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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."

                      2. The customary US tipping range is 15-20% on the pre-tax total, generally including beverages (including wine), for full service dining (as opposed to, for example, buffets, where 10% is the norm). There are a variations that have been the subject of many threads (expensive wines, with or without the services of a wine steward, for example) before.

                        More to what appears to be your real concern, your friend was not being friendly, and you might find it worth learn to discount about what such friends think about your tipping if it is in the ballpark -- if you had tried to tip 10% when everyone else was in the ballpark, I could perhaps understand the attempt at shaming because it is a reaction to unsociable behavior.

                        1. Numerous threads on this subject over the last few months.

                          I start at 15% and work up or down from there depending on the service. I postedd the minum expectations from a waiter a few weeks ago and another poster named Davis did the same for the waiters point of view. Together there were 300 responses, so there is a vibrant past on the subject.

                          1. What about tipping at Japanese restaurants where you're seated at a table, most at your table order from the regular menu, but some order from the sushi bar. There's a tip jar on the sushi bar, but isn't the waiter still expecting 15 - 20%? How to split the tip?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: pikawicca

                              The Japanese restaurant I worked at in college had a tip out scheme similar to the busboys/bartenders. At the end of the night when we did our cashouts, our orders from the sushi bar were tallied, and we had to give the sushi chef a percentage of our sales from the sushi bar (now mind you, it is not a percentage of our tips, although if we got a good tip from a sushi-based table, we would definetly include extra money). This is actually something that all people should remember when tipping. What you are giving your server is not all going home with them. There are many people that they must turn around and dole out money to at the end of the night (bussers, food runners, bartenders). So by giving your server 15%, they are really only walking with 10% by the end of the night. Is it your responsiblity to pay the salary of the whole restaurant? No. But remember, an extra $2 from you isn't much for a job well done, but by the end of the night adds up a lot to them (especially in at rent time!)

                              1. re: emmie

                                That does not change the standard in places where 15% is the norm. And that $2 might be just as important to a customer. Mind you, I normally tip 20-25% plus. I just don't countenance trying to shame people who are actually tipping the customary norm.

                                1. re: emmie

                                  Don't forget Uncle Sam's cut.

                              2. I hold to the traditional and customary 15 percent. 20 perecent I give for exceptional service, sometimes even 25 percent. 10 percent is for bad service.

                                1. I am a server and let me go on the record that I think 20% is tipped way too much. I do probably tip more than some, but I hate people who tip 20% across the board. The way I see it, bad waiters who consistently get 20% have absolutely no incentive to either leave the business or try to be better. If these bad waiters kept getting 10%-15% tips, it would send a message that they should either strive to be better or get out of the business. I see serving as being ideally like any profession. The better you do, the more you make. Unfortunately, too many people reward lackluster service simply because the feel bad for the waiter. If people tipped more in line with the service they got, bad waiters would get out of the business and we would hopefully be left with more good ones. Having said all this, I tend to tip 15% for average service; 18% for good service, and 20% for great service. I also know very well what is good/bad service and what is out of the control of the server.

                                  1. It depends on the locale. In Phoenix, 15% is customary. I usually tip slightly above that.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                      Seth, your servers are making $2.13 an hour. Don't be customary, be nice.


                                    2. I would never dine with anyone if they tipped only 15%.
                                      I would somehow have to add more money to the table to make up for it while they weren't looking. Some of you cling to the notion that 15% is still standard, but that only tells a tale about you... One that would send me running for the hills.
                                      I tip 20% across the board and so do my dining companions.

                                      24 Replies
                                      1. re: uman

                                        Actually, the standard does vary over the US -- as has been attested many times (by both waiters and customers) on these boards in the past -- so people are not necessarily wrong in leaving 15% as an adequate tip.

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          I think 15% is inadequate. I'd be horrified to dine with such a person.

                                          1. re: uman

                                            Well, you have many people (very like a substantial majority, from what I can read) in the US you need not concern yourself dining with, and I am sure the feeling would become mutual if they knew you were horrified at such a prospect. No need to catch leprosy. We'll remind them to ring a bell if they near your table.

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              Are you aware of what some servers make in the States? I worked in Maine one summer and the management can pay tip-makers much less than the minimum wage- those servers are counting on your tips to bring their income to a reasonable level.

                                            2. re: uman

                                              Egads. That's all I have to say about your comment.

                                              1. re: uman

                                                You gotta lighten up on standards.

                                                "horrified to dine with such a person" who leaves 15%. I only hope that my friendship, companionship, sense of wit, joie de vivre, and the pleasantness of my persona allows all my friends and business associates to look past my inadequate 15% tip. Imagine how lonely I would be if they knew all my other faults like having a hole in my sock, dirty dishes in the sink, using bath towels more than once and taking a taste of a grape in the store before buying the bunch.

