I know, tipping thread! But bear with me...
On a radio program today I heard a caller ask about the propriety of a cafe owner sharing in tips on days when he works the counter along with employee baristas. The "expert" on air said that, here in NY, it was illegal for the owner to share in tips. This particular scenario aside, it got me thinking.
Sometimes a restaurant might be small and you know it's basically a one or two person show. Not formal table service, but maybe you place an order, grab a seat, and someone carries it over to your table. Perhaps that someone is quite clearly the owner or family of.
Do you feel that the standard tipping customs still apply? I don't mean legally (as in the cafe scenario).
On the one hand, the "server" is obviously not actually a waiter earning an artificially depressed wage. They own the place, and presumably their profit comes from your being a customer, not on tips.
On the other hand, perhaps you feel for the small business owner, and believe the extra 15-20% is justified on top of the food margins, even though it's all going to the same place.