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coombe Jul 14, 2007 12:14 AM

My reason for asking the following is not to be critical but to fit in with the local culture. I would very much like to understand what is expected in the way of tips in the USA. I live in northern Italy where tips are not expected, not even in restaurants and I rarely leave one. Sometimes the restaurant cashier will actually round my bill down from say euros to 70 so obviously our culture here is very different. Please help me understand how I should behave in a restaurant when it comes to paying - I have been to the States before but always with my American friends, this time I might have to deal with things myself. Thank you.

  1. f
    filth Dec 12, 2007 01:59 PM

    Sheesh, this is much ado about nothing.

    filth has only lived in major metro areas in the US.

    If he is in a cheapie place (diner, etc), filth feels that these servers are working for low wage and get small tips from cheapass patrons. Ergo, filth tips big (at least 25%) on a measly diner bill.

    Other places, filth estimates up or down from 20%, based on the service, taking into account whether it is the server's or kitchen's fault.

    At high end places, filth looks at what the wine bill is. filth believes that it is not harder to open a $200 bottle of wine than it is to open a $25 bottle of wine. Again, filth starts at 20% of the total (post tax) bill and estimates from there. If there's a lot of expensive/low labor bottles, filth may adjust down but in that situation, filth usually feels like a real Scrooge if he tips less than 20%. Nonetheless, if he has to tip high for a lot of expensive wine, he puts off his next similar experience for awhile.

    1. foodseek Dec 11, 2007 09:32 AM

      Find this thread very interesting and informative. One thought did cross my mind,though. At finer restaurants where the entree etc. is expensive logically the tip wil be higher regardless of the % of tip but at the so-called greasy spoons that have been mentioned as places where the tip need not be 20% the servers are making far less. That is why I generally tip 20% at these coffee like shops because servers are running around for far less. That is not to say I won't tip the 20% at the nicer place but please don't consider those little restaurants less worthy of a good tip just because the entree price is lower. Somewhat like opening a bottle of fine wine priced at 100$ plus requires hopefully the same consideration given to opening a $20 botlle of wine. Do you tip on tab including the wine-another question but just got me thinking. Thanks.

      5 Replies
      1. re: foodseek
        ballulah Dec 12, 2007 05:50 AM

        At little greasy spoon joints, I've been guilty of leaving ridiculously large tips (+50%), especially if I'm a regular and my bill is small. There's a tiny taqueria I go to where my bill is never more than $7, the food is amazing, the hospitality is fantastic, my water glass is never empty, and my three little bowls of homemade salsa and chips fresh from the frier are replenished constantly... I regularly leave a $5 tip on a $7 bill.

        1. re: ballulah
          foodseek Dec 12, 2007 06:31 AM

          Yes, that is exactly what I mean. Thanks for response. Keep those chips coming and I am happy as well-I love it when the server keeps an eye on my coffee mug and is honest enough to let me know when a new pot is brewing if I would like it wait. Service is so important especially at little diners.

        2. re: foodseek
          invinotheresverde Dec 12, 2007 08:14 AM

          Foodseek. I'd love to see the Riedel or Spieglau brought out for your $20 bottle of wine. Also, I'd love to watch a server or sommelier decant a $20 bottle of wine, perhaps using a candle. And, to watch a $20 bottle of wine get filtered for sediment would be great, too.

          You obviously don't order much expensive wine; the service procedure is completley different.

          1. re: invinotheresverde
            foodseek Dec 12, 2007 11:12 AM

            Wow, some time posting on chowhound is rather intimidating so yes you are right I "obviously don't order much expensive wine". But, I think I do have a legitimate question-even with the procedure you describe-do you tip more for a bottle of wine $$$$ vs $$$$ $ when the same procedure is performed? Do you pay a flat tip for the candle and decanting or 20% tip on the particular bottle of wine you ordered?

            1. re: foodseek
              invinotheresverde Dec 12, 2007 01:44 PM

              Oooof. Let me try that again. :)

              I tip a percentage based on the service I receive, not a percentage based on what I order.

        3. whs Jul 16, 2007 05:40 PM

          According to www.tipping.org, the standard tip is 15-20%

          1. ballulah Jul 16, 2007 03:45 PM

            I think you've gotten a lot of good guidance here after initial bad information. DEFINITELY tip 15-20% as a norm. Wait staff are very very often not paid minimum wage, especially in your average restaurants or the cheaper restaurants. The tips received from customers are supposed to augment a server's salary to minimum wage and above (sometimes well above in the right restaurant). A good book to read on this phenomenon is "Nickel and Dimed" by Babara Ehrenreich. She went undercover in a series of journalistic projects to see if it is possible for an average American to live on minimum wage. Conclusion: it's not. There are supposedly laws in place that state if a server does NOT make minimum wage with base pay and tips, a restaurant employer is by law supposed to cover the difference lost on unearned tips to bring that server's salary up to the minimum wage rate, but it is rarely enforced.

