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Chef treating you to dinner - how much to tip?

A chef at a local restaurant is treating me to dinner. I've arranged large parties with his restaurant through work, but have not been able to make the parties I've arranged - therefore he has invited me to come in for dinner. I know I should tip on the total cost of the meal - the average 20% or higher?

The chef also owns the restaurant - if that is important.

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  1. Its not unreasonable to ask for the bill or a copy of it so you know how to tip, then tip accordingly. The chef isn't buying you dinner and then going to expect a huge tip for his waiter, probably doesn't care for that matter. If the service is good 20% is just fine, if it exceeds your expectation and you are feeling generous, more than 20 is fine too, but don't feel like you need to make up for a free meal with a huge gratuity. Any self respecting server would agree.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Carmelizedbunions

      I agree with you. I'm in the buisness,and most people don't think about the person who is serving the meal,they tip the host a 20or 50 to walk them to a table,a 20 to the piano player ,and ask you if you could go put the 20 in piano tip jar,and sit at a table for two hours and have the server give them the best of service,and they get maybe a 10 dollar tip. I'm not saying to over tip ,but think of the time that you took up the table,.I also think 20% of the estimated bill would make any self respectig server happy! after all you had a good meal,and good service 20% is a good deal.

      1. re: Carmelizedbunions

        I wonder about asking for a copy of the bill. It seems ungracious to me and if you know the restaurant or if they have a website, you can easily calculate the approximate cost without asking them to create a bill for a comped meal. I agree that the tip should not be considerably higher than what you would tip on good service - however if by some strange turn of events the service is poor you still need to tip 20%.

      2. That's an interesting question. I have a nice relationship with a restaurant in town, and am sometimes given food and/or drink items gratis. Sometimes these are part of a larger evening of food and drink, but sometimes if I stop in to say hi to folks and have a glass of wine, there may be no bill at all. I've always been of the mind that one should tip close to the amount of $ that has been comped your way (for example, I'd leave a $10 tip on a comped glass of $10-15 wine). But again, the representative amounts that I've been comped don't really come close to your whole fancy dinner. I'd think your plan to go 20% or a bit more sounds fair in this instance.

        (By the way, if anyone disagrees with my methods above, let me know. It seemed like the sensical way to tip in these instances, but I'm certainly open to suggestion if others feel there's a more appropriate way to do it.)

        1 Reply
        1. re: litchick

          I would hazard the guess that if you stopped tipping that way, the comps would become less frequent!

        2. I have run into this situation before and the best I could do was estimate the bill and tehn tip accordingly. 20%

          1. that the chef is the owner does not matter. he will not be sharing in the tips.

            whenever i am comped lunch or dinner i tip closer to 50%. figure you would have paid 100% + 20% anyway. karma. it's worth it.

            sorry, but 20% on a free meal looks very cheap.

            1. Ah! A very interesting question indeed, maybe one of the most interesting I have encountered on CH. If the comped item/meal is not tooooo expensive (and I didn't know in advance it was to be comped) then I leave what the meal would have cost, i.e. a $100 tab, a $100 tip. I figure I am still coming out ahead.

              I haven't ever known in advance (well, maybe once) which is your predicament. I would leave 50% of what I think the bill would have been. No, the owner doesn't benefit at all and he/she is incurring all the costs. I guess I look at it as a rare opportunity to give the wait staff a nice boost. Rarely is a restaurateur in the fortunate position to give bonuses, and while my pitiful tip is hardly the bonus most of them deserve, at least it's out of the ordinary.

              3 Replies
                  1. re: chaddict

                    I do the exact same thing with the same logic...I'm trying to do something nice for the owner - boosting the morale of his staff - as a thank-you for the free meal.