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Oct 22, 2006 12:45 AM

quick (shorthand) restaurant bill calculations - rules of thumb

Okay I know the quick tip calculation in my state (CA) of doubling the tax to get the approx tip, i.e., 8.5% x 2 = 17% (+/-).

Just heard another one from a friend. Double the entree (or entree + apps) and you'll get a close ball park of what the meal should cost (meal, drinks, dessert, tax and tip). I tested it. It does seem to give a good ball park of what to expect...although not perfect.

Example: entrees = $20 each x 2 = $40 x 2 = $80.

Anyone hear this one before? Any experience with this or other short hand tips on dining/price?

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  1. OMG, i thought i as the only one who did the double entree as a good ball park. Been using it for years and it gives a pretty good back of the envelope estimate.

    1. I don't see how this "double-double" system could account for the wide range of drinks costs.

      I too am in California and I prefer the cost plus double the tax for a tip. That's about 17/18%, if your want to do 20% that's easy math.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Roberto

        Certainly it's not perfect but I gather it's like the double the tax gives you a base or general idea to adjust from. You know, if you double the tax to get the tip amount but the waitperson was rude, you bring it down. Likewise if you double the entree but you order a 20 year old port with the cheese plate, yes it will be way off.

      2. Marry a mathematician.
        Worked for me.

        6 Replies
        1. re: expatslat

          I usually just add up the base prices of everything I ordered and add a quarter. This usually seems to come out about right, in terms of covering tax and tip.

          Example: $4 appetizer + $10 entree + $2 drink = $16
          A quarter of $16 is $4, so I owe a total of $20

          This leaves about a 17% tip (I'm in CA), can adjust a little by rounding things up or down as needed (as it rarely works out to an exact multiple of 4, haha) . . .

          1. re: nsheth

            Nsheth, thank you, that's a really useful rule of thumb for figuring out your share of a check when the people you are dining with are not of the divide the check evenly persuasion (which is my preference). I have always performed two calculations in my head, now I only have to do one!

            1. re: Val55

              Actually nsheth's rule of thumb provides a 15% after-tax tip (when in CA). I used to employ this exact rule of thumb (I'm in CA also), but after the standard for tipping recently became 18-20% on the after-tax total, I'm looking for a better rule of thumb. I need it when dining as part of a large group, and I want to check that my share isn't disproportionately more than the amount if the bill is split evenly. That way, I can know whether to offer to throw in extra money or not.

              1. re: Alice Patis

                That's another good use for it. You don't think rounding up at all levels is enough? I had dinner on Sunday that was $14 with a $1.50 coke. Since it was before reading this post, I figured 10% tax to get me to $17, and then I figured it $3 was 15% of $20, then $3 is fair on $17, and then I added another $1 just to be sure. Now with this rule of thumb, I would have taken the $15.50, rounded up to $16, and then applied 25% to get me to the same $20, and would have still thrown in the extra buck.

                1. re: Val55

                  Hmm, I had to use Excel to check my math to write this reply. Here are the results:

                  If your food & drink total was $15.50, you can use the 'round your total up to the nearest dollar then add 25%' rule. Your $20 will give your server a tip of 19.5%.

                  However, if your food & drink total was $31.50, and you rounded it up to $32 and added $8 to make it $40, then you're giving a 17% tip (which is a slight to some servers now).

                  Now if your food & drink total was $79.50 and you rounded up to $80 and added $20 to make it $100, you're only giving a 16% tip.

                  Yes, we're talking differences of 1-2%, so I agree it's still a good rule of thumb. So I've concluded I can keep using this rule after all. Esp because when I only need a rule of thumb (like when estimating my share of a group meal), I'm usually spending less than $30/person.

                2. re: Alice Patis

                  I always thought tip was calculated pre-tax . . . haha, did a quick search on this board for "tip tax" and I see it's quite the controversial subject . . .

          2. If my bill is double my entree cost, something is seriously wrong. I seldom have anything other than one course and don't drink alcohol. I'm known as a cheap date.

            1. you know, for being half korean I am AWFUL at math.

              my boyfriend taught me the double know, if something costs $10, then tip them $2. I always tip 20% minimum unless the service is HORRENDOUS. If the service is great then I add a bit more. But if I am with my boyfriend, he can do all the math...I will just sit there and enjoy my meal (: