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San Franciscans are lousy tippers, according to this study

Alisha Cataldo configures a point of sale terminal for a customer to pay for a meal at Calzone’s restaurant in San Francisco on Nov. 30, 2018. | Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

San Franciscans are among the lowest tippers in the country, according to findings from a 2022 restaurant trends report.

Toast, a point-of-sale platform that serves around 79,000 businesses in the U.S., aggregated sales data from restaurants that use its technology in several major cities, finding that diners in San Francisco paid the lowest tips—17% on average.

That’s compared with a national average tip of 19.6% at full-service eateries. The report showed that across the U.S., 48% of customers opted to tip via credit card—a 2% increase from 2021. 

Toast also measured transaction count increases—the total number of sales per restaurant—and found that transactions grew 2% in San Francisco from 2021 to 2022. New York experienced the most growth—more than 10%—and nationally, transaction counts grew by around 6%. 

In addition, the study calculated the cost of romance—that is, how much diners spent on Valentine’s Day dinner on average in 2023. In San Francisco, the cost of V-Day dinner averaged $143 plus tax, compared to a national average of $121 plus tax. The priciest dinners came out of New York City—totaling a cool $156 plus tax on average. 

This data comes amid widespread concerns among restaurant owners and consumers about inflation and the looming threat of a recession.

As Soleil Ho noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, although tipping has historically been left to the customer’s discretion, Covid has rendered that rule of thumb antiquated.

“We might all mean well when we tip heavy—20% is my absolute minimum—but it’s a short-term and frankly unsustainable way to make up for the fact that the United States lacks a meaningful social safety net,” they wrote. “Tipping can never patch up deficiencies that responsible economic policies can and should fix—like a minimum wage that people can actually live on.” 

Plus, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, SF ranked dead last in terms of consumer price inflation among metro areas across the country in June 2022, so it seems that rising food costs do little to offset the ongoing need to tip restaurant workers.