            In some cases a new server in training won't get paid at all and relies on tips for 100% of their income.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ballulah
              Marsha Jul 16, 2007 04:57 PM

              I will second this information: 15% to 20% is what I usually tip as well; 15% for regular service, moving upwards if the server does anything special (provides solicited recommendations, etc). But as you can see, as witnessed by the heated exchanges it evokes, the American system of tipping is really quite wretched and confusing and annoying, and puts the diner in an awkward position no matter how you slice it.

              1. re: ballulah
                foodsnob14 Jul 16, 2007 05:05 PM

                It varies from state to state as to what you get paid- on the average it is $3-$5 an hour. A completely unlivable wage. In all my years of waiting tables, I have never heard of an owner paying a server the difference to have them at least make minimum wage.

                1. re: foodsnob14
                  ballulah Jul 17, 2007 12:59 PM

                  I haven't either but by law restaurant owners are actually supposed to. Wait staff are not informed of this, it's a fairly obscure little labor law, and employers are not forthcoming with the info. Plus it's so easy to get fired for no particular reason, even if you knew your rights if a server were to make a fuss an employer could fire them citing other reasons.

                  There are plenty of things that are SUPPOSED to happen in this country that don't. Sad state of affairs.

              2. b
                Bunson Jul 16, 2007 02:13 PM

                15-20%, rounding up if need be, is a good benchmark. You can go higher then 20% if you feel the service was exceptional, lower then 15% if you feel like you were invisible to the service staff.

                One thing I do though is that I tip based on the service, not the food itself. If the service is good but the people in the kitchen are in the weeds and putting out bad food, I won't penalize the server for it, I just won't go back to eat there.

                1. ElsieDee Jul 16, 2007 01:47 PM

                  Living in an urban area (Los Angeles), and dining at mainly sit down, table service restaurants, my tipping starting point is 20%, before tax. I'll move up to 25% for exemplary service and down to 15% for so-so service. If I'm thinking about going below 15%, then that means things were really bad and the lower tip also requires a quick talk with the manager or a letter sent the next day (explaining the issues and the reason for the lower tip and emphasizing that I'm not looking for a free meal or anything else).

                  If I'm dining at an order/pick-up at the counter place, then the tip is usually about 10%, rounded-up to the nearest dollar.

                  If I'm getting food to go from a place that mainly serves take-out, then usually 10% - if I'm getting food to go from a place that mainly serves sit-down, then 10-15%.

                  It's important to know that the Internal Revenue Service assumes that each server will make a certain percentage in tips (I think that the amount is 17%, but could be wrong - hopefully someone currently in the business can tell us that amount) - so for $100 in sales, the IRS assumes that they made $17 in tips and tax that amount accordingly. Therefore, if you leave less than that amount, the server will be paying taxes on tips not received.

                  On top of that, many restaurants the servers are expected to share their tips with other staff members (bar tenders, hosts, runners, bussers, etc.) - depending on how the restaurant is organized.

                  Regarding the discussion upthread about restaurants tacking on a tip for foreigners - I've never seen this. But I have seen (when I lived in tourist-heavy Orlando, Florida) a note on the credit card sign slip that calculated the tax at various percentages (17.5%, 20%. 22.5%, IIRC) as a way of helping the tourist do the math. For the life of me, though, I have no idea if those were pre or post tax or how they handled alcoholic beverages (some people think you should tip on alcohol, others don't - I'm not going to get into that here).

                  Hope this helps and that you enjoy your trip to the US - and that you eat well while here!

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: ElsieDee
                    Karl S Jul 16, 2007 01:52 PM

                    "International" Revenue Service?

                    8% is the IRS benchmark.

                    1. re: Karl S
                      ctscorp Jul 16, 2007 02:35 PM

                      I was told the IRS taxes on 12% of total sales, but that if credit card tips are higher than that, they tax on the total amount of credit card tips. Hmmm. Maybe I'll ask my boss and see if he knows.

                      1. re: ctscorp
                        Karl S Jul 16, 2007 03:15 PM

                        No, it's 8%.


                        Of course, if you live in a high-tax state, it may have additional requirements on top of that...

                        1. re: Karl S
                          julietg Jul 16, 2007 05:29 PM

                          I concur. It's 8%. Plus whatever tips went through on a credit card, right?

                          1. re: julietg
                            Karl S Jul 16, 2007 05:53 PM


                          2. re: Karl S
                            ElsieDee Jul 16, 2007 06:31 PM

                            According to Kimmer, here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/40956... it sounds like the IRS now looks at the CC sales and tips and from those decides what to assume for cash tips. If the server is averaging 18% on the credit card sales, then it's assumed that they also received 18% in tips on their cash sales.

