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Double tipping on a bar bill?

  • m

Recently, I ran up a few drinks at a restaurant bar before being seated. The tab was transferred to my dinner/table bill.

My companion said I needed to tip the bartender. I disagreed, as I said I would tip on the final bill.

If I tip the bartender, and then tip on the final bill, I'm tipping twice on the drinks - which on over $80 worth of drinks amounts to $16.

If I don't tip the bartender, is he shorted (table tips not shared?)

If I reduce my tip on the dining bill, the waiter will feel slighted and shorted.

Aside from the obvious choice of settling at the bar, what do people do here?


PS. I ended up tipping both, but it didn't seem right.

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  1. Happens all the time, the server will tipout the bartender. Only tip once

    2 Replies
    1. re: duck833

      The bartender gets between 1-3% of the server's liquor sales. I would tip the bartender as well. I understand how it feels like double tipping, but once that check was transferred from the bar to the restaurant, the bartender lost those sales.

      1. re: Ette1010

        I think the question is: Why is the waiter being tipped on these drinks?

    2. I do usually tip the bartender directly, regardless of whether or not the bar tab is transferred to the dinner check, and then don't tip on those drinks on the dinner check. Don't know if that is problematic or not - I suppose that in a place that pools tips, it might be, if I assume that the bartender pockets the cash tip.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I disagree, tipping is good karma, just spread a little extra love around. If your dropping 80 bucks on drinks while your waiting on a table your not hurting for cash.

        1. re: heredia76

          I guess 40% is the new 20%.


          If you're worried about the bartender getting stiffed, either pay (and tip on) your bar tab separately or let the server and the barkeep know that $X of your tip is for the drinks. But you probably shouldn't be worried; any place that will carry your bar tab over to dinner has a system in place so that the tips get distributed properly. Otherwise they couldn't keep a bartender.

          That's not to say that it's improper to double-tip; overtipping bartenders gets you more than just good karma. But a double tip is clearly unnecessary.

          Whether the OP can afford to double-tip is completely irrelevant. The social convention is that the tip depends on the amount of the check, not the customer's socioeconomic status. Otherwise, Bill Gates would need to buy his server a new car every time he has a hamburger.

      2. thats why I always cash out at the bar, that way the bartender gets tipped on the drinks i had @ the bar. I never transfer the bar tab to the table.

        5 Replies
              1. re: Atahualpa

                True, true true!

                You're concerned about the bartender. Good on you! Please make the extra effort to cashout and tip at the bar.

              2. ask for separate bills and add tip to each one.

                1. We often have a few drinks in the bar before sitting at our table. My husband hands the bartender the appropriate tip in cash when he asks that the bill be transferred. I have no doubt that it is greatly appreciated as we have been told that on more than one occasion.

                  1. Throw some money on the bar, maybe not a full tip, but a partial one to make up for the fact that the server is probably only required to tip the bar 10% or so of the alcohol bill.

                    If it's a significant sized bar bill, I always settle up with the bartender to ensure that they get the full tip that they earned. If it's a small tab, I'm more likely to throw some money on the bar and still tip on the full bill.

                    1. C'mon folks, these kind of situations are not that difficult to figure out. Standard and typical tips are for standard and typical service -- let the establishment and the players sort it out. Fine service above and beyond is to be rewarded -- give a few extra bucks to the person who provided you the extra service, in cash, face to face. Give a compliment acknowledging what was done that pleased you. Make it as clear as you can that this is special treatment, and not just generous general policy from the goodness of your heart that goes into the pool. Finally, tipping is strategic -- if the bar is packed wall-to-wall but the bartender accommodated your special evening by giving you and your date drinks quickly and saved you a wait, and you figure you might enjoy returning there again, give a direct cash tip on top of the credit card, ask the bartender's name, and give yours.

                      1. The best thing to do in this situation (at least for the bartender) is really to settle at the bar. If you transfer the bar bill to your dinner tab, the bartender will end up getting a cut of it as bartenders get to keep 100% of tips at the bar (minus what they may tip out to barback) and a small cut of the dinner bill. But it will most likely be significantly less than if you tipped him directly.

                        If you do end up transferring the bar bill to the dinner tab, you only need to tip the waitstaff. The bartender will eventually get his/her cut.

                        1. Settle up at the bar. I serve and bartend at my restaurant and I can tell you from experience the bartender doesn't get the "deserved" tip from the servers most of the time. I had a guy last Sat. night run up an $80 bar bill ($80 x 15%=$12) and asked me to transfer it to his table. No problem, except at the end of the night all I got from the server was $15 for the whole shift. This has been the case in every restaurant I work in, because the standard for tipping out the bar is 10% of tips/sales. That doesn't consider what happened before the patron got to the table. Server is happy (larger bill=larger tip), bartender gets screwed. On the other side, if you tip the bartender, transfer the tab, and then reduce the amount to the server, the server is still being taxed on the full amount of the bill, regardless of what happened at the bar. Bartender is happy, server gets screwed. If you're concerned about making sure everyone is taken care of then just close out your bar tab at the bar.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Stillwater Girl

                            My experience is that waiters rarely forward the correct original bar tab tip percentage back to the bartender. It's the reason why every response from a bartender will say to close out your tab at the bar and tip accordingly....

                            Assuming a restaurant has a policy in effect to handle this is wrong. Management has enough to do without worrying about how tip sharing should be distributed on Charge card payments. Relying on the servers will do the correct thing is also foolish belief.

                            With regards to the whole double tipping, why should you tip the server for the bar portion of the check, etc. or any other scenario you can come up with....assuming you did leave a cash tip to the bartender directly, most servers will realize you did not stiff them for the $80 amount of the bar tab forwarded to the dinner check. It follows the same guidelines as for those that deal with tipping on tax, a bottle of wine or take-out orders placed for after the meal to be brought home....Some tip on these instances, but many do not.

