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WWJ news report notes Wayne State research on restaurant service and perceptions

March 27, 2013

Restaurant servers are more likely to give better service to patron types they believe are more inclined to tip well, a Wayne State University researcher has found, a principle that has significant consequences when African-Americans are at the table. In an effort to determine whether servers based their service levels on perceived tipping differences across customer demographics, Zachary Brewster, assistant professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, analyzed data derived from a survey of 200 servers in 18 restaurants in a southeastern U.S. metropolitan area. In "The Effects of Restaurant Servers' Perceptions of Customers' Tipping Behaviors on Service Discrimination," published recently in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, servers reported their perceptions of the tipping behaviors of 18 different table scenarios involving a number of demographic characteristics including race, sexual orientation and age, with combinations featuring small and adult children. Brewster found that sensitivity to demographic differences predicted whether servers reported giving excellent service at the prospect of receiving excellent tips.