                            1. re: ElsieDee
                              julietg Jul 16, 2007 06:54 PM

                              ewww. Another reason I charge the meal, then tip in cash!!

                          3. re: ctscorp
                            smartie Dec 11, 2007 09:18 AM

                            it's 11% in Florida

                          4. re: Karl S
                            ElsieDee Jul 16, 2007 03:45 PM

                            Sorry 'bout that - I was thinking about the "International" aspect of the OP's question and mis-typed. It's been corrected.

                          5. re: ElsieDee
                            nc213 Jul 16, 2007 07:59 PM

                            The IRS taxes servers on what they declare, which by law should be 100% of their tips.

                            Some servers hide some tips; some do not. Usually only those who work in restaurants that do most of their business in cash are able to hide much.

                            The IRS demands that servers declare a minimum of 8% of their sales; some restaurants insist on a minimum of 12%. If they decide to audit, the IRS will look at credit card tips and other servers' (in the resto) averages in order to get an idea of what servers should be reporting.

                            1. re: ElsieDee
                              tom porc Jul 17, 2007 01:32 AM

                              I've also seen the different calculated tips printed BOLDLY at the bottom of the check with an explanation usu starting with: It's customary in the US ...

                            2. s
                              swsidejim Jul 16, 2007 01:29 PM

                              We dine out 2-3 times a week, and get great service 99.99% of the time. My tip is always right around 20%., and sometimes more(if hey buy me a round of drinks, etc.)

                              1. Karl S Jul 15, 2007 01:04 PM

                                15-20% of the pre-tax total is the norm. Rounded up to the nearest dollar or half-dollar.(10% for buffets.) Paying the tip in cash instead of on the card can be a plus for most servers, though there are some who apparently disagree.

                                There are lots of variations that are less standard and that many people might not think about. For example, if you had a coupon (unlikely if you're a tourist) or have a dish or course comped, you gross up that total to account for it. Also, if you only have one course, but take the table for the full time (in the US, restaurants typically plan on "turning" a table over every 90-120 minutes), you should up the tip because the server has lost an opportunity to serve a full meal for a full seating, as it were. When I dine alone, I also bump up my standard tip by 5% for similar reasons.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Karl S
                                  Cheflambo Jul 15, 2007 01:23 PM

                                  Speaking of "comped" meals ... a few years ago I was on the road for business, eating alone in a "casual dining" establishment and ordered an appetizer that had melted cheese on it. About the third bite into it, I discovered a piece of plastic that was probably a sliver of the bag the cheese had come in. I brought this to the server's attention, and she was horrified, and offered to bring me another app. I demurred, and said I would just go ahead and enjoy my entree when it came. The entree was delivered personally by the manager, who assured me at that point that my entire meal would be comped due to the "inedible" appetizer. I was pleasantly surprised, and so was the server when, at the end of the meal, I insisted that SHE get a gratuity anyway. Although my entire meal would have been less than $20, I practically had to PUSH a $5 bill into her hand.

                                  1. re: Cheflambo
                                    ctscorp Jul 15, 2007 04:46 PM

                                    Good point, cheflambo. I know that I often get things comped because I have a lot of friends in the industry, and it's really important to take that into consideration when tipping. It's so annoying when my customers don't realize they need to do this; after all, the service is the same whether they pay for everything or not, no?

                                    1. re: ctscorp
                                      jfood Jul 16, 2007 07:24 AM

                                      jfood agrees wholeheartedly. the tip on any comped portion of the meal should be as if the cost was included in the bill.

                                2. b
                                  bebevonbernstein Jul 15, 2007 11:12 AM

                                  As a point of clarification, I too routinely tip 20%. On the total bill. It's easier, and I don't begrudge the servers however much that comes out to over the pre-tax bill.

                                  Coombe, I do think people in larger cities customarily tip more toward the 20% end of the scale. I also don't base my tip on whether I think I will ever return to the restaurant or not. And again, there are many people on chowhound who seem to have very intricate systems for determining the amount they tip. But bottom line: 15% to 20% is customary here, and you can decide whether you want to trip pre- or post-tax (and no one will look askance at you if you go toward either end of that). But the most important difference is that, as someone else pointed out, servers here make very little as base salary, because that salary is based on the fact that they will be making up for it in tips.

                                  The one thing you MIGHT want to watch for: I had seen a thread on here at some point that said that some restaurants had started adding the tip for foreigners, as non-US diners often assume that the tip is included, as it is back home. So just make sure you're not tipping twice.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: bebevonbernstein
                                    Cheflambo Jul 15, 2007 01:11 PM

                                    "I had seen a thread on here at some point that said that some restaurants had started adding the tip for foreigners"

                                    Ahem... foreigners? Does this apply to anyone who orders their food with an accent? Are these restaurants checking IDs before seating people? I can only imagine what kind of impression something like THAT will make on a visitor here....