                                                Thee who lives in glass houses should not cast stones nor get changed in the living room.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  Well, if they were from backwoods Alabama, I would cut them some slack, but if they lived in Boston, New York, etc, I'd wonder if they ever got out of the house.
                                                  I really don't know anyone other than some of my older family members (who rarely dine out)that thinks 15% is the norm. I mean, clearly the 15% folks exist from reading this, but I do not know these people. I guess there are more cheap tippers than I ever realized. My bad.

                                                  1. re: uman

                                                    It's not just "backwoods" areas where 15% is still the customary norm, as had been testified by many folks on these boards. You may not know those folks and areas, but from what I have read it seems they are still in the majority. And they would not necessarily be "cheap". It might help not to need to judge them.

                                                    Living in Boston as I do, I would say that there are plenty of neighborhoods (outside the dining mecca 'hoods) and towns where 15% may be the customary and acceptable tip level for most diners, based on my conversations (with diners and waiters over the years).

                                                    Manhattan has always been the outlier in this regard, as was long acknowledged as such in etiquette discussion of tipping in the US. That status has migrated to other dining meccas, but outside that I would be hard pressed to say that the predominant custom has shifted so much as to permit judging others as cheap.

                                                    1. re: uman

                                                      It isn't an issue of cheap tippers at all. People are tipping what the market supports. In Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver, Tucson, Salt Lake City, and many other cities, the standard tip amount is 15%.

                                                      It is the height of provincialism to suggest that what happens in New York or Boston is the de facto standard for every other city in America.

                                                      1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                        You can defend your measly 15% tipping all you want. I'm not saying that there are regional differences, but if you are in Metro Boston or New York, it is indeed a cheap tip.

                                                        1. re: uman

                                                          Even, within Metro Boston and Greater New York, there are variations by neighborhood and town. It's not uniform.

                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                            So which neighborhoods get your 15%? Do any get 20%?

                                                            1. re: uman

                                                              I normally tip over 20%. But you can be sure that there are all sorts of places outside the major mecca dining neighborhoods where many and probably most patrons are tipping closer to 15% as their base.

                                                      2. re: uman

                                                        Whoa, whoa, whoa. There is no place in these interesting discussions to cast dispursions on anyone's economic or living conditions. Sorry, but way over the line on these comments.

                                                        It is also extremely rude calling people who have made a conscious decision to leave a tip anything close to cheap. That also is uncalled for.

                                                        It's great that you have the willingness to leave tips that you feel are appropriate. Likewise I am willing to bet that everyone on these boards leaves tips that they too feel appropriate. Uman, on another board you felt that certain cooking classes were too expensive. I may feel that they are reasonable and that is where I would like to spend my disposable income.

                                                        I have a friend who leaves less tip than I leave but who cares. I love going out with him and his wife and to think I would not enjoy the pleasure of their company because he leaves 5% less than me is, quite frankly, extrmely immature.

                                                        You leave what you want, I leave what I want, you go home in the car you drove and I do likewise.

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          As a waiter, I just get over the tip.

                                                          Actually, I don't look at that until the end of my shift.

                                                          The waiters who look at the tip every time and worry about it are the ones who don't make that much and get bitter over time.

                                                          As long as my bills get paid, I'm a happy camper.

                                                        2. re: uman

                                                          Im sorry to tell you, but even in NY there are a lot of us who havent gotten the news (from who??) that 20% is the convention. Twice the tax in NYC and maybe a little more is what we've been doing for years - maybe Mayor Bloomberg will pass a law.

                                                  2. re: uman

                                                    1st- Do you realize you were contradictory in writing that "I would never dine with anyone if they tipped only 15%.I would somehow have to add more money to the table to make up for it while they weren't looking."?
                                                    And why on earth would add to the tip "while they weren't looking." if you feel that strongly about it, why be sneaky & not upfront w/ your dining companions?
                                                    2nd- So you tip the same 20% "across the board" every time with no consideration for the quality & level of service? Bad service is rewarded and excellent service is penalized. That violates the basic reason we tip - to give an incentive to provide good service.
                                                    Along w/ adjusting the tip to reflect the service- when possible, I believe in telling the server if the service was above or below normal so they relate it to the amount of the tip. Everyone likes to hear about it when they do good and maybe I'll get a response to take into consideration from those providing sub par performance (such as "I'm so sorry but we're down 2 servers and a cook tonite. Please come back again and we'll do better.")

                                                    1. re: ilikefood

                                                      I'm usually dining to enjoy the food and company, not to grade the waiter. Unless there's rude service, I'm giving 20%.
                                                      I can't remember the last time I ate with someone tipping 15%. Maybe back in the 80's? And as much as I hate dismal tippers, I probably wouldn't bring it to their attention. I would just avoid dining with them again if I could help it. Not everyone likes causing a scene.