                            As a rule, I would always close out my tab at the bar before going to dinner table.....unless I knew I was going back to the bar after dinner for a cocktail....then I would ask the bartender to keep my tab open for when I return.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              fourunder, agreed with you up until the end. you must be one helluva regular to be able to instruct the bartender to "leave my bar tab open for when I return" and not have him or her ask you to close it out and open another one later or pass it on to the server for the table. if you aren't known, it just seems like too much a setup for being able to skip out on the bar tab later, or at least have plausible deniability. if the bar is not within sight of your table or the only exit, how is the bartender supposed to keep track of whether you have departed?

                              yes, as jfood contends below it is not the diner's job to sort out the vagaries of the relationships and paybacks between the bartender and server and other staff when tips are apportioned -- that is the responsibility of the restaurant and the personnel to establish and monitor. and in a busy, well-run establishment, things will have a way of working themselves out -- a server who fails to compensate the bartender is going to have a lot of very slow drink orders. but i would rather take the quick, simple step of cashing out and tipping on my bar bill rather than have to explain later or have a server have to guess that the reason i tipped 15% rather than 20% was that i tipped out the bartender in cash before being seated at the table.

                              1. re: nosh

                                Nosh, do you truly think that servers are too dumb to figure out why they didn't get tipped on the bar tab portion of the bill without an explanation? If my server felt stiffed for not being tipped on a bar tab transferred to the table, I'd be glad they felt that way. No way in heck they should feel they deserve to be tipped on the a bar tab they had nothing to do with.

                                1. re: Rick

                                  Again, if the bar tab is transferred to a server, those become their sales, meaning they're taxed/tip out on them. That gives the server something to do with it.

                          2. Settle up at the bar, then go to your table. Not only will you be certain that the bartender will get his share, but you'll also pay less: when you pay for your drinks in the bar, the tax is included in the price of the drink. When your drinks are added to your dining bill, they get hit for sales tax.

                            1. No offense, but it seems really really silly to tip twice on that $80 tab. Your served had NOTHING to do with that $80 bill, why tip them on it!?

                              1. I would do a simple mental sub-total for each BT/Waiter and tip accordingly.

                                1. At the risk of sounding redundant, the bartender typically gets between 1 and 3% of the server's total liquor sales. That is pennies a drink. I feel the most elegant solution would be to pay your bar tab at the bar and let the server handle the next round of drinks.

                                  If you don't tip, yes, the bartender is shorted.

                                  You also wouldn't have to reduce the tip on the dining bill if said bill didn't include the liquor.

                                  1. Jfood thinks OP and everyone agree that closing the tab at the bar is the 1st choice. But the question is what if that does not occur.

                                    Pretty simple in jfood's mind. Jfood receives a bill at the end of the meal and pays and tips on the total (including tax). He does not get involved with inside baseball of the restaurant on how they tip out.

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: jfood

                                      I have handled this in the past by not tipping the waiter on something he/she was completely not a part of and dropping by the bar on the way out and tipping the bartender in cash. Of course this presupposes you carry cash (which I always do) for contingencies.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        That's all well and good, but those sales that were once the bartender's are now your server's, now making him a part. The waiter is the one paying taxes and tipping out based on them. This may not matter much when it's a couple drinks, but at my restaurant at least, there are frequently expensive bottle of wine being transferred. It can make a very large difference.

                                      2. re: jfood

                                        Howdy, food. Long time. Happy holidays to your family!

                                        "Jfood thinks OP and everyone agree that closing the tab at the bar is the 1st choice. But the question is what if that does not occur."

                                        There's no reason why this can't occur every time, nipping the OP's question in the bud.

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          Agreed wholeheartedly, but jfood has been in restaurants where they actually tell you the bar tab is going to the table. It may be they have a better operating system figured out where all the tip dollars go to the correct pocket. (Insert shrug)

                                          And given the tab that jfood normally cranks up at a bar (how much can 1 diet coke and a seltzer cost?) he does not think it moves the meter all that much.

                                          BTW - you owe jfood an ice cream cone for you not having to respond with the customary 20% stake in the ground on the other thread.

                                          Likewise to you and yours. Hope you like your new state.

                                          1. re: jfood


                                            in the case of a small (non-alkie) bar tab such as yours, the restaurant may have tab-transfer-to-table as standard practice, to avoid potential cc swipe fees on such a small amount. the customer would be quite right to go with the flow, on that one. if it were me, i'd probably still fumble in the handbag or ask dh to fumble in the pocket for a few bucks cash to hand to our bt-- i have a compulsion to tip bartenders, tho ;-)

                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              Never thought of the swipe fees, good point.

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                But jfood will ask the price first so he does not have to start a thread "You wouldn't believe it. Offered a botlle of Pelli and it was $12."

                                                BTW - The tip on a bottle of Pelli is greater than the cost at Costco for the bottle.

                                            2. re: invinotheresverde

                                              i agree, i just insist that I want to pay up the bar tab before I am seated, I have never been denied.

                                              1. re: swsidejim

                                                From your posts the bartender would be a complete idiot to deny you paying him directly. Plus he probably knows you by name and Tequila brand. You are what as known as a protected species in your area. Jfood doubts "insists" ever comes into play. :-))

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  you are probably right, :-)

                                                  Sometimes at the places I am a regular the host/hostess/owner thinks they are providing a service, or making it easier on me to move the bar tab to the table, but I just want to make sure I take care of the ones that took care of me.

                                                  1. re: swsidejim

                                                    Good grief but that's a refreshing attitude to read about. It really is that simple and I couldn't agree more.