                                    1. re: Cheflambo
                                      Karl S Jul 15, 2007 01:46 PM

                                      Well, the problem is of course there are plenty of tourists hailing from countries where tipping is not a custom and thus don't know to tip. I don't favor the automatic gratuity on a discriminatory basis, but the motivation is not entirely malevolent.

                                      Realize that, as an American abroad, you may be given a different menu with higher prices than locals receive. It's quite common in certain areas....

                                      1. re: Cheflambo
                                        bebevonbernstein Jul 15, 2007 02:26 PM

                                        Hey, I'm not the one making the policy, I'm just relating what I've seen written about.

                                        But I'm guessing it doesn't make a bad impression at all, since most people from outside the United States are used to seeing a bill that includes the tip anyway.

                                        And if you're getting on me based on some PC principal? The word "tourists" does not convey the idea: that the restaurants doing this are only doing it for people from outside the US. Is it fair? Not for me to judge. But I'd certainly hate for the original poster to tip twice.

                                        1. re: bebevonbernstein
                                          Karl S Jul 15, 2007 05:42 PM

                                          I wasn't getting on you. Your post sounded like you might not understand why such a policy might have been initiated, that's all.

                                        2. re: Cheflambo
                                          nc213 Jul 16, 2007 07:45 AM

                                          I doubt many, if any, establishments would add a tip for foreigners. I'm sure there are a few dishonest/disreputable servers out there who would, (I've seen it happen once or twice) and once caught, they would most likely be fired (I've also seen that happen). It's probably happened, but it's wrong.

                                          1. re: nc213
                                            bebevonbernstein Jul 16, 2007 08:02 AM

                                            If you want to get really technical about it -- and again, I'm not condoning the practice, but I'm just saying I've read about it recently -- the practice has obviously hit enough critical mass that there was an article written about it.

                                            also, the same article said that some foreigners were also using that excuse not to leave tips in the first place -- that even though some had lived in US cities for a while, they would not leave a tip and use as the excuse that the tip was always included back home.

                                            Again, I'm not passing judgement on any of it -- I'm merely alerting the original poster so that he or she makes sure he or she isn't double tipping.

                                      2. monavano Jul 15, 2007 10:58 AM

                                        I think it would help to know where you will be in the states. In some areas 15% is ok, in others, well it's considered low and may be construed as a message saying "you sucked".

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: monavano
                                          amy_rc Jul 15, 2007 11:02 AM

                                          Kansas- Midwest. My grandfather would tip 15% and I would want to add to it. I think that, at least among my group of friends and fellow diners, 20% is expected and average. Incidentally we aren't rich and, other than the friend who worked at Sonic in high school, we haven't work in the food service industry.

                                        2. amy_rc Jul 15, 2007 10:56 AM

                                          For good service leave 20%. I would be embarassed to leave less.

                                          1. ccbweb Jul 15, 2007 07:39 AM

                                            As a general rule, leaving 15% of the pre-tax total in a restaurant is (and should be) considered a reasonable tip. Many people these days leave a bit more than that, more like 17 or 18% of the pre-tax total. You should be able to easily identify the pre-tax total as "subtotal" or "food and drink total" or something similar. The tax should be noted separately just below that and you need not tip on the tax.

                                            The key difference about tipping in US restaurants versus restaurants in Europe is that in virtually every case, the income of the server in the US is designed to take tips into account. That is, the servers (and bartenders and bus persons) do not make very much in a base salary and total compensation is dependent upon their tips. Its a bad system, but its what's there.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: ccbweb
                                              Griller Jul 15, 2007 10:51 AM

                                              It's been a while since I've tipped 15%. We dine out a lot, and my tips are now 18-20%. Four of our children work or have worked in food service. It's a tough, demanding job (or career). We listen to both horror stories and sweet rewards our kids have experienced serving the public. So; we're very sensitive to the whole dining experience.

                                              Dracula doesn't wait table. Real flesh and blood human being do,

                                              We set the tone for how we wish to be treated, and the tip reflects how closely the server matched our expectations.

                                              1. re: Griller
                                                ccbweb Jul 15, 2007 11:09 AM

                                                I noted "reasonable" not generous and I also noted that many tip more than that now. I was trying to give a balanced, even handed summary of tipping etiquette in the US right now. I worked in food service for many years. You fall on the generous end of the tipping population, which is good. I tip around what you seem to, as well. But, as a general rule, 15% is still reasonable and while I know many waiters in restaurants who would hope for more, I don't know many who would feel stiffed by such a tip.

                                                1. re: ccbweb
                                                  Griller Jul 15, 2007 11:42 AM

                                                  Please don't feel my reply was a swipe at your post, ccb. Not at all intended to be. I just ducked into the thread at your spot.