                                                      1. re: uman

                                                        I agree uman. Really good manners means NEVER pointing out someone else's lapse in manners. :)

                                                        1. re: nummanumma

                                                          Since when is not always tipping at least 20% a "lapse in manners"?
                                                          OK, manners towards dinner companions is a legitimate subject on this topic. If uman wouldn't discuss his/her strong opinion on the 20% tip w/ those violating it, I wonder if uman ever told the ex-dinning companions the reason she/he dropped them. If uman didn't- very rude and disrespectful. Even if uman did, it's so petty (I mean come on! -over a few $'s difference)and rude.
                                                          It's good manners to allow the one paying the bill to determine how much to tip. If the bill is shared- discuss how much to tip and agree on an amt for all to share.

                                                        2. re: ilikefood

                                                          how hard is it to slip an extra $20 under the sugar or into the waiter's palm? I've done it loads of times when I feel it is warranted.

                                                          1. re: nummanumma

                                                            Agreed. A much more suave and classy move.

                                                          2. re: uman

                                                            uman- OK, for you, service, except for rudeness, is not a factor in tipping, but it can be a determining factor in choosing your dinner companions. It's a free country. However, people who tip the same for very bad and very good service (CHounders: recall your worst and best experiences)are doing a disservice to the service staff (esp the good & even the bad - they have no incentive to correct the service and may lose tips & customers), the restaurant, and, in rewarding bad service & helping to perpetuate it-the vast majority of us for whom service is important. Correct me if I'm wrong but based on your statement about not dining to grade the waiter you also never complain or compliment. I understand- "Not everyone likes causing a scene." (sarcasm) but you're doing more harm than good. IMO-The fact that you don't care/choose to ignore the major reason for voluntary tipping disqualifies you from telling anyone how to tip, no matter how "horrified" you might get.

                                                      2. I tip 20% for good service, 15% for eh, and 10% when I'm trying to make a point. It's strange that "better than good" dosen't have much bearing, other than maybe a little rounding up.

                                                        1. 20% post tax. If there are minor issues usually 18%. I haven't had really bad service since college, so I don't tip below that.

                                                          1. 20% is standard for me, more if the service has been outstanding. I pretty much use 15% as a message that my service was poor. Waiting is too hard a job for me to feel OK about going any lower than that, even for bad service. Although I'm not sure whether that makes the point that my service sucked, or if the wait staff just think I'm a hick who doesn't know how to tip.

                                                            1. if the food was amazing or the waiter memorable etc, in other words, if the dining experience was wonderful, i tip 20%, in small cheap but amazing restaurants (you know the kind, the owners know your name and make the best homemade food ever) i usually tip a little more, but if its an expensive restaurant and i'm not at all impressed with the food or service, then i tip less.why charge us such outrageous prices for less than memorable fare and then expect us to tip extra for bad service?

                                                              1. Well, this entire topic does bring up a question for me. Since the tip percentage seems to be all over the place as far as what people leave for bad service, standard service, good service and excellent service, as a server how do you interpret the tips you receive? I once had a conversation with a woman who was a waitress and complained loudly about the bad tips she used to get. However, after spending 15 minutes with her, I suspected that there was a reason for the bad tips. But it was lost on her - ALL of her customers were either ignorant rubes who didn't know how much they were supposed to tip, or mean-spirited, unfair patrons. So does a low tip ever really deliver the desired message to a server?

                                                                13 Replies
                                                                1. re: Andiereid

                                                                  it seems like it should and this was my point, how does a waitor/waitress know the difference between excellent and good and poor if we do not tip accordingly?

                                                                  1. re: Amanda Enclade

                                                                    Right, it seems like it should, but no one wants to think they do a bad job at something and it's pretty human to rationalize. That's why I'd like to hear from wait staff - if you get a bad tip, do you usually think it's a problem with the customer, or do you ever think, "Well, I could have done a better job". And here, I'm not talking about honest mistakes like spilling things. I'm talking about really poor service.

                                                                    1. re: Andiereid

                                                                      Well, I feel that waiters know themselves when they've done a poor job. I mean, waiters and waitresses eat out too, right? I think there's a fairly "chunky" midsection in the bell curve of acceptable wait service and servers should know when they've fallen outside of that and not be surprised when they receive a bad tip.

                                                                      1. re: fascfoo

                                                                        Oh, that this were true! But if it were, how would that explain all the examples of "service with attitude" that I'm sure could fill a whole thread here on its own. I've been to establishments where it almost seemed like the staff cultivated a snooty attitude -- places that seemed to prioritize "ambience" and a catering to a certain "hip" clientele than focusing on dining & service. I don't know why anyone puts up with that. Then again, Southern California (and I'm sure NYC) can be very screwed up!

