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Rules on tipping - Do you ALWAYS tip 20% ?

How does everyone tip out there and what is your personal etiquette? Do you tip after or before tax? Do you tip 20% on wine and drinks or maybe a little less on those items? My rule of thumb is if the service and experience is great, across the board, I tip 20%. If it is good but could have been better, I tip 15-18%.When I am at a cheap place, I always tip good unless the service is shameful. But when at an expensive restaurant, where you are paying top dollar, can't you be more discriminating? I'd like to hear from those that are not afraid of ex waitors and waitresses, being treated badly on the next visit, etc. I know food service people work hard but shouldn't there be a scale from 1-10 and you are tipped based on the quality of service? Curious on your thoughts, my friend looked at me like I was cheap and horrible last night when I chose to tip 18% on a 271.00 bill for 3 people which included a 50.00 bottle of wine.

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  1. 18% is fine. My rule is generally 20% for good but not over the top service. 15% means that you dropped the ball in at least a few ways but not criticaly. If I were to leave any less it would be in concert with a conversation with the manager explaining why I tipped so poorly so he / she could address the problem and fix it.

    1. There are no hard and fast rules to tipping, I believe it is very much contingent upon circumstance. I tip 20% as a general rule and make adjustments depending on the quality of service and for the price of the place.

      At a cheap, ethnic, mom&pop kind of place where service is good, I tend to tip over 20% but that is only because I feel that the server is penalized by the low price of the food (and yes, I know they get more turnover but I still feel they deserve compensation for doing a good job).

      If I am at an expensive place and the service is great, I will tip 20% on the entire bill, wine included. If the service is lacking, I don't tip on wine or tax or I otherwise adjust to suit the situation.

      When the service is snotty, lax or noteworthy in its suckiness, I tip around the 15% mark and/or dependent upon the circumstances, complain to management.

      One area where I still don't understand the proper tipping ettiquite is when sitting at the sushi bar. Do you tip the sushi chef, the waiter or split the tip? Too confusing for me to feel terribly confident. I usually end up tipping on the check (presumably this goes to the waiter) and then leaving another, cash tip at the sushi bar. Anyone know what the proper course of action is?

      2 Replies
      1. re: bodie

        If you're at a sushi bar where you also receive waitress service, I would assume that there is some agreement on sharing of tips among the employees.

        From my experience with a great many friends working as waiters or waitresses, there are many more establishments which share their tips across the board than I would have thought (more than 1/3 if my small sample of friends is any indication). This certainly undermines the effectiveness of tipping poorly due to poor service, though.

        Anyways, I have never worried about who I'm giving the tip to. e.g. You're in a resto/bar where you sat at the bar and then moved to a table with the same tab. I say let them figure it out.

        1. re: bodie

          Good point re. inexpensive restaurants. I always tip over 20% on small tabs if the service was fine. In my view there is a minimum tip that is reasonable to offer an adult no matter how small the tab may be.

        2. I'll sing the song I've sung before: I hate the whole tipping convention. But, since it exists, I have learned to double the tax (7.25%, I believe) and put in a couple of bucks in addition. That allows me to do the least math possible, and to pay the middle man decently without having to conduct a performance review.

          1. Marsha it is a performance review

            10 Replies
            1. re: Winemark

              Yes, it is, unfortunately. But I hate to do performance reviews when all I want is a meal. So I try to find a strategy that makes my experience as uncomplicated as possible and doesn't inadvertently harm anyone else. Since I am almost always happy with my service (and that means that, at best, I hardly notice it), I just want to pay and go home without investing a lot of attention in the odd relationship that exists between the customer (inadvertent employer) and server (subcontractor hired by the restaurant but paid by the customer). The whole business of having to evaluate somebody's performance just isn't fun for me.

                1. re: Marsha

                  I feel exactly the same way. I don't require much. Just give me some water, bring me the check, answer my questions about the menu, and I am good to go. I am not paid enough ( I am PAYING!!!) to be sitting there evaluating someone's performance while trying to spend time enjoy a meal.

                  1. re: Marsha

                    I find Marsha's view extremely admirable; it describes perfectly what OUGHT to be able to happen if all parties make their fair contribution to the experience. But what to do when the kitchen or the waitstaff drop the ball? It is precisely such failures that make it quite impossible to "hardly notice" what indeed should be seemless and virtually invisible. When the inattention or ineptitude of the waiter or kitchen force me out of what ought to be blissful unawareness of the mechanics of my dining experience, I find it impossible to ignore when settling up, though I will certainly engage with the restaurant staff long before that to see if just pointing out the problem will return things to their proper balance. I wouldn't dream of "penalizing" by means of the tip any restaurant staff that got things back on the right footing with or without my (minimal) input. But if I have to intervene and things remain out of whack, I find it impossible to ignore the fact that I have been yanked out of my pleasant experience and forced to do the job that someone at the restaurant is already being paid
                    to do.