                                            2. b
                                              bebevonbernstein Jul 15, 2007 07:33 AM

                                              You should know that nothing raises more debate on Chowhound than tipping. However, I will tell you that 10% is NOT considered a "good" tip. Most people tip a minimum of 15% (considered standard in the US), with many routinely leaving 20%.

                                              1. o
                                                Orchid64 Jul 15, 2007 07:31 AM

                                                There's a good section on this on Wikipedia though, generally speaking, the minimum for adequate (courteous) service is 15%. You can tip more if your experience was especially good.

                                                You have to keep in mind that the point of tips has gotten rather distorted as time has gone by. It used to be a "gratuity" for good service but now it's a way of supplementing the income of underpaid servers. If you don't tip them, they make below minimum wage in many cases so you are essentially supplementing their salary if they do a decent job and "earn" it when they serve you.

                                                This isn't the servers' fault but rather the businesses who have taken advantage of the way in which the law works for people who work as wait staff.

                                                1. cocktailqueen77 Jul 14, 2007 12:22 AM

                                                  15-20% depending on how your service was. 18% seems to be the norm for good service, 20% for outstanding service. Of course, expectations for service vary from each person to the next. Being in the business (both the boyfriend and I) we have a sense of "tip karma" and tip above the usual.

                                                  15 Replies
                                                  1. re: cocktailqueen77
                                                    erly Jul 15, 2007 06:57 AM

                                                    this sounds like wait staff power on this site.
                                                    I leave 15% unless the service is dreadful.
                                                    I will not leave 20%
                                                    What next??
                                                    I much prefer the European system, where I add 10% for excellent service on top of the included tip.

                                                    1. re: erly
                                                      Cheflambo Jul 15, 2007 07:15 AM

                                                      JK, you need to relax, or find another job. After reading your post Im glad to hear you're NOT in the kitchen doing the cooking! Whew.....

                                                      A tip is based on the guest's personal satisfaction with the meal, which includes many different aspects of the experience, not just the taste of the food. The server's JOB is to make sure the guest enjoys him/herself, and that means not serving up a big steaming plate of attitude along with dinner.

                                                      I hasten to add that I have been a server, and fancied myself a good one. (My customers must have agreed - I got some HUGE tips for doing small favors for my regulars). I am now a generous tipper whenever I see someone actually working to make my meal a pleasant one.

                                                      And one more thing -- when a server picks up my cash with the bill and asks if I want my change back, their gratuity is automatically reduced by at least 15% of what I might have originally intended to leave.

                                                      1. re: Cheflambo
                                                        MBShapiro Jul 16, 2007 12:18 PM

                                                        what is wrong with asking if you need change. more often than not, the customer doesn't, and it just minimizes confusion.

                                                        1. re: MBShapiro
                                                          Karl S Jul 16, 2007 12:48 PM

                                                          Oooh, there have been some loooong threads about that sub-topic in the past.

                                                          Bottom line: there is a considerable segment of customers who take the question as unseemly/presumptuous and a number of them will lower the tip as a result - and servers agree that the better way to handle it is to state that they'll return with change and thereby invite customers who intend to leave the change to indicate they don't need to return with the change.

                                                          Wow; how to summarize hundreds of posts in a single sentence... The number of servers who didn't realize they got lower tips as a result was an interesting exchange of perceptions. And Chowhounds are probably more generous than the average customer.

                                                          1. re: MBShapiro
                                                            Kbee Jul 16, 2007 12:49 PM

                                                            You just don't do it. You have to assume they want change. You would say "I'll be right back with your change", giving them the opportunity to then tell you they don't need any. Same result, different, more acceptable method.

                                                            1. re: MBShapiro
                                                              Cheflambo Jul 17, 2007 04:38 AM

                                                              Minimizes confusion? WHAT confusion?? The check is $42.00 -- I give the waiter a $50,00 bill ,,, bring back the change, and not in 8 $1 bills, please. Don't assume you get all the change. You dont even have to say "I'll come back with your change" because that is what you are supposed to do. If I want to give you that $8 gratuity I WILL SAY "KEEP THE CHANGE".

                                                              1. re: Cheflambo
                                                                Honey Bee Jul 17, 2007 06:58 AM

                                                                I am sorry, but I can't resist....
                                                                Let me get this straight. Not only are you reducing the tip if a server asks if you want change back, but then you actually have an issue with the denomination of the bills. Classic.

                                                                1. re: Cheflambo
                                                                  jfood Jul 17, 2007 07:08 AM


                                                                  Jfood would have thought the eight singles was a good thing. Here's an example. Total bill is $76.

                                                                  Choice A - Bring the custo a $20 and four $1.
                                                                  Choice B - Bring the custo a $10, two $5, and four $1.

                                                                  Choice A leaves the custo with the choice of a tip as $1, $2, $3, $4, $20 $21, $22, $23, $24. None might be what the custo wants to leave. Now what does he do?
                                                                  Choice B leaves the custo with every integer up to and including $24 as his choice.

