I wrote a few weeks ago about the difficulty of finding a restaurant that does not have prices on the menu. Yet though I perhaps came from a more extreme angle, taking a famine-based twist to asking for more, I nevertheless believed that many others would share my opinion there, surely it is simply better to go for a meal if you know the complete price up front. Yet sadly not a single suggestion.
But though I expected to share common opinion on food prices, I think my opinion might be more individual on waiter tips. I mention it now because both Marginal Revolution and Freakonomics have raised the subject just in the few days since my note. One obvious idea is that the price of the meal should explicitly include service and the waiting staff should earn decent wages without relying on the whims of fickle customers. The same as shop sales staff. That's a common suggestion anyway. Many restaurants routinely add 15% to the bill as standard. But that is not the best way to relate how much value was added by the waiter.
As a slightly more original idea, I suggest that you could tip a standard hourly figure, for example minimum wage rate, or some fraction of it per customer. If the waiter is supplying x tables, then she will get at least x times minimum wage. Plus any basic salary. It reflects the time that she actually spent "working for you", the current practice of food bill plus 15 percent means that she is compensated less for delivering many bargain courses than for delivering a single overpriced bottle. Perhaps more importantly, the new suggestion means that a waiter in a cheap-food restaurant does not get paid less than a waiter in an expensive-food restaurant for exactly the same level of service.
I'm not saying that's what I do, I'm only suggesting that's what we could do.