service with tips. What do you think?

 


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  • Observer

    It may have been a factor, although I’ve also had experiences in the US where the tip is just taken as a given. In fact, they get quite demanding if it’s not offered regardless of the level of service!

    • stephen2d

      I’d be happy to challenge that, though obviously you have a different personal experience. I’ve spent nearly 6 months last year everywhere in USA and I can tell you if you are not happy with the service you don’t tip – and you will complain.

  • cows4me

    I wonder what effect a high minimum wage has on service. i would assume the higher minimum wage forced upon employers would give little incentive for service workers to provide better service. One can be grumpy for $10 a hour or smile for $10 a hour it’s still $10 a hour.

    • biscuit barrel

      In Australia they still have a centralised wage system ( which is why generally wages are higher for everything) with different minimum rates. Enterprise awards are all ways better than minimums
      The pay rate for 19 yr old waiter in cafe on a casual rate $18.90 per hour under Hospitality general award.
      Anybody with more experience would be on more

      http://www.fairwork.gov.au/pay/minimum-wages

  • stephen2d

    Tipping makes a difference, US being the best example for me- I wasn’t aware of Australia being the same. The only problem is that a place with not a lot of foot traffic will suffer, but good staff will always find good jobs and they will make very decent income, too.

  • Aucky

    Kiwis won’t tip SB and therein lies the problem. Last week four mates and I had a ‘long lunch’, the food was superb and the service quite outstanding. The waiter was a young lady part-timing to help fund her study in Hotel Management at AUT. Our bill came to $600+ and I put it all on my card to avoid making five separate payments. You should have heard the comments when my mates found out that I had added a $30 tip. Yes, my wellheeled friends all had short arms and deep pockets when it came to paying a 5% tip!

    • biscuit barrel

      A service charge on the bill hardly any of that goes to employees. Always tip in cash if you want a particular person to have it.

      • Aucky

        I do know a bit about hospo bb.

        I know the owner of that restaurant extremely well and not only are 100% of the pooled tips split but matched dollar for dollar by the restaurant owners if service KPIs are met.

        • biscuit barrel

          Thanks thats good to know

    • R&BAvenger

      5% is not unreasonable and yes, your friends do sound like they were being stingy in the circumstances.

  • Observer

    Another thing that would be interesting to know is whether service levels within Australia are seen to have improved with tipping? Logically, I can see why it would, although Australians generally seem to be a bit more outgoing/gregarious than Kiwis?

    • gander

      Exactly.

      I don’t spend enough time in Australia to write with authority, but I have not noticed any improvement in restaurant service there since tipping has been pushed.

      When I came from tipping Canada to non-tipping NZ I didn’t notice any substantial relative deficiency in the quality of restaurant service.

  • biscuit barrel

    The prices in Aussie are far cheaper, even though hourly staff wages are higher.

    Check out the prices for a cafe chain like Coffee Club which will have similar menu items as here. We are far dearer.
    I expect that turnover is higher and competition stronger in Aus

    • M C Chinaman

      This claim always staggers me . last time I was in Sydney we were constantly paying A$30 plus (NZ high 30s to $40) for a main course that would be in the 20s in NZ.

      • gander

        My experience parallels yours, M C Chinaman. I have found Australian restaurant prices nearly always as high or higher in AUD than equivalent NZ establishments in NZD.

        As I try to avoid café chains, I cannot contradict Biscuit Barrel completely.

  • IainH

    Sounds wonderful but I’m not sure if you can extrapolate your recent experiences in Melbourne to the rest of Australia.
    For example my experience of service in Queensland hasn’t always been that great.

    • Dave

      We live in QLD, wife travels a lot, and the service we get by and large is fantastic.

      Best service I have ever had by far though was in Queenstown NZ, a restaurant in the centre of Queenstown, closely followed by the service at Millbrook

  • Usaywot

    In NZ, quite often, the tips are pooled, anyway. So you may have had good service but your tip could well be shared with someone who gives poor service. A lot of restaurants in Auckland now have staff at the door greeting passers by. I have spoken to a few and they have been friendly and not at all pushy.

