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1st time visitor needs help w/tipping at take-aways

annesurfs Mar 7, 2009 01:48 AM


I come from Finland, where the tipping is very, very different. Am coming over and thus need advice. I want to do the right thing!

I understand you always tip at least 15 % in restaurants. But, I have read you do not have to tip at a takeaway like Joe´s Stone Crab takeaway,11 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL, is this true? Even though I read they have some tables there, too? Is it different if I eat their tkae-away at an outside table or if I truly srive off with the food?

What about an "all you can eat" or buffet situation, do I tip 15 % even if I am not served, if it is kind of self-service?

I truly am ignorant not tight. Or so I hope.


Anne, Finland

  1. MMRuth Mar 7, 2009 03:23 AM

    I don't recall tipping at the take away (which in the States we call "take out" - just so you know) at Joe's Stone Crab when I lived in Miami.

    Here's a thread about tipping on buffets - I haven't gone to one for ages so I don't really know myself: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/390053

    Hope you have a great visit.

    8 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth
      annesurfs Mar 7, 2009 03:39 AM

      Thanks MMRuth!

      My mind boggles, trying to bend around the idea a waiter could be paid just $ 2 - 4 per hour!!

      Over here, the wages for a waiter are $ 10 - 15 per hour or so, and people usually round up to the nearest euro, or five...some do not leave anything, or small change only...I personally tip probably "too much", I am in customer service myself so like to show my appreciation of good service, even though the worker´s livelihood does not depend on it in any way.

      But, somehow I´d prefer it if everybody was paid a proper salary, and the prices shown would be what I end up paying, sorry, I know I am a foreigner, it is just hard to imagine having to do maths to see what I really need to pay!

      Also, I notice my idea of 15 % may be wrong, is 20 % closer to reality??

      1. re: annesurfs
        MMRuth Mar 7, 2009 03:45 AM

        I live in New York City, and usually "double the tax" as the tax here is 8.xxx%, leaving a tip of about 17.xxx% for normal service. Note that the tax varies from state to state and even city to city, so you can't use that as a firm rule by any means.

        If I'm at a very high end restaurant, and the service is good, I'll tip 20%, and if it is excellent, I might tip a bit more. If I'm somewhere very inexpensive, I'll probably leave more on a percentage basis - say my bill at a diner was $8.00 - I'd probably leave three dollars. I know it's confusing! And, if you do a search on this board using title:tip or title:tipping, you'll find loads of threads that might confuse you more, as lots of people have different opinions on the subject.

        1. re: MMRuth
          MMRuth Mar 7, 2009 03:46 AM

          Note - one of the areas of controversy is whether to tip on the total amount including tax, or pretax. I tip on the pretax amount.

          1. re: MMRuth
            annesurfs Mar 7, 2009 04:06 AM

            Oh dear...it really seems to be MUCH more complicated than I imagined! Well, when in Rome, etc, so I´ll just have to study the subject!

            Thank you MMRuth! :O) Anne

            1. re: annesurfs
              fourunder Mar 7, 2009 04:32 AM

              My thoughts are if you want to leave something, it's very generous of you to do so. If you do not, then don't. It sounds like to me you are a generous person, so I would suggest you leave something you feel comfortable with. Personally, I'm a minimum 20% tipper on the total bill, not pre-tax....but I will tell you I still believe 15% pre-tax or doubling the tax is more than acceptable and appropriate in most instances for proper service.

              Specifically at Joe's for take-out, personally I do not see the need to leave to leave 15-20% of your entire bill, but it's obviously up to your discretion as an individual and not the perceived norm. Whether the bill was $50 or $100, in my opinion, a $5 tip is more than sufficient.

              With regards to buffets.....I guess I think a little differently than most. The general belief is you are not being served anything.....which is correct, but I believe the staff works just as hard, if not harder in clearing the many dishes a patron can consume during the course of a sitting. I know there are many small eaters, but some people take it to the extreme like it's their last meal before going to prison.....I usually leave a minimum of $5 per person for dinner as a rule. At counter service(take-out) for coffee, I usually leave a minimum of a dollar.....but the small change would definitely be more than appropriate . If I were ordering food, $2-3 is plenty.....especially since you probably will not be back, if at all for a while. If you were a local trying to establish a relationship with a place or people....then it would be different in my opinion.

              As a note, this advice comes from someone who has worked in the food and hospitality industry all his life and believes in the thought....

              What goes around, comes around.

        2. re: annesurfs
          PeterL Mar 7, 2009 08:06 AM

          Between 15 and 20% for sit down meals, going up or down depending on quality of service. No tip for take aways unless you really feel generous. Lots of people just leave the change. For buffetts I usually tip 10%, again depending on the level of service. Do they refill your glasses and clear the table?

