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Jul 30, 2000 12:23 PM

Tipping in Buffets

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What is the rule about tipping at buffets. Do you tip the usual 15-20 percent, or are there other rules? The most a waiter has done for me at a buffet is to place a pitcher of water at my table. However, I have always left at least 15 percent because of my ignorance.

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  1. I for one would *NEVER* tip at a buffet!! Or at a cafeteria, or take-out/eat-in counter, or...

    Any place where things are essentially "self-" service. Tip yourself!!...the waiter doesn't deserve it just for an occasional water pitcher, dessert, coke, etc.

    Unless he/she is inherently part of the "buffet" service, that is...such as with DIM SUM. I consider that to be worth somehow MORE than the usual relaying of orders to the kitchen. I might tip 25% or more there.

    What about LUNCH COUNTERS though? I grew up in small-town Americana where one NEVER tipped there, but I must admit, this is an area where I have started tipping lately out of some vague sense of guilt. Maybe not a full 15%, but I do leave SOMETHING. And most of my relatives think I'm nuts.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Wong

      I absolutely tip at a lunch counter/coffee shop - the person behind the counter usually does more food preparation than a waiter, but doesn't have to walk as far.

      1. re: Jim Wong

        It must have been a different small town america than I grew up in - I can't remember not tipping at lunch counters, ever (even if it was just a quarter). And I certainly remember being tipped as a waitress in those kind of situations.

        Whether to tip or not depends for me on the type of buffet - I wouldnt tip in a NYC salad bar, for example, but other types of buffets, where the waitress comes to the table and sets you up, cleans tables between courses, etc, might be different. Sometimes there will be a blanket service charge in these sorts of places or their is tip sharing between waitresses and the staff in the serving stations. Or as with dim sum, where you are served by multiple staff members and tips are part of the drill. Anyway, I have to say it depends on the place and prevailing local values - but I'd always err in favor of tipping at a normal rate when I'd received personal service at the table.

      2. Pardon me sir,

        I would hope that you never had to make your way in this world as a waiter. I have seen so many like you think that the waiters have "done nothing for them" when they choose to eat at these buffets...they don't clean up after you, they don't bring you anything to drink, they don't make sure you get more hot coffee...
        they don't bring more hot food to the buffet...they really just stand around and act like food critics!!!