For starters, I've long thought it's wrong that servers get $2/hr. There is simply no reason for it to be $2. We have minimum wage laws, people should get paid the minimum wage. Maybe it's because I'm foreigner, where servers get min wage + tips. Maybe it's that it irks me that I'm supposed to pay for their salary AND their tip....I'm sorry but it's not my job to pay their salary. That's the manager's job. I want my tip to be above and beyond their wages. Not a stop gap that allows the restaurant to weasel out of their part of the deal.
And to think that in addition to paying workers $2, that some places actually expect their servers to give a certain percent back to the house? Ridiculous.
It's odd, while legally you can pay tipped personnel less than minimum wage, In my experience not very many restaurants actually do this. Mainly because it's a friggen hassle. People who are tipped at their job can be paid less than the regular hourly minimum, as long as (tips + wages) > or = minimum wage. If tips are low and (tips + wages) minimum, the management must pay the difference. So all tips must be carefully tracked and recorded to comply with the labor laws. That's lots of work. And what happens if a waitress just pockets that $10 tip instead of reporting it? The management pays the difference. So what should the manager do to prevent this, look over every employee's shoulder? Install surveillance cameras? Too much work. Too much hassle. Most restaurants I know of simply pay regular minimum per hour for this reason.
Servers can be required to tip out other employees; (especially employees involved in preparing the food) and this makes sense when you think about it. If you leave a big tip because your food was delicious and cooked to perfection, why should the server get all of the tip? The server didn't cook the food, the cook did. The cook should get a cut as well.
However the business/management taking a cut of the tips is illegal. (at least here in California, I hope this is the same elsewhere but YMMV)
15% if the service is good. 20% if they go outta their way or if my little monsters are being particularly hostile.
Times when service was bad are generally few and far between. However, when it is, DW and I have a habit of commenting to management about it.
I NEVER tip at the tip jars sitting on the counter of Starbucks, et al. Seems like EVERY place has a tip jar these days.