                                                                      2. re: Andiereid

                                                                        I only waitressed in a cafe in Harvard Square, over 20 years ago, but my experience was that I was fully aware of when I was being stiffed because I didn't do a very good job (sometimes you just lose your rhythm, and in really bad cases you can't get it back the rest of the whole shift...) and when I was being stiffed because the party didn't know better.

                                                                        I loved my brief experience waitressing, by the way, and I think it taught me an enormous amount about how to work in general, even though I had had many jobs before that one. And receiving tips was one of the things I loved best about it, because it was a daily performance review, and I knew that more often than not I could control how I was doing tip-wise by doing a better job.

                                                                        My own serving experience, short as it was, made me a better but a more critical tipper - I try to be generous when service is sub-par because the server is overworked, but I notice when it's slow and the servers are all hanging out near the kitchen and chit-chatting.

                                                                        Apropos the actual thread topic: my standard tip is 15% plus a little extra (probably actually in the 17-18% range) but it doesn't take a lot extra for me to bump that up to about 20%. BEFORE tax, definitely. However, I'm bothereded by the folks who think that 15% is a bad tip. I agree with those who point out that if everyone ALWAYS tips at a rate of 20% or better, poor-to-mediocre servers will never get the feedback they need to improve their performance.

                                                                        1. re: Allstonian

                                                                          This is good to know. We ate at DB Bistro Moderne in NYC and our waiter was HORRIBLE. It's the worst service I've had anywhere in a very long time. He was very attentive to a table he had next to us, but basically ignored us. But there were so many other people helping him serve us (guys who refilled our water glasses, people who brought out our food, people who bussed the table) that I didn't want to give him a really low tip, since I figured he would have to split it, and I didn't want to stiff the other guys. I tipped 15% (I included tax and alcohol actually, so it probably wound up being closer to 18%). Ordinarily I tip 20% on the bill final total, but he had no way of knowing that, so I doubt he "got" the fact that I was dissatisfied with the service. I did write a letter to the manager after we got home. I didn't want a comp, I don't want money back - the food was outstanding - but I could have decked that guy. He was awful.

                                                                          1. re: Andiereid

                                                                            Totally understandable. I have in such cases slipped the more attentive helper (busser or runner) a nice tip on my way out.

                                                                          2. re: Allstonian

                                                                            I absolutely HATE it when I see chatting servers and no one stops by for a long period of time. That's just lazy. And I'm a career waiter/bartender...

                                                                            1. re: therealbigtasty

                                                                              Exactly - it's a huge pet peeve of mine. I used to have a real problem with that on late lunch breaks. I had a very short lunch period, so I tended to deliberately go AFTER the big lunch rush (say 1:30-2:00) only to get stranded in a half-empty restaurant while the servers hung out together by the kitchen door.

                                                                          3. re: Andiereid

                                                                            I speak as a waiter with 12 years of experience and age. When I was younger, I pretty much thought that bad tips were the result of bad customers. But, with age comes wisdom. You learn A) not to sweat the small stuff; and B) when you really have let a table down.

                                                                            I think alot of people, young and old, get into the business not to be good waiters, but to make good money. I see so many young people who don't understand what good service is, don't care what it means to be a good server. They just want the money. These are the ones who look at every tip and declare anybody who tips under 18% a**holes. They see no connection between bad tips and bad service. There is a sense of entitlement and it drives me crazy. No one is entitled to 20%. They have to earn it. That is one of the reasons that I advocate not tipping 20% across the board. If these kids aren't making good money, maybe the'll either step up to the plate or get out of the business.

                                                                            I've been doing this long enough now that I know when I've failed a party. And I try really hard not to. And I will at least apologize if I've really messed up. So if I get a crappy tip from a party that I know didn't work out, I know why I got it. Sometimes I'll get a crappy tip from a table that I know had a great time and enjoyed my service. Those, I just have to shrug off. They are clearly used to a different level of tipping than is the norm in my area.

                                                                              1. re: hilltowner

                                                                                THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. This is the most well reasoned, mature response from the waiter side of the discussion i have read in months.

                                                                                1. re: hilltowner

                                                                                  Bravo, bravo. I worked in hotel training and personnel management for years (in China and Southeast Asia) and we were always trying to chase (and not just in F&B) this standard of professionalism and to instill it in our staffs. "Seamless and invisible" is the only service standard worth pursuing in a quality operation (though obviously it doesn't suit ALL establishments.) That transition from waiter (or whatever) to true professional is something to behold. When someone achieves that level of real service, as you clearly have, (especially when matched by the kitchen, the menu, and the ambience), it is worth not just a generous tip, but loyalty and great word-of-mouth. Congratulations.

                                                                          4. My last question regarding tipping didn't get any feedback, so I will try on this thread.

                                                                            What to do if you notice that a good portion of patrons at a lunch buffet are NOT tipping, and you are neutral on the matter, yourself, looking around to get a feel for what the accepted practice is? And if a tip is left, should the percentage be different considering the nature of the meal, i.e. a self-serve buffet?.

