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Tip more at your regular haunts or when bill is low?

The 12cent tip thread got me wondering if part of the divide on tipping is the difference between people who eat out to eat vs people who eat out as a treat or as entertainment.

We eat at 5 or 6 family run low end places on a rotating basis, so we're in there once a week or so. The typical bill for 2 is under $25 usually. These are Ethiopian, Vietnamese, sushi,, Thai, Chinese, Jamican, burrito type places. Owner operated, usually owner family servers. In many cases we have seen the kids grow from spindly pre-teens to post-university grads.

Routinely we tip +30%, even if the service isn't protypically 'good' because we get the courtesies of regulars, we want to them to stick around, and frankly, at a certain point % tips just don't scale.

We often do this when we are trying a new place but the bill is tiny. Like, the new dumpling place . . . no way we could eat more than $15 worth of food but leaving $20 didn't hurt a bit.

Are we the only ones that do this? I figure, an extra $1 or two isn't going to make any difference to us, and it's a huge difference in the expression of appreciation we leave. And I am all about saying thank you to those most familiar to me

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  1. We tip highly all the time. If it's one of our regular places, it is not unusual for us to leave 30%+. If it's a place to which we may never return, we still tip 20%+. I worked in restaurants for 12 years and I can tell you that the extra $1 or $2 can make a server/bartender's day. And it doesn't hurt me to leave it.

    1 Reply
    1. Yep, right there with you. When the tab is quite low, percentage isn't a factor for us. For a $12 dinner tab, we're still likely to leave $5 or so. And at the places we frequent (not the same number or frequency that you do, but one neighborhood spot we're at probably 3 times a month) we tip a relatively high percentage even though the bill is usually about $100 (they have really excellent drinks and half bottles of wine). We tend to tip $30 or maybe even $40 or $50 when the server has been particularly attentive. They're great folks and they pay attention to my wife's dietary restrictions to the point that they remind us of thing she can't eat (we will often taste each other's dishes and the staff make sure to point out when she shouldn't taste whatever I've ordered).

      1. jfood thinks being a regular means:

        - you treat each other well. The resto tries it best to fit you in
        - custo reciprocates by leaving larger than normal tips

        Jfood also thinks that wrt lower cost meals, the percentage don't mean that much. The only meal that the jfoods can eat in our neighborhood that is less than $50 is the local chinese/asian. one has good service and the owner watched out for the little jfoods when they were younger. jfood leave a large tip. The other couldn't care less about the custo wrt sefvice (unbelievable food tho) and they receive 15-20%, no matter what the bill.

        1. If I loved the food or if it is a place that I frequent and I appreciate the food/service, yes, I tip more...usually 25 or 30 percent

          1. I've been doing a lot of analyzing on my feelings about eating out, tipping, treatment I expect, treatment I receive, what I can do better as a diner, etc. lately. OK, I'm not working right now, and I don't want to do all those yucky errand-type things around the house, so now I actually have time to think! :-)

            I'm quite frugal to start with, and my parents hardly ate out because to them, eating out was a luxury. My mom always had the time to cook, so there was really no reason to eat out, except for special occasions (which we didn't do until I was at least 18). Therefore, I didn't have the normal "everyday" training as my daughter has been exposed to (not just tipping, but how to act in a nice restaurant, how to order off the menu, how to treat the server - nicely, of course). Almost everything I learned have been trial and error and watching people (and I don't do that well).

            Now at 40, of course, I can't blame things on my parents or lack of training, because I've had lots of exposure, but you know how birds of a feather flock together, so most of my friends that I eat out with have had the same background: hardly ever ate out until they could afford to on their own, etc. So I wasn't really learning the stuff you all talk about. Plus, it wasn't really something I thought about too much. I think it's a little stressful to enjoy my meal when I have to remember that I'm subsidizing my servers' income, that they may have to share tips with others, that they may be taxed more based on perceived tips, that sharing because I want to eat less may cause a restaurant to go out of business, and that lingering a few minutes longer when there's people waiting is such a terrible thing. For example, tonight I was all stressed out because there was a long line of people waiting, and our table of 14 wasn't leaving quick enough - imagine how stressful it is eating out with me!). It's a lot to think about, especially when I'm supposed to be the customer.

            My general rule is that I leave a 15% tip on the amount before tax for regular service. I rarely go under, and I rarely go over. Yes, when I used to eat at Chinese restaurants and my bill was $5, I would tip 75 cents. I just didn't give it any extra thought. It's only been in the last year or two that I finally thought about it and figured that tipping an extra dollar in many cases brings the percentage up to 20% which may give the perception that I'm tipping little better but hardly cost me anything.

            In the last few months, I've noticed that my tipping pattern has been that if it's a family owned place, especially one that is new and looks like it's struggling but has good service and food, we'd leave a larger than 15% tip (sometimes 30% because again, we're talking about that $1 or $2 more) because it's our unspoken way of encouraging them to stick around. Today we went to a Filipino restaurant where you get your food in line and seat yourself afterwards. The total was about $13. It was a family owned business, so there were other members of their family visiting, so the workers were talking to them as well and eating a late lunch, but two of the ladies checked up on us a couple of times. We didn't need anything, but DH decided to drop $2 in the tip jar before we left - this may have been the second time we've ever done that. When we left, each thanked us and asked us to return.

            Deep down inside, I feel that if I'm returning on a regular basis yet tipping 15%, it's better than tipping 20-30% but going less often. I know others feel like if you can't afford it, then you shouldn't eat out, but that just doesn't seem right to me. Going back to being frugal, what kills me (even though I do it) is when the bill is very high - to me, that's like $300 and then having to tip $50! I'm thinking, "What! That's another two or three meals!" :-) Hey, I've come a long way since my 75 cent tips!

            3 Replies
            1. re: boltnut55

              < it's our unspoken way of encouraging them to stick around>
              that's exactly the spirit I share, your post was very interesting and helped me see why some people might do the 75 cent thing without any malicious intent

              1. re: boltnut55

                I think the notion you've come across that its a larger tip in terms of percentage but doesn't cost you much of anything is actually a really important one. I think about that all the time. If you have lunch and the tab is $19.83, you could leave $3 and that would be considered a perfectly acceptable tip, or you could put $25 on the table and for $2 you've left what anyone would consider to be a very nice tip that will likely make the person who was your server feel pretty good and if you had a good experience, will definitely communicate that. I always try to stop for a moment before I leave the tip, after I've done the math on 15% or 20% or whatever and think about the actual amount I'm leaving.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  Exactly! In most instances, the difference between 15% and 20% (or for me, 20% and 25%) is no more than a three or four dollars, and it's often as little as a dollar, yet it makes a big difference. In places where I'm a regular, I tend to tip around 25%, and I can tell you that it makes a BIG difference in my treatment. I don't even really do it for that reason, it's really because I realized that a few dollars makes a big difference early on and kept tipping like that, but the service that I get (and not infrequent little freebies), is one reason I keep doing it.