Who Gets The Service Charge In A Restaurant? A Chef’s POV

Ever been enjoying a meal out, savoring each mouthful, only to get handed the bill and spot an extra charge? Something called a ‘service charge?’ It’s like a surprise guest at a party, making you wonder, what’s this for and who gets this money?

Read on to understand service charges, who gets the money and what does the money go towards.

Understanding Service Charges

Outdoor dining restaurant.
Outdoor dining restaurant.

A service charge is an additional fee added to your restaurant bill, typically between 10% to 20% of the total bill amount. Unlike tips, service charges are mandatory, and you cannot opt-out of paying them.

Service charges are meant to compensate the restaurant staff who provide you with service during your visit.

This compensation helps the restaurant owners to ensure that their staff receives a fair wage, even if the restaurant is not busy or the tips are low.

Who Gets The Service Charge?

Now, the pertinent question remains; who gets the service charge added to your bill? The simple answer is – it depends. The process of distributing the service charge depends on the restaurant’s policies and practices.

Some restaurants distribute the service charge among the staff by providing them with a share of the final amount.

This way, all the restaurant staff, including servers, cooks, and dishwashers, receive a part of the service charge as an additional source of income.

However, some restaurants add the service charge to the general revenue and do not distribute it among the staff.

This revenue can be used for various purposes, including paying off debts and investing in the restaurant’s operations.

Why Do Restaurants Add Service Charges?

Many restaurants add service charges to their bills for several reasons. One of the most practical reasons is to ensure better wages for their staff.

With the service charge, restaurants can provide their staff with a steady and reliable income source, even if some days have lower tips.

Additionally, service charges can help restaurants to compensate for the rising minimum wage expectations mandated by the government.

Restaurants can use the service charge to meet minimum-wage requirements while keeping their menu prices competitive.

Challenges Involving Service Charges

Including service charges in restaurant bills can lead to challenges. One of the most significant challenges is transparency.

Ambiguity surrounding service charges can make diners feel cheated, and they may be less likely to return to the restaurant.

Furthermore, some restaurants have been known to add service charges discreetly without notifying their customers.

This practice can cause confusion and leave diners feeling bewildered when they receive their bill.


What Is A Service Charge?

A service charge is a fee that is added to your bill by the restaurant, typically in lieu of a tip.

Who Gets The Service Charge In A Restaurant?

It depends on the restaurant. In some cases, the service charge is distributed among all the restaurant staff, while in other cases, the restaurant keeps the fee to cover operational costs.

Do Servers Still Get Tips If There Is A Service Charge?

In many cases, yes. However, if the service charge is mandatory and the restaurant distributes it to all employees, servers may receive a smaller percentage of the total tip amount.

Can Restaurants Eliminate Tipping And Only Have A Service Charge?

Yes, some restaurants have eliminated tipping and instead pay their employees a higher hourly wage. In these cases, the restaurants typically add a service charge to the bill to cover operational costs.


In conclusion, service charges help restaurants compensate their staff, ensuring they receive a fair wage, and meet the minimum wage expectations.

However, each restaurant has distinct policies and practices when it comes to service charges. As diners, we need to be better acquainted with these policies and be vigilant about the charges levied on our bills.

As with any fee, clarity and transparency are key to avoiding disputes. So, if you are ever unsure about a charge on your bill, do not hesitate to ask your server for an explanation.

Remember, good communication between diners and restaurants can help to resolve any misunderstandings and ensure a pleasant dining experience.

Norah Clark

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, the founder and editor of YummyTasteFood! She's a seasoned food writer and editor with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry as a former pastry chef, sous chef, and barista. When not writing about food, she explores new recipes or travels the world for culinary inspiration.