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How much do you tip when at a buffet?

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We had a great buffet brunch at the Joseph Ambler Inn outside of Philadelphia. It was a little pricey at $35 per person which includes all of what you would expect on an Easter Sunday meal including soft drinks. Our server poured coffee but did not foresee our needs such as giving us clean, new silverware after our dirty dish was taken away. We had to ask for new silverware, soup spoons, cream for our coffee. So, what would you tip? 10% on a $166 bill? What do you consider the norm for buffet tipping?

  1. Depends on the restaurant and the level of service.

    Minimal service for me nets about 10% if it's a higher end buffet, with the standard ~20% for great service. Sadly, many places, even higher end places, don't replace silverware unless you request it. If you give the server a heads up that you'd like clean tableware for each plate, they should be willing to comply of course.

    If it's a lower end place, I'll tip $1/person for *minimal* service--and 15-20% for better service.

    1. I always start off with the mindset that I will tip 20%, even at a buffet and then let the service speak for itself, if they are slow, it drops to 15% if it stinks and I cannot even get a refill on my water/drink then it drops to 10% If I can't get dirty plates removed as well, drops to 5%, and if they are just downright non-existant or ignore my requests I tip nothing. In my life, I have only "stiffed" the waitstaff a handful of times, and I eat out a lot, 90% of the time it is between 15-20%

      1 Reply
      1. re: gryphonskeeper

        Tips are shared with the runners who replenish the food trays. So I also figure tip by how well that job is getting done.

      2. I would only tip 10% if all the server did was bring drinks initially, but if they are looking after us, I tip as I would for full service, 15-20%. I can think of one Indian buffet, closed now, where they did a wonderful job of clearing plates, refreshing drinks, bringing fresh dosas and tea from the kitchen that weren't buffet items, always asking if there was anything you wanted from the menu, that sort of attention. I always tipped them 20% when they were so helpful. As a rule, I avoid buffets unless I can go just when they open, though, and many other restaurants are not nearly as attentive.

        2 Replies
        1. re: amyzan

          Buffets are great when you have kids with you.. that is when I go. You don't have to wait for half an hour for a kids cheeseburger meal while the kids roll all over the booth seats out of sheer bordom, plus you can get them to try things they have never tried before without wasting a ton of money on an entire order that goes uneaten. Also good for when you are on a very limited time constraint or budget.

          1. re: gryphonskeeper

            Yeah, I don't have kids, so that wouldn't have entered my mind! Makes perfect sense.

        2. The norm is 10%. Hasn't changed. You are free to tip more, but if by "norm" you mean the etiquette standard in the US, it's 10%.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Karl S

            Wow. I've never heard the 10% buffet "norm." I just googled Miss Manners and she suggests that one always tip a minimum of 15% "regardless of the quality of the service."

            1. re: tokyorosa

              Well, all of my etiquette books (which are published in the past decade) and most websites on this specific issue still adhere to the 10% norm.

              1. re: Karl S

                I have also heard that 10% is the "norm" for buffet service. While I typically stay away from buffets, we do go to buffet brunch about 2x's/year but the parents pay for us "kids" so I don't really know what they actually tip.

          2. 10% is where I start. It goes up significantly if they keep my glass filled (I drink LOTS)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jimmy Buffet

              Refilling beverages is VERY important for buffet service. It's one of the only times the server has a chance to make an impression. We tip about $2 per person - hubby and I- $4-$5 total depening.. Most of the time, it's a Chinese buffet - where you get your own drinks, etc. I also add that we are very low maintenece customers and eat in about 20 minutes at most buffets