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Why You Should Look Twice At The "Suggested Gratuity" On Your Restaurant Bill

Just what percent is the "suggested gratuity" on split bills? As high as 44%, claims a new lawsuit against the Cheesecake Factory.

Posted on August 11, 2017, at 10:01 a.m. ET

m01229 / Via Flickr: 39908901@N06

Customers who split the bill at the Cheesecake Factory and pay the suggested gratuity have been duped, a new class-action lawsuit against the California-based restaurant chain alleges.

The restaurant calculates the suggested gratuity based on the total bill, not each diner's share, according to the complaint. Many customers who were too distracted, drunk, or indifferent to bother to do the math themselves and used the suggestions as a reference have unintentionally left tips that were a much greater percentage of their check than they believed.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff's share of the bill was $38.50, and the suggested gratuity printed on the receipt ranged from $11.50 to $16.94. These gratuities, however, were based on the total bill before splitting, not just the plaintiff's share. So in fact, $11.50 is about 30% of $38.50, and $16.94 is 44% — not 15% and 22% as printed on the split bill.

The plaintiff, Marcel Goldman, left a $15.40 tip, which is suggested on the receipt as a 20% tip, but is actually 40% of the split bill. Although Goldman later sent a letter about the "billing error" to Cheesecake Factory's headquarters, she said that the error was not corrected.

"Consumers should be aware," Goldman's attorney Julian Hammond told BuzzFeed News. "Why are we left to our own devices to do arithmetic acrobatics when the suggested gratuity represented is not true? The mathematic calculation is misleading. It must end; it needs to change."


The complaint claims, "The practice has been going on for at least the last four years and at over 200 restaurant locations operated under The Cheesecake Factory mark and at 13 locations operated under the Grand Lux Café mark." The complaint cites an estimate that at least 10% of bills paid by credit card at the Cheesecake Factory are split. Hammond declined to share the source of the estimate.

Cheesecake Factory spokesperson Alethea Rowe said in an email to BuzzFeed News: "​All gratuity amounts listed on our guest checks are suggestions only. Guests are free to tip as they please. We believe our guests appreciate service provided by our hardworking staff and tip accordingly.​"​

Customers of the chain have also previously complained that the Cheesecake Factory calculates the suggested gratuity from the total including tax, rather than the pretax subtotal. A review on Yelp said a customer service representative said calculating the suggested gratuity on the post-tax check total "was a decision by our company executives to use this figure and we do so in all of our restaurants nationwide."

If you're a restaurant that has "suggested gratuity" which is suggested on subtotal and tax total.. You're an asshole #cheesecakefactory

@Cheesecake the suggested #gratuity on the bill is incorrect. It should be based on the pre-tax subtotal.

Watch those #deceptive @Cheesecake factory receipts, their suggested gratuity is based on post tax amount. #Fail

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.