                                                                            Sometimes, I do tip, particularly on those days I am at a restaurant that is having a slow day for business, due to the weather or day of the week; I want to express my appreciation for the restaurant being open for the few patrons there. I also am moved to tip at a lunch buffet if something special has been made, or if the food is extraordinary and I want the restaurant to really know this.

                                                                            My main gripe is that I feel that the people working the hardest in the restaurant are the lowest paid, that is, the line cooks, or anyone other than the head chef (who is generally more generously compensated for his/her skill/efforts/responsibility). How is my tipping going to reward them for their efforts? From what I have heard, tips that bartenders and SOME servers take home, more than makes up for any sympathy given to them for not "being tipped" by some patrons. (This doesn't negate the fact that some servers would starve without tips received, and the take home pay is still not that much.) I would much rather have most employees at a restaurant be paid a similar amount, have a gratuity built into the menu price, and if a server does not serve appropriately, then replace the person. A system of feedback notes left by patrons could inform the manager, in addition to spot checks or supervision, if the servers are doing their jobs. I find it demeaning for an employee to have to base his survival on the generosity of patrons.

                                                                            Can you imagine if every employee in the service industry was given a very low base pay, and had to survive on the tips of the customers? The arguement that tips motivate better service is a specious arguement.

                                                                            12 Replies
                                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                              The standard tip for buffet is 10%; hasn't changed.

                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                If a patron pays by cash, the tip is typically left on the table even though the payment for the buffet is made at the entrance/exit register. I often see whichever server is passing by the table pick up the dollar/dollars left by patrons. Unless the manager is constantly keeping an eye on who leaves what, how do they know which patrons reward them for their service? If you are paying by credit card and request that the tip be added to the bill, then the person behind the register who is more than often closer to the managerial level, will know that you left something extra.

                                                                                At a buffet, suppose the servers do nothing other than point you to your table ... is the purpose of the tip meant to boost the base pay of the servers? If the arguement is that a tip is meant to reward service by the servers, then that's why I think many patrons I see at buffets leave nothing extra.

                                                                                And ... what if a restaurant raises buffet prices higher than the competition offering something similar ... could the inference be that they are building in a "built-in gratuity?"

                                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                  You refer to servers: what are they doing? Servers at buffets normally provide beverages and clear dirty plates (because your not supposed to re-use plates, for hygenic reasons). That's what the 10% tip is for. I've never been to a buffet where those services are not provided.

                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                    Working a buffet can be MORE difficult than table service- clearing 5-6 plates per person is hard work. Don't undertip at buffets people, it is just cheap.

                                                                                    1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                      10% is not an undertip. It is still the etiquette standard for buffets, as I have checked in the standard etiquette books that discuss the subject. You might want to realize that I was actually arguing *in favor* of tipping at buffet against the thought that *no* tip was owed. A tip is owed. Just not the same a full table service.

                                                                                      YOu might want the custom to change, but that's the custom. You might want to think people cheap who adhere to the custom. And you and I both want world peace.

                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                        I just want people who are busting their butts to be properly compensated. Anyone who has ever worked a buffet knows how hard it can be. By all means, carry on with the proper etiquette- I just wanted to point out that working a buffet can be pretty tough and a lot of people don't realize that. Here's to world peace!

                                                                                        1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                          And all I was pointing out that one cannot reasonably judge others cheap when they are reasonably following the prevailing local custom.

                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                            Good point to remind us that servers at buffets are doing
                                                                                            more than just pouring water and directing traffic.

                                                                                            It would be useful to know what they are being paid vs.
                                                                                            the rest of the restaurant staff. If they are being paid
                                                                                            far below the line cooks and everyone else, I do want to
                                                                                            make an effort to equalize the difference, but let's say
                                                                                            that their pay is similar. If a job description involves among other activities moving plates, pouring water, then that is what your base
                                                                                            pay is for - not to stand around doing nothing. A person should not be paid more because they are simply performing the requirements of the position. Other than
                                                                                            being a security guard, most positions involve continual
                                                                                            action ... that is what one is being paid for.

                                                                                            Rewarding a server for cleaning tables of plates, pouring
                                                                                            water at buffets doesn't strike me as extraordinary work,
                                                                                            or "grueling" work and "you don't know how hard that is."

                                                                                            I consider standing over a hot grill, cleaning large
                                                                                            pots and pans in the kitchen "grueling" work. If anyone is
                                                                                            in the restaurant industry and knows what the typical pay
                                                                                            is for the staff at ethnic restaurants that also have
                                                                                            buffets, then the discussion of what the staff "deserves"
                                                                                            may have more accurate information to base opinions on.

