Miami Herald (Sunday)

Should you tip at a ventanita? How much at a hotel pool or beach? What to know in Miami


Do the waiters at your favorite restaurant rely on tips to make a living? What’s the “service charge” at the bottom of your bill, and who pockets it?

And are you tipping well, or at all? Florida is one of the worst states for tipping, ranked 48.

The rise of new technology has complicate­d consumer life. Tipping options pop up on the payment screen for you to make a quick decision at the coffeehous­e and to-go counter.

Here’s what to know about tipping in South Florida:


Subminimum wage: Waiters are classified as “tipped employees,” which means that their wages rely heavily on gratuities. Employers don’t have to pay tipped employees minimum wage. Instead, they’re only required to pay subminimum wage, which varies from state to state.

Who makes less than minimum in Florida: A tipped employee is anyone who is expected to make more than $30 in tips per month. The state’s minimum wage is $12 an hour. However, the state’s subminimum wage is $8.98. That means that the waiters, parking valet attendants and your favorite bartender are usually making below minimum wage, and rely on tips to cover the difference. Both rates will increase by $1 late in 2024.


Where the money goes:

Service charges are not the same as a tip. Tips go directly to your waiter, but there’s no requiremen­t for where a service charge goes. Restaurant owners can divide up the service charge between waiters, table bussers and hosts. They can also use it to raise the overall salaries of all of the employees. But at the end of the day, they can do whatever they want with the money.

Suggestion: So should you tip on top of a service charge? If the service was exceptiona­l and you want to directly support your waiter, add an extra 5 to 10 percent in tips. But it’s not necessary since the service fee is (hopefully) going to restaurant staff.


Drinks, beach chairs: Ordering a piña colada to your beach chair at a Miami Beach resort?

It’s good practice to tip the workers who set up your beach chair and bring you food and drinks. They typically make subminimum wage and work long days running in the sand under the hot Miami sun. For food, the standard is 15% to 20%. For hotelprovi­ded pool service, you’ll need to have some cash on hand to slip an attendant a 5 or 10, depending on how many chairs or towels your party is using.

Spa service: The same goes for spa services like massages, waxing and facials. A 20 percent tip or higher shows that you appreciate their hard work and their business.


Baristas: Do you tip for your morning coffee? If you do, you’re in the minority of people nationwide. A study from the personal finance website Bankrate found that only 22 percent of Americans tip their baristas.

Best tippers: A barista for Sabal Coffee in the Design District, for instance, relies on tips to make a living wage. But customers often don’t see the tip screen on the Square system. The best tippers are regulars who come in every day and know the staff well. Weekends and the high season tend to be better for tips.

Cash or screen: Sabal Coffee has both a cash tip jar and a tip screen on the Square tablet, but they get many more card transactio­ns. Baristas estimate that for every $100 made in online tips, $15 are cash tips.


KNOW MORE: The first ventanita: How Miami invented the windows that imported Cuban coffee culture

Cuban coffee windows:

Technology has even changed the ventanita window.

Best practice: Ventanita culture is typically all about leaving some spare change. You get your coffee for 75 cents, leave a dollar bill, and call it a day. Now, more and more cafes and restaurant­s have incorporat­ed online transactio­ns into their ventanita window exchanges.

Tip prompt: The owner of Latin Cafe 2000, Eric Castellano­s, uses an online system with a tablet that prompts customers to tip at his restaurant­s’ ventanita windows. Not everyone tips, and he estimates that the average tip at the ventanita is 14%. But plenty of people will leave a large tip on small orders, Castellano­s said. Customers picking up a coffee and croqueta for $2 often click the $1 tip option by default, giving the workers a 50% tip. “The ventanita girls like to stay in the ventanita because it’s a lot quicker and they’re making volume on smaller tips,” Castellano­s said about his window employees.

Cash: The system at Latin

Cafe 2000 isn’t the default, though, and plenty of ventanitas still operate the old fashioned way — cash-based, spare-change tips.


Standard amount: These days, 18 to 20 percent is a standard tip if you’re dining in at a sit-down restaurant. If you’re impressed by your service, tip more.

Automatic tip: You may have noticed that many South Beach restaurant­s add an automatic 18 percent tip to the bill. As a booming tourist destinatio­n, Miami Beach attracts visitors from all over the world. European tourists, used to tipping around 5 percent in their home countries, often didn’t shift their tipping norms when they visited the U.S. So the automatic gratuity appeared to guarantee a standard tip for servers.

Service charge: Service charges also gained popularity during the pandemic to offer more wage stability for restaurant staff.

DELIVERY DRIVERS Door-to-door app service:

When the pandemic started, indoor dining took a massive hit. Apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub soared in popularity as people craved restaurant meals while stuck at home.

Incentive: Delivery apps also use tips as an incentive. Drivers can see how much you plan to tip before accepting your order, so the higher you tip, the more likely you are to get your order fulfilled quickly. Customers are resistant to tip their food delivery drivers. According to a study by Forces Advisor, 32% of Americans don’t think delivery drivers should ask for a tip. Last year, a DoorDash driver was caught on a Ring camera spitting on the food he delivered after being tipped $3 on a $30 order. DoorDash refunded the customer and removed the Dasher from the app.

Suggestion: Consider tipping 10 to 15 percent for delivery drivers. If the weather is bad, you might want to tip more.

 ?? PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiheral­ ?? Mabel De Beunza gets ready to pay and tip the waiter at the Latin Cafe 2000, located at 2000, 875 NW 42nd Ave. in Miami, on Friday September 22, 2023.
PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiheral­ Mabel De Beunza gets ready to pay and tip the waiter at the Latin Cafe 2000, located at 2000, 875 NW 42nd Ave. in Miami, on Friday September 22, 2023.

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