                                                                  Jfood would be happier with choice B in this case.

                                                                  In your example, the singles give you complete flexibility to leave the tip you feel is justified. You should give kudos to the waiter for being custo-focussed versus being mad.

                                                                  1. re: jfood
                                                                    filth Dec 12, 2007 01:52 PM

                                                                    filth plans ahead and saves small denominations.

                                                                    problem solved.

                                                                    viva filth!!!!

                                                                  2. re: Cheflambo
                                                                    nc213 Jul 17, 2007 12:58 PM

                                                                    What if the server only has eight singles?
                                                                    sure, he could go to the bar, but service bar is three deep with servers waiting for drinks while the bartender helps bar customers. He could go around asking other servers if they have a five and three ones, but it's likely that they don't, and that could be as time-consuming as waiting for the bartender.

                                                                    yeah, it would be good if servers started the night with a healthy bank to make change with, but honestly, sometimes they just don't have it. Bring in $20 or $30 to make change may be helpful in the beginning of the shift, but that change can be gone after one or two tables. When I waited tables, I didn't have an extra $100 to carry each night to make change. That money had already gone to rent, utilities, school fees, etc.

                                                                    1. re: nc213
                                                                      soupkitten Jul 17, 2007 01:30 PM

                                                                      yes and different establishments cash guest checks out differently. some waitstaff are required to bring THEIR OWN change banks from home and carry them throughout their shifts-- very common for cocktail and pub service. so the server saves small bills in order to give the customers correct change for the longest amt of time before having to go bug the bartender or mgr for small bills. s/he may not be able to help the fact that it's the beginning of her/his shift and the only change s/he has is $1 bills-- or that s/he's had to break down lots of big bills tonight, using up the stash of $5s, and all that's left is the $1s.

                                                                      some establishments give the waitstaff their own cash drawer, where they cash out checks as they come in. the waitstaff can get change as they please-- until the small bills run down. . .

                                                                      many other places control $ flow by having a bartender or mgr cash out the checks for waitstaff. when i tended bar i would always as a courtesy give the server the smallest denomination of bills back-- i knew they'd need the small bills to give a customer change later-- or the server had the option of paying a $21 tab with $21 (saving the $5 bill) instead of $25 and having to stand and wait for change. it also saved me from having to constantly break down bigger bills at the wait station when i could have been serving customers.

                                                                      don't penalize your server for the denomination of the bills they bring back to you. that's just asinine. chances are good the server just brought what someone else handed them or trained them to! honestly when i read what some people dock their server's tips for on these boards it just makes me sick. i tip well and in my world servers are helpful, insightful, generous, and eager to serve. funny how those who perceive their servers as money-grubbing morons perceive the service they receive.

                                                                2. re: Cheflambo
                                                                  Honey Bee Jul 16, 2007 01:06 PM

                                                                  While I agree that "I'll be right back with your change" is the best way to handle things, I am fascinated that someone would reduce someone's tip because of the way they phrase one sentence. You get good service for an hour while you dine and then one statement from your server about change and the tip is reduced? That seems a little over-the-top to me.

                                                                  It is not presumptuous to ask if you want change. It is a legitimate question. You may just as easily say "yes" or "no"- the server is not making any assumption they are merely asking. It would be presumptuous to say "I assume you don't need change" and walk away.

                                                                  1. re: Honey Bee
                                                                    Kbee Jul 16, 2007 01:25 PM

                                                                    I agree with you on all of that, it *does* seem like common sense. However, by service standards it's considered a rude question, hence the work-around. I also would not reduce someone's tip for asking, especially if everything else had been great. I would be shocked to hear that anywhere other than a cheap eats place, though.

                                                                    1. re: Honey Bee
                                                                      Karl S Jul 16, 2007 01:50 PM

                                                                      Listen, in this case, I was being descriptive not prescriptive: a lot of customers will interpret that question as presumptuous. There are a lot fewer servers than customers, so the reality is that the burden is not on the customers to adjust their attitude, as it were.

                                                                  2. re: erly
                                                                    cocktailqueen77 Jul 15, 2007 12:15 PM

                                                                    erly, this has nothing to do with wait staff power. Read other threads about tipping and it seems that the general consensus is above 18%, regardless if they have ever worked in a restaurant. It is completely your choice to leave 15%, but I have to comment that there are some dining experiences that warrant a higher percentage.

                                                                3. widehomehi Jul 14, 2007 12:17 AM

                                                                  10%-15% of the total bill is a good tip and it's generally accepted as the rule,I use the lower end 10%-12% for bad to average service and 13%-15% for good service.Honestly if it was a horrible experience and I know I'll never be back I'll leave way less than the minimum.Things have to have went very bad for that to happen though.The food was probably awful and the waitress horrible which is rare.