                                                                                            Just my bias, but in the restaurant world, servers and
                                                                                            bartenders are equivalent to the sales and executive level,
                                                                                            whereas the cooks and support staff in the kitchen are the
                                                                                            production workers. In the working world, the business
                                                                                            community normally rewards the "white collar" workers, the
                                                                                            executive and sales level staff who deal with the public
                                                                                            much more highly than the "blue collar" workers who do
                                                                                            production. In my world, they are all contributing equally,
                                                                                            but what I notice is that they are compensated vastly

                                                                                            I have been told what some restaurant servers (bartenders)
                                                                                            take home in tips. I'm not looking for an ongoing
                                                                                            rebuttal thread here, but I don't understand how their
                                                                                            efforts equate to the multiple they do vs. the kitchen
                                                                                            cook and support staff who are providing the goods for
                                                                                            the rest of the staff to give to customers.

                                                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                              Too true re: the kitchen staff. Often they get tipped out from the restaurant staff, but it could hardly be enough to reward the work they do. These guys are the backbone of the industry and they work more hours than most, certainly more hours than anyone in their pay range. And as for sort of resenting what servers/bartenders mak- hey, no one is stopping you from trying the job if you'd like to do the work for the money- give it a try, right?

                                                                                              1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                                nummanumma - It is considerate, if true, that the kitchen staff
                                                                                                gets tipped out by the restaurant staff. The question is,
                                                                                                does the pay for servers equate fairly to the pay for the kitchen
                                                                                                staff? Sure, in this world, pay normally equates to the level
                                                                                                of responsibility. So, in a restaurant setting, the person
                                                                                                I see as deserving of being compensated for a significantly
                                                                                                higher pay is the manager and the head chef. They hold much
                                                                                                more responsibility for the operations of the restaurant
                                                                                                than other staff who are more involved in performing tasks of a more limited and prescribed nature, whose consequence is less make or break nature. If a manager or head chef screws up, the restaurant could die. If a server or cooks screw up, the effect is not as consequential, and at worst,
                                                                                                a few customers never come back. Taken to the extreme, if the server or cooks continue to mess up, and patrons stop coming, the responsibility for this turn of events falls on the shoulders of the manager for allowing the condition to exist. Thus, again, an outcome of larger dimensions is controlled more by his actions, not by those employed by him.

                                                                                                Sure, a server can ensure that a table is taken care of so
                                                                                                that the patrons will have an experience of their needs be
                                                                                                taken care of. But isn't it just as important that the kitchen staff
                                                                                                takes extra care to create great food so in a similar way that
                                                                                                the patrons feel special?

                                                                                                I don't resent bartenders making what they do, or servers who
                                                                                                are blessed to be rewarded with big tips to make what they
                                                                                                do. Just don't have them complaining that they're not getting
                                                                                                tips and "having trouble making ends meet" because some tables or
                                                                                                didn't leave a few bucks for their efforts. Tell that to the
                                                                                                kitchen staff who has slaved over a big pot of caked food particles
                                                                                                trying to clean the thing. What makes their work and contribution
                                                                                                any less deserving of a tip for their efforts? Answer: the value
                                                                                                that society places on certain positions; production workers
                                                                                                get paid less than sales people, in general, dribbling a basketball
                                                                                                in front of thousands, cheering you, gets rewarded more than
                                                                                                the individual (teacher) who is with your child for the entire day and shaping his/her mind for life.

                                                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                                  I gotta tell you- the gist of your post sounds as if you didn't even read my reply:
                                                                                                  "Too true re: the kitchen staff. Often they get tipped out from the restaurant staff, but it could hardly be enough to reward the work they do. These guys are the backbone of the industry and they work more hours than most, certainly more hours than anyone in their pay range."

                                                                                                  1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                                    nummanumma - sorry if my reply came across as having ignored
                                                                                                    your acknowledgement of the hard work the behind the scenes
                                                                                                    staff does. I did read your reply and appreciated your
                                                                                                    thoughtful comments.

                                                                                                    What prompted me to get on a soapbox was your invitation for
                                                                                                    me to try restaurant positions that pay lucratively.
                                                                                                    I just have a thing about people being reimbursed vastly
                                                                                                    differently when in fact, their efforts would seem to
                                                                                                    call for more equitable reimbursement. Sharing the tipping to the support staff is one way of addressing the difference.

                                                                            2. Everyone should work in the food industry for atleast a month of their life. It would clear up a lot of restaurant curiousity.

                                                                              I always tip 20 % & above, unless the server was down right rude.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: andlulu

                                                                                True, and you might be surprised at those of us in this discussion who have done so, and longer. It may not be as obvious as you think.