                    A few years ago at Rubicon in San Francisco I was with a Swiss hotel manager friend (who came from the F&B side) and a Spanish friend of his, the private chef/butler of a classical musician. We had a truly marvelous meal, and my companions and I were more than happy enough to "hardly notice" the smooth and competent service. However, at that juncture between what should have been the clearing of the main course and the presentation of the dessert menu our waiter was nowhere to be found, or, rather, she was to be found three tables down the room chatting animatedly with one of the other patrons. This went on for perhaps 10 minutes. When finally, after she had left that guest, gone downstairs, and then come back to us to carry on our service, all was fine. However, as we were waiting for the receipt the maitre suddenly appeared and asked if everything had been ok. He indicated, with utmost discretion, that he noted from the tip that perhaps something was amiss. Daniel the hotel manager explained to him what had happened, and in the course of the conversation the two discovered that they had been to the same hotel school, etc. After discussing the matter for a few more moments, the maitre apologized lightly for our inconvenience
                    and we were on our way.

                    I go on to such length only to say that this happens far too seldom. In restaurants with no pretensions to service the latitude for inattention is quite broad, yet it is easy to think of virtually perfect service experiences in even the most modest establishments. In mid- to high-end places, however, are we not all inclined to notice the shortcomings even more than we might elsewhere? And if the quality of the service makes us, as guests, ourselves provide part of the service that we ought to be receiving, ought we not use the mechanism available for communicating our displeasure? I have tremendous regard for waiters, and while I would never treat one rudely I would also not dream of rewarding a mediocre one with a tip worthy of the best.

                    The biggest problem, as mentioned elsewyhere on this posting, is what does the waiter understand from the tip? At our Rubicon experience I am sure the waiter understood perfectly because the maitre came to inquire (probably after the waiter came to him in dismay). But normally such a thing would not happen and it is easy to assume, unless the waiter knew you as a generous tipper, that the waiter is going to conclude that you are just cheap. So, it takes a bit of boldness, and perhaps concern for the restaurant and your own desire to return there and not be a victim of such a false assumption, to make it more explicit to the waiter just what is going on. Will this disturb the ideal that Marsha paints here? I am afraid so; but unless you plan on not returning there, what choice do you have?

                    1. re: Boythefoodtalksto

                      i have NEVER, NEVER, heard of the management inquiring with or without the utmost discretion as to the amount of a tip. Servers think that poor tippers are just that- poor tippers! The only surefire way to make a statement with a bad tip is to be a regular and tip well most of the time, then tipping poorly makes a statement

                      1. re: nummanumma

                        Or to tell the server that you were unhappy with his/her performance

                        1. re: amyvc

                          Don't tell the server.

                          Manager, tell the manager.

                          1. re: therealbigtasty

                            Leave one cent as a tip. That's as clear a statement as possible. No, I did not forget to tip. Yes, your performance was terrible - have a penny on me.

                        2. re: nummanumma

                          It does happen in many places the servers are REQUIRED to
                          inform the MOD if they receive less than 15%.
                          The reasoning is that the tip percentage IS based on the service provided by the server or the kitchen. If this is the case, the manager should know or perhaps the customer has made a mistake.
                          I don't neccesarily agree with this practice, but it is quite prevalent.

                        3. re: Boythefoodtalksto

                          Your concerns, eloquently expressed, are among many that make the whole tipping business so exasperating. Therefore, rather than considering my own process ideal, I just resign myself to it as the least objectionable option. The last time I received appalling service (which, as I have mentioned, has really only happened twice in my life), my friend left no tip, wrote his reason on the bill, and we have not returned. I am afraid that I do not have the time or inclination to do more, and I really have no worry about a provider of wretched service's opinion of my generosity or lack thereof. I evidence my concern for the restaurant by patronizing it and enjoying my meal and participating as best I choose in the ritual of the tip; the restaurant can evidence its own concern for itself by monitoring the waitstaff to see that the members do their jobs. I have no authority over the waitstaff and I seek no authority over it; I am stuck with the responsibility to pay it and I accept it reluctantly, attempting to be fair and to keep it as painless as possible for myself. Anything else is just too much work. (Now that I've said that, I will admit to adding a few extra bucks over what I would usually add to the double-tax amount if I've asked something special of the waiter, and not doing so when the service seemed blase, but I don't do this often enough to get annoyed about it.)

                    2. I usually tip 20%. I cut it down to 15% if the service is just functional. I only go to 10% under two circumstances: Truly unpleasant snearly service gets 10%. OR if the server asks "Do you want change" when I pay with cash. I find that question so presumptious, nervy, and annoying that I feel a lesson is in order. AUTOMATIC 10%.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Big Fat Moe

                        UMM, maybe I'm missing something, but why is it wrong for the server to ask if you want change? If I don't have the exact change needed to tip what I want to tip, then I would welcome the server bringing change back.

                        1. re: fascfoo

                          The correct way to for the server to address this is to say "I will bring you your change" instead of asking a question, which implies that all the change may belong to the server, et cet. We've had several recent threads on that one.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            I like Karl S's suggestion of "I'll bring you your change." It is annoying to be asked "Do you need change?" but I wouldn't drop the tip to 10% because of that -- Moe, if you think you're teaching the server a lesson, it's likely that they won't know exactly WHY you left 10% unless you directly say something about the reason. Same goes for all infractions that result in a tiny tip -- the reason should be brought up to either server, manager, or both.

                            If I truly don't need change, when the server comes to collect the bill, I usually make it clear by saying "I don't need any change, thank you very much."