                                                                  22 Replies
                                                                  1. re: widehomehi
                                                                    JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Jul 15, 2007 05:27 AM

                                                                    No. Anything less than 15 percent is an insult to your server. I should know, I am a server and if you come in regularly tipping the way you do, you won't be welcome in my section for very long.

                                                                    And why the hell are you taking money out of the tip for bad food? Do you really think that your server goes back into the kitchen and cooks it?

                                                                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
                                                                      widehomehi Jul 15, 2007 10:33 AM

                                                                      This is the way it's done.If you want good service the next time you come in you better stir the pot and get people motivated lol.If its obvious and can be checked by the waiter,sure there getting less of a tip.Blood all over your plate when you order medium well is not my fault and should be obvious to any good waiter.

                                                                      1. re: widehomehi
                                                                        ctscorp Jul 15, 2007 01:15 PM

                                                                        "This is the way it's done"? You are totally wrong. I have served for nearly 20 years, and I have gotten probably 5 10% tips. Totally unacceptable. 15% is the minimum. To the OP, know that if you tip as little as 10%, you will be remembered and your server will cut many corners on your future visits.

                                                                        1. re: ctscorp
                                                                          Karl S Jul 15, 2007 01:43 PM

                                                                          Ah, but the joy of tourists from abroad is that they rarely repeat visit...

                                                                          1. re: ctscorp
                                                                            widehomehi Jul 15, 2007 07:16 PM

                                                                            Theres no law that you have to tip anything.Some people are poor and are lucky to be able to give you a tip.A tithing at a church is 10% what makes eating out so special.I know you need to survive and make money.If our country's economy grows 8% its a great year.Most sales tax 10%.Theres just no way tipping over 15% is necessary your already getting 5% extra to go out of your way to not cut corners and do me up real good.So be happy when you get 15% or even 20% which is not the tip you'd get from me unless my grandpa was choking on a chicken bone and you gave him the heimlich maneuver.In that case i'd take you out to eat and let you pay the tip.

                                                                            1. re: widehomehi
                                                                              queencru Jul 15, 2007 07:38 PM

                                                                              I don't have that much money at the moment and instead of screwing servers out of a good tip, I simply don't eat at a sit-down restaurant unless I know I can afford the meal and a decent tip. If a person can't afford a tip, then there are plenty of counter service restaurants where a tip isn't required.

                                                                              1. re: queencru
                                                                                ccbweb Jul 15, 2007 07:42 PM

                                                                                Oh, that's just far far too reasonable, queencru. Thinking about the total cost of a meal and then choosing your source of food or restaurant accordingly...that could rend the fabric of our society. Most people want the things they want at the price they want to pay, period.

                                                                                I like your approach though. I do wish that we could alter the structure for these things though and simply have servers paid well and have that cost built into the food and drink prices.

                                                                            2. re: ctscorp
                                                                              jfood Jul 16, 2007 07:22 AM

                                                                              sorry but jfood can't agree that there is a floor of 15%.

                                                                              here's an example. we were having a good service and good repoire with the server. one of us had a reaction to one of the spices and we had to leave. we informed the server of the situatation and needed the check immediately. well jfood watched the server completely ignore this request for 10 minutes at which time he approached the server and re-emphasized that we needed to leave. she gave a lame excuse about the sushi chef and 10 more minutes passed while other tables were serviced as we had experienced earlier. i approached the manager, explained the situation and told her if we could not pay immediately we needed to leave. she approached the server and she brought the check, and we handed her the CC's without so much as a glance at the check. she went to the machine and then went to the kitchen and served two tables bottled water while our CC receipts laid at the machine. she then brought the receipts for signature.

                                                                              That level of inconcideration does NOT deserve a 15% by any stretch. she went from 25% to 10% in the 30 minutes it took her to handle this situation. and jfood thinks the 10% was generous at that point.

                                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                                LNG212 Jul 16, 2007 10:57 AM

                                                                                I don't think there's any disagreement herer. I think the main point being made (at this point in the posts) was that 15% is the "floor" for ACCEPTABLE service. What you received was not acceptable and thus the 10% (or less) would be a correct way to proceed to indicate to the server the subpar job performance. And I agree with you, you were being generous to leave the 10% after all that.

                                                                                1. re: LNG212
                                                                                  ctscorp Jul 16, 2007 12:02 PM

                                                                                  Agreed. Jfood, I commend you for tipping at all in that situation. I think it's just really important to think of 15% as the base, and also to remember that, as someone else said, dining out is a privilege and a luxury, not a right. If you're planning your budget and it includes eating out, it must also include at least 15%.