                                                                                1. re: andlulu

                                                                                  I think that when you are working in a high end restaurant, bringing home a few hundred dollars a night, you have to be giving superior service and should be tipped accordingly and held to the highest standards. I agree, folks working in cafes, coffee shops, barely making their rent need 20% to barely get by, but again when I am paying $$$-I expect the server to be high level in his profession and to take it seriously. I can't take on the "I feel sorry for them" mentality then.

                                                                                  1. re: Amanda Enclade

                                                                                    Who says anyone feels sorry for anyone? I just don't have time to get so serious about something that in the grand scheme of life means nothing, and if I am healthy and wealthy enough to spend $$$, I really shouldn't be complaining about much..

                                                                                    and I don't.

                                                                                    Bottom line is.. bad tippers will continue to tip badly, good tippers will continue to do the same, and the middle people have always just been in the middle.

                                                                                    There really isn't much to discuss.

                                                                                    1. re: andlulu

                                                                                      Doesn't "everyone should work in the food industry" imply that we should feel for the people giving service? Maybe I am confused by that statement and maybe you can clarify.
                                                                                      Going to a $$$ is a special occasion for me, not an every night or for that matter every week experience. If it was, and money was not an issue, I would most likely feel different. You're lucky that you don't have time for such subjects as tipping--and if service doesn't mean much to you I can see why. For me, going out is all about everything. The food, the service and the atmosphere. Cuisine in general is my grand scheme and something that I am very passionate about. I am currently reading Garlic and Sapphires about a New York Times food critic and her first chapters are all about how you get treated differently by an establishment depending on who you are. Us non VIP tippers can expect good service regardless of who we are, and if treated poorly or less than, we should have the right to tip less too. Just making a point. And yes, I am happy to be alive and much better off than most of the world! Thank you!

                                                                                2. How about for take out? When it's a full service restaurant, but you walk up and pick up your food to go?

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: labs

                                                                                    Nope. There have been a couple of long threads about that in the past couple of months. Some people do, most do not.

                                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                                      and yet if you've worked in the food industry, as you indicate that you have, you are aware that those servers are *tipping out* other staff on their full sales- regardless of how much of it is take out.. so your $50 take out with no tip is actually COSTING the server who put it together for you money. And it takes time to get a take-out order ready.

                                                                                      1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                        NOt at the places I do take out; it's not a server at the register but non-server staff. That's fairly common.

                                                                                  2. If the server does a good job always 20%+, I worked in restaurants a long time, and know how hard most servers work for their money.

                                                                                    However,if they are the type of server who is always taking smoke breaks, does not know the menu, lets my cocktail/beer stay empty for too long, is rude, etc... they get less.

                                                                                    1. Typically I over tip. I'd rather be too generous than too cheap and chances are whether it's an extra $5 - $10 on an $80 bill or an extra $20 than the normal 15 - 20 % on a $200 meal, the waiter or waitress needs the $$ more than do. I'm fortunate enought to be able to eat out, so I tend to be generous. Service has to be pretty horrific for me to screw them on the tip. Typically, they don't think they did anyting wrong anyway.

                                                                                      1. This is the third tipping thread on Chowhound I have seen. I responded to one already, but...hey what the heck.

                                                                                        Again, I find that what people think should be tipped depends on the board. In this thread on Chowhound, I have seen outrage expressed at anything less than a 20% tip. That seems to be the rule on this board with a couple people who tip less objecting. (I have seen messages on Chowhound where up to a 50% tip is suggested. The lowest I have seen here is the 10% buffet tip - which incidentally is too low I believe.)

                                                                                        I decided to google "tipping at restaurants" "how to tip at restaurants" and "tip at restaurants" to find different boards to see how others react.

                                                                                        I think many of you would be stunned. At one board, the majority were openly hostile to anyone who would tip more than 18%, and "15%" is the normal tip. At another board, there was a whole thread devoted to "when you shouldn't tip". Other individual messages include people stating that they'd never "fork over the pity tax" and think that people leaving any tip were crazy. Now *that* would be an embarrassing person to eat with.

                                                                                        It did not appear that the responses had anything to do with what region of the country they were in, incidentally.

                                                                                        I personally have left a 15% tip for the main bill, a 15% tip for the tax amount, and an extra 15% on top of the bill for all beverages. I used to do 18% and 15% only, but have noticed that the prices for all drinks have gone way up lately, which seems to be a hint to customers to up the tip, so I have responded. For those who object to tipping a tax amount, remember that waiters and waitresses pay meals taxes too when they eat out.

                                                                                        1. Maybe I missed this in the threads, but I made mention of it in one of my posts - don't most servers (especially in nicer restaurants) split out their tips to the bartender, bus persons, etc.? One of the reasons I didn't leave a really low tip at DB Bistro Moderne was because the other staff members provided exceptional service, and I didn't want to stiff them just to make a point that our main server was awful. If you leave a low tip for the server, how does this impact others who split the tip and did a good job?

