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Aug 8, 2008 03:43 PM

Do you have to tip the sushi man?

If this has already been discussed, I apologize for starting a new thread. I did search though.

When you sit at a sushi bar and there's a tip jar there, do you tip them? If you put the tip in the jar, do you have to tip the waiters? Do you split the tip in half (10% to the sushi man, 10% to the wait staff)? How exactly does it work?

I was dining at Ushi Wakamaru last week, and I was sitting at the sushi bar. After I was almost done, I texted a close friend of mine, who dines frequently there. I asked her if I had to tip the sushi man, and she said that if I ordered from them, I did not have to. If I did, I would.

It's all very confusing. I thought Japanese tradition was that you don't have to tip. I'm fine with tipping the waiters, of course, this is New York..

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  1. I absolutely tip the sushi chef, especially when they make something extra special for you, or make something at no charge, to "test" it on you. I tip VERY generously with them.

    1. Its New York, Japanese traditions don't necessarily apply. My wife and I tip the sushi chef. We also tip the waitstaff.

      1. I tip the sushi makers whether we are sitting at the sushi bar, at a table, or ordering take-out sushi.

        1. i never do -- but will sometimes buy them a beer. i assume that that the restaurant splits tips among everyone fairly. it's not my job to have to parse out who gets what. and if the place they work can't split up the 20% fairly -- they should find somewhere new to work.

          1. Replies so far noted, but what about the part of the question about how to split the tip with any waiter who may have also served you? I've been curious about this too. Thanks.

            4 Replies
            1. re: mselectra

              I usually go with very round numbers for the tip I put in the box on the sushi bar (ie, $10 or $15 or $20 and so on). I tip the servers roughly based on what I ordered from them, plus a few bucks. (We always sit at the bar, so they're really, in most cases, bringing sake and water and perhaps clearing a dish or two. If we sit at a table for some reason, we tip our normal percentage on the full amount of the check and stick some cash in the sushi bar box/jar as well).

              At our favorite spot, though, (Sebo in San Francisco) there are two chefs who own the place and one other chef who fills in on the owners' days off and I've never seen more than two servers at a time (and only ever saw 3 servers total across every visit we made). There's no tip jar or box. In that case, we just tipped on the total check and figured they were splitting it up as they all saw fit and we didn't worry about it. Everyone who worked there seemed very happy to be doing so.

              1. re: ccbweb

                So if you only order a beer from the waiter/waitress, would you just give them a dollar tip, even if your bill comes out to like.. say 60 bucks?

                Thank you for all the responses so far, although it's still kinda unclear.. I think I'm gonna go with the 'let them split it amongst themselves' method. Sushi guys already get paid at an hourly rate, but the wait staff relies on tips.

                1. re: verynewyorkcurious

                  No, I'd leave more than that; but then again I leave more than that for an inexpensive diner breakfast, too. If the bill were around $60 I'm going to put at least $10 in the tip jar/box at the bar and leave at least $5 for the server. I try to pay attention to what the server actually does, too. In some sushi bars they bring complementary edamame, clear those dishes, bring tea and water and so on though none of it shows up on the bill. Sometimes, the server really does just bring a beer and I never see them again (which is OK, depending on the place).

                  Ultimately, I think its going to remain unclear because the ways different places work is just so different one to the next. I'm thinking of a sushi bar in Santa Barbara where even sitting at the bar they serve everything on individual dishes that must be cleared and if you've got a server who is good at keeping up with it and dexterous in their movements, it really helps the overall experience quite a lot. In some bars, when you sit at the bar you order everything from the sushi chef (whether cooked or not, drinks, etc) and he delivers it to you. So, the generalities are going to give way to the specifics of each place. I think a key thing to keep in mind is this: if you go out to eat, you should tip based on your experience while keeping in mind that they're people, too. It sounds like you do that. In my mind, its always OK to pay the tip the same way you pay the check and that sometimes means you just put the tip for the whole thing on your credit card and the restaurant will sort out who gets what. That's how it works at non-sushi bars, too. My advice then is this; its really good to think about all of this stuff but when it comes time, just tip what you think is appropriate and don't sweat it much.

                  1. re: verynewyorkcurious

                    I already responded re. what I do personally but, out of curiosity I asked the maitre de at our local sushi place about tipping the sushi makers. He said it is at the customer's discretion. People do it, but it is not expected like, say, tipping the waitstaff.