                                                                                  1. re: ctscorp
                                                                                    jfood Jul 16, 2007 12:50 PM

                                                                                    yup. the jfood general rule of thumb is that the cost per person will approximate double the cost of the entree. So when an average entree is $30 then jfood expects to pay $120 for him and mrs jfood's dinner. now there are a lot of variables, the biggest of which is the jfoods do not partake of wine/liquor, usually split a desert (gotta watch those calories), etc. but over the years this seems to give a good indication.

                                                                                2. re: jfood
                                                                                  filth Dec 12, 2007 02:02 PM

                                                                                  filth asks jfood "define "a reaction to one of the spices"

                                                                                3. re: ctscorp
                                                                                  jayes Dec 11, 2007 10:28 AM

                                                                                  Is this 15% on the total bill or the pre-tax subtotal?

                                                                              2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
                                                                                SuzyInChains Jul 15, 2007 10:50 AM

                                                                                I tip 15 to 20 percent unless it was a horrible experience, but if I ever found out that a server was making customers feel unwelcome because of their tipping practice, I would make it a point to mention it to the management and never return to that restaurant again. In this case, it seems like tipping has crossed the line from voluntary to extortion. Perhaps some people should have jobs where they don't have to deal directly with the public.

                                                                                1. re: SuzyInChains
                                                                                  widehomehi Jul 15, 2007 12:18 PM

                                                                                  I grew up in the restaurant industry and never heard of a 20% tip unless it was some real rich guy tipping.Just not feasible for average folk.When my dad owned restaurants he knew the waiters and waitresses were only getting 10-15% tips,if that,alot of times none.And some make more than others.But 20% is in lala land.
                                                                                  I agree that when you tip no mater how much you should just except it and not complain or get mad.

                                                                                  1. re: widehomehi
                                                                                    LNG212 Jul 15, 2007 12:29 PM

                                                                                    Maybe people ought to express tipping with regard to regions. In New York, 20% is absolutely normal and 10% is absolutely an indication of (very) subpar service. Maybe 20 years ago, 10% was acceptable but not anymore -- and certainly not any place that I've been recently (Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, San Diego, Nashville, Memphis, Miami, and others).

                                                                                    1. re: LNG212
                                                                                      dustchick Jul 15, 2007 02:46 PM

                                                                                      My friends and I always tip starting at 20% - more if the service is outstanding, less if the service wasn't up to par. (Places where I've dined recently - Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Boulder, Minneapolis-St. Paul)

                                                                                      1. re: dustchick
                                                                                        cjc519 Jul 15, 2007 08:57 PM

                                                                                        Same here... in Philadelphia. I couldn't, in good conscience, leave a 10% tip.

                                                                                      2. re: LNG212
                                                                                        soupkitten Jul 16, 2007 10:28 AM

                                                                                        right. a 10% tip is only "normal" in rural areas, breakfast greasy spoon diners, or traditional chinese restaurants. 20% is normal in any urban center, for dinner or lunch.

                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                          Karl S Jul 16, 2007 11:48 AM

                                                                                          20% is the norm adopted by many but not all in urban areas; 15% is still quite normal. Hence, 15%-20% is a better indicator of the normal range.

                                                                                          10% is normal for buffet, of course.

                                                                                  2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
                                                                                    KevinB Jul 17, 2007 03:29 AM

                                                                                    Oh, poo. I put myself through university working in restaurants, and I considered it my responsibility to get back to the table for a food check within 2-3 minutes of dropping off the entrees. Now, if you've ordered a rare steak, and I've brought you medium well, and you say *nothing*, well, I agree with JK; that's not my fault. I asked, you lied, so why penalize me? On the other hand, if you tell me "this is too well done", I'll apologize like crazy, race back to the kitchen, and try to get a proper steak out to you ASAP.

                                                                                    I worked for a chain restaurant, and at the end of the night, we were required (not asked - REQUIRED) to fork over 4.5% of our total sales to the "tip pool", which was distributed amongst the busboys, hostesses, cooks, dishwashers, etc. So a 15% tip actually only netted me 10.5%, and if a customer stiffed me, it actually cost me money to serve them dinner.

                                                                                    Here's the funniest thing - if I thought I gave perfect service - greeting the diners as soon as they sat down, taking drink orders immediately and delivering them quickly, describing any specials and then leaving them alone to discuss their orders, all the while watching for signals they were ready to order, taking the orders, timing the appetizers and entrees so that a few moments after I cleared the appetizer plates, the entrees were up, pouring wine whenever glasses were down to 1/3 full, etc., etc. - I got relatively lousy tips (10-12%). On the other hand, if I made one insignificant error - bringing a potato with butter and sour cream when the customer asked for butter only - and then made a fuss about fixing it when it was pointed out to me, I got 15-20% tips. Go figure.

                                                                                  3. re: widehomehi
                                                                                    foodsnob14 Jul 16, 2007 03:20 PM

                                                                                    You obviously have never worked in the food service industry.
                                                                                    Those are horrible tips!!

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