                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Andiereid

                                                                                            For the past 35 yrs. I've been tipping like this:
                                                                                            20% is my standard tip for good service.
                                                                                            Up to 30% for better than average to great service.
                                                                                            10% if the service was mediocre.
                                                                                            0%(NADA) if the service was terrible---and I don't care if they like it or not!
                                                                                            10% for buffet service bbut if the service is not good the tip drops to 0%.
                                                                                            The key word here is "service".
                                                                                            Good service deserves a good tip but bad service deserves little to nothing OMO.

                                                                                            1. re: catnip

                                                                                              Those are fair standards for tipping as long as the service is good. I don't think any server is going to complain about what you do. If everyone tipped appropriately, some servers (especially the good ones) would have nothing to complain about. It is the bad ones the make us good ones look bad, but I do have to say that there are good servers being punished by the guest because of the bad ones. But, by the same token, there are bad guests that abuse the server as well. We do take some verbal hits every once in a while from the guest, as well, deserved or not! I, personally would NEVER deliberately insult a guest, but there have been MANY times when a guest has DELIBERATELY insulted me...and I know how to handle them in a professional manner that makes them want to crawl under the table...WITHOUT compromising my position in my restaurant.

                                                                                            2. re: Andiereid

                                                                                              in high-end dining, servers often pool their tips, and yes, have a large support staff with whom to share. at some places the end-of-shift tip-out is as much as 40%. subtract their 28% income tax, and then think what these hard-working folks are really bringing home!

                                                                                              people get so bent out of shape about the percentage. on $100 bill, the difference between 18% and 20% is TWO DOLLARS. in the grand scheme of life, i mean really, people...

                                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                Which also applies to people forming judgments about someone being cheap based on two dollars....

                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                  I agree. But why is $2 in the waiter's pocket "in the grand scheem of life" better than $2 in my pocket "in the grand scheem of life". I work hard for my $2 as well as the waiter, the busboy and all the others who split the tips. I agree more with Karl S below (I normally do) that it is very uncool to form judgements about someone and call him cheap based on $2.

                                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                    That's the info I was looking for. In situations where there is a support staff who did a good job, I'd rather the wait staff get "over" tipped to prevent the people who worked hard and did a good job from getting stiffed. After my experience with DB Bistro Moderne, I simply mailed a letter to the manager letting him or her know that we were not pleased with the service that waiter provided.

                                                                                                2. The magic of percentages is this: when inflation raises the price of dining, the
                                                                                                  amount of money the waiter earns rises proportionally.

                                                                                                  So any argument that the standard has to be raised from 15 to 20% because
                                                                                                  of increases in the cost of living is flat out, mathematically, wrong.

                                                                                                  That said, here in San Francisco 15% or thereabouts gets me fine
                                                                                                  service on repeat visits and does not humiliate my dining companions
                                                                                                  nor has a waiter ever followed me out to the street to throw my meagre
                                                                                                  tip to the ground and snarl, "keep it".

                                                                                                  But that's just me.

                                                                                                  1. 20%. Just divide the bill by 5, nice and easy. Great service a few dollars more, poor service a few dollars less, no set percentage, who needs math after a meal and a few drinks? Really bad service, talk to the manager or just don't go back.

                                                                                                    A $10 bill for breakfast at a diner: great service- 50% (Divide by 2), okay waitress - divide by 3.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: clam sauce

                                                                                                      > 20%. Just divide the bill by 5 [...] who needs math

                                                                                                      Of course anyone eating in a place with 8% tax who does this "divide by 5"
                                                                                                      thing is going to be paying 22%, not 20% tip. Not that that matters one way or
                                                                                                      the other, but this is why math is needed.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                        20%? Multiply the first 2 digits of your total by 2, 15%, add half of the first two digits of your total...for example: 20.00 at 15% iis 2+1=3. 20.00 at 20 % is 2+2=4...there you have it!

                                                                                                    2. Baseline 20%, post-tax, including wine (I have unfortunately never been in the position of testing my fortitude on the latter point with a check including, say, a $1k bottle), for average service. I frequently get better than average service and go to the low 20s%s-30% post-tax unless the service has been spectacular, for which I have tipped up to 100%. Very rarely, consistent significant service issues present themselves, and I'll tip 15%. My meal would have had to have been ruined for me to stiff a server, and as I have never let a meal be ruined by service (I would speak to a manager first), I have never stiffed a server. Everyone with whom I dine tips at least 20% post-tax, including alcohol; I have a good sense for the very few who wouldn't, and I always offer to pick up the tab (or in the case of one British friend who has been repeatedly told of our custom of percentage tipping but persists in leaving a U.K.-style tip of a dollar or two regardless of check size, I always pay the tip).

                                                                                                      1. I tip at least 10% (in the UK) unless service is really bad. I always tip by cash as well, to try to avoid owners from using the tip as part of the persons wage