    • biscuit barrel

      They have butcher shops in Melbourne who have staff out front. Same as carpet shops in Turkey. Its the Mediteranean culture to put your business out there and not wait at the back of the shop

  • andrewo

    Judging by a handful of restaurants in a single tourist area is not a smart idea. My experience working over there is that service is generally poor and offhand.
    Bear in mind that when I say ‘service’ I am including all service providers not just waiters: Restaurants, cafes, shops, taxis, immigration etc

    • jaundiced

      Agree. Outside restaurants, service not always that great. A lot of ‘that’s not my problem’ type attitude.
      And as for Aussi taxi drivers….

  • D-Rad

    Really? I think you got lucky. We lived in Australia for four years, rural NSW for 3 Brisbane for 1. Australian staff don’t earn money off tips that would be illegal. They are paid – generally minimum wage as they are in NZ, in Australia however they get penalty rates for weekends and nights at a huge cost to businesses – its the law. Tipping is generally pooled as it is here in most places.

    Melbourne generally has better service than Sydney or Brisbane, but I find the service to be on par with NZ – Wellington tends to stand out in my opinion though.

    • biscuit barrel

      No such thing as a standard minimum wage there. It varies by type of work.
      A casual waiter has lower min than a permanent and if you behind bar different again.
      Fairwork Australia regulates the whole system

      • D-Rad

        They are called award wages, and yes there is a minimum for each industry. But there is a minimum

  • R&BAvenger

    Long may tipping be based on performance and service offered rather than in the US (and possibly Europe) where it is obligatory and added onto your bill as a 25% charge on top of your bill. Even it is not added it is an expectation from the wait staff and personally if their service has been average, run of the mill, them I am blowed if I am paying 25% on top.
    In my partner’s and her friends (all US citizens) experience tipping in the US, due to it’s obligatory nature, results in pushy, demanding wait staff and others e.g. taxi drivers who demand their tip, regardless of the level of service.
    If the tip isn’t the value they expect, verbal abuse, plate slamming and other ensues.
    Stuff that for a joke.
    It works fine here in NZ as is and I have had very good service in most restaurants I have dined in. We have advised our American guests that tipping is not obligatory here and left them to determine whether or not they wish to pay more for excellent service.
    Excellence should be rewarded. I do occasionally tip, for excellent service and for places that I frequent, when I have spare change.

    • Observer

      This was my experience too :)

    • Crowgirl

      Tips that are forcibly extracted make me not want to give a tip. I’m happy to tip if the service has been good, and because the minimum wage is really low in North America for serving jobs, but a 25% gratuity added to my bill just because, would result in me never darkening that establishment’s doorway again.

  • Ross

    I frequently dine at some of Sydney’s best restaurants and although I have tipped occasionally, it certainly isn’t the norm and/or expected.

    The service is certainly a lot better than I experience in NZ, but the best has to be dining at a decent restaurant in the US.

    Waiting is seen as a part-time job in NZ for uni students which is a shame. We have some amazing food and restaurants here but the service aspect is the biggest gap between us and them.

  • Metricman

    Service in Aussie has always been ahead of NZ for as long as I can remember.

  • Cracker1963

    Don’t expect that level of service in other parts of West Island. Recently returned from the Gold Coast- food was universally terrible, service worse & the only half decent meal & service we received was from a Kiwi owned café! The restaurant voted best Japanese Restaurant in Australia was awful. Food was bland and about as Japanese as Yorkshire Pud, the raw fish smelled & tasted off, the tempera was oily & soft- the service was via poms on their OE (not a Japanese Person in sight). Turned out it was a ‘Japanese Fusion Restaurant, must have forgot to fuse the Japanese cuisine?- thanks but no thanks & we will never darken its door again. I guess West Islanders have lower expectations on food quality that we do.

    • kehua

      Many Japanese restaurants are actually owned and run by Koreans thereby creating a vast difference in quality.

  • woollyone

    I don’t favour tipping at all. You take on the job, accept the pay rate and should be giving of more or less your best at all times if you wish to retain it. Plenty of people give goo service – why aren’t we tipping check out operators, plumbers, teachers, nurses for injecting us painlessly?

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