El Gaucho and Aqua Move from Tipping Culture to Service Charge

Service charge to take into effect on March 21st, 2016.

Seattle steakhouse El Gaucho and Aqua by El Gaucho are Seattle’s latest restaurants to institute a 20 percent service charge in lieu of gratuities added to their à la carte dining. The two Seattle restaurants will go tip-free on March 21st (excludes Bellevue, Tacoma and Portland locations) following the path of Danny Meyer, Tom Douglas, Renee Erickson, and the Huxley Wallace Collective. With an increase in minimum wages in the service sector, restaurateurs are making readjustments to provide the best experience for guests while keeping the doors open.


We have successfully used a service charge model with our private dining business for 20 years. We know it works for our guests, our team and our company.  As always, our entire team is dedicated to and rewarded by delighting our guests.  If for some reason the experience does not exceed our guest’s expectations, we will make it right.  It’s what we have always done and our team works together to deliver on that promise.” – Chad Mackay, President


If you are still unsure about this whole service charge thing, keep on reading. After speaking with the President of El Gaucho, Chad Mackay, he see’s international guests dine at both locations all the time and culturally “tipping” does not exist in many parts of the world. It’s a team effort to run a successful restaurant and the servers shouldn’t get hit by this.

In Switzerland, the country with the most Michelin-starred restaurants per capita, tips were officially abolished in the 1970s. That means a service charge of 10 percent to 15 percent is added to every restaurant bill, which is for tax purposes which was recently revealed by Bloomberg View.

Service charges are similarly included in the check in France (15 percent is mandatory), Belgium and Hong Kong. A customer only adds more if the service has been exceptional. Many French waiters expect that as a matter of course — not because they’re as badly paid as their U.S. colleagues (they make about 1,500 euros [$1,700] per month, which is about average for Europe) but because they’re French. In Belgium and Denmark, rounding off the check is mainly enough, and in Hong Kong, waiters only accept tips because they’ve been spoiled by the remnants of the British colonial culture. In mainland China, as well as in Japan, tipping is largely seen as humiliating.

Hey! On the bright side, Valet parking will now be complimentary (including their famous cookies!)

Comment below and share your perspective on a “tip-free” vs “tipping” culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *