A limited-service hotel’s self-serve continental breakfast had a tip jar beside the cereal tower, and even pre-seeded the jar with cash to imply that other guests are offering tips.
There are staff heating and putting out the breakfast, just as there are check-in desk staff and maintenance staff.
Hotel staff aren’t being paid below minimum wage on the assumption that they’re also being paid in tips, the way that restaurant servers in some locations are.
You’re serving yourself breakfast. You’re usually cleaning up after yourself. Tipping is simply not appropriate here. Moreover, tipping allows hotels to pay workers less precisely because the wages will be made up by guests.
Hotels want guests to give tips to workers, so they can pay lower wages. The CEO of one hotel ownership group actually said the quiet part out loud. If an employee needs to earn $18 an hour to making working there worthwhile, it ultimately doesn’t matter if that’s cover $9 by the hotel and $9 by guests or $18 by the hotel (other than risk associated with variance of the tip amount coming from guests).
It’s generally expected in the United States that if you’re in a hotel restaurant, where you’re being served coffee or juice along with the buffet and someone might help you with condiments, that you’re tipping. Although there it should be a lower tip than where the server takes your order and brings you the food. A self-service buffet, a simple room with food setup where no one is serving you directly, should never involve tips.