          1. re: annesurfs
            Bill Hunt Mar 17, 2009 08:42 PM

            I would not say that 15% is wrong. In the USA, it's still the basis for most tip calculations. I tend towards the 20% rate myself, with more, when earned. I still struggle with the tipping, when in the UK, but if the service warrents it, I pretend that I am in the "States." Probably not the best thing, but it works.

            Now, there can be some other issues, like wines. Does one tip on the total bill? Does one tip atop any taxes (in resort areas, these can be quite heavy by US standards)? If the service is really good, I tip on the total. If the sommelier has done something special, he/she will get a bill, or two, in addition to the regular tip.

            Take out/take away, is another matter. I will usually leave a smaller tip for the packaging. If there's a jar, I'll stuff a few bills into it. Otherwise, my credit card will reflect a smaller tip.

            As for buffet, I'll usually leave a few bills on the table for the bussers. Same for when I'm at an airport lounge. If the busser has done a good job of keeping the area clean, then he/she will receive a few $'s, when I leave. If the place is not clean, then I forego any tips. Also, I buss my own area, when there, unless someone beats me to it.

            Now, to confuse you, what does one tip the bartender? I'm usually at about 10% for many. If the service is good, then an easy 15% comes up. If they are friendly, quick and remember your wine, or beverage of choice, and are attentive, then it's 20%. Once had a bartender at a restaurant, where they did wine tastings, and offered a full array of appetizers to go with these. When I went to pay, before our seating, I was informed that all of this was free. Well, the tip was quite large, as the bartender had done a lot of pouring, kept up with which wines we had tasted, and knew his winemaker details, quite well. Yes, this was an exception, but the situation warrented my generosity.

            It is smart, that you ask before hand. I do this in the UK and get all sorts of responses. In the end, I go with my gut.


            1. re: Bill Hunt
              Atahualpa Mar 18, 2009 12:52 AM

              I have to keep reminding myself that you guys still have $1 and $2 bills. Here in Canada a few bills would be a lot more money!

        3. jfood Mar 7, 2009 05:11 AM

          One additional word on tipping. In certain areas of america, and miami has been the subject of many threads, many restaurants understand the differences in tipping from our European friends and may include a "tip" in your bill. Not everyone is fully aware of the differences of tipping as you are and the restaurant needs to protect its employees. So jfood would also recommend that you take a good look at the bill so you do not double-tip.

          jfood normally tips 15-20 on the total bill and rarely tips on take-out, to-go, take-away orders.

          Enjoy ourcountry and please spend lots and lots of money. :-))

          Safe flights.

          5 Replies
          1. re: jfood
            annesurfs Mar 7, 2009 05:18 AM

            Thank you jfood and fourunder!!

            VERY good points!

            And yes...I will not only spend all the money I can save but also max out (or more) my credit cards. I promise. ;O)

            1. re: annesurfs
              greygarious Mar 7, 2009 04:40 PM

              Annesurfs, when you pay by credit card many of the receipts will have an area that does the math for you and shows what the tip amount would be for 15%, 17%, etc. It's NOT a requirement for tipping, just makes it easier if you don't want to figure out the amount in your head. Tipping on take-out orders is optional, though nice. In my experience people tip less- perhaps 10-15% - at buffet-style restaurants. Among food service workers, senior citizens are generally not considered to be good tippers, so if you are visiting only Florida you might find you are considered more generous than in other states.

            2. re: jfood
              fourunder Mar 7, 2009 05:57 AM


              I'll assume the sandwich counter at Katz's to be an exception. :-)

              1. re: fourunder
                jfood Mar 7, 2009 08:32 AM

                Now that's not fair. Jfood has been working in CT and MN for the past 6 months and no NY adventures. So no Katz's.

                He does have a meeting in NJ next week and he plans on visiting his favorite Bagel shop on the way home for a couple of dozen to-go's for the freezer..

              2. re: jfood
                Bill Hunt Mar 17, 2009 08:47 PM

                Good point. One does need to read the "fine print." In the UK, many restaurants have begun adding a "service charge," and some are difficult to locate on the bill. I always ask.

                Though mentioned in some other threads, what I resent in the UK is the addition of a 5-10£ "cover charge," where no music, or entertainment is included. This is just for the pleasure of dining there! This seems to be more common, especially in London, and especially Mayfair. You want a "cover charge," then you'd better do a song-n-dance, per my request, at my table!

                OK, back on-topic....


              3. janetms383 Mar 7, 2009 07:57 AM

                I live in So California, and it may be different in Miami, but I do tip at take-away. Tips are not just for the server at your table, but also for other staff members of the restaurant. So, even though you take-away, there is service involved in the preparation of your order. Someone takes your order, hopefully correctly, someone must bring it up to the cashier, the cashier must process the payment and make sure the order is complete. Then when you pick it up, someone delivers it to you, hopefully with a smile.

                I don't tip a full 15% but I think anywhere from 5% to 10% is appropriate.

                1 Reply
                1. re: janetms383
                  adamshoe Mar 7, 2009 03:34 PM

                  I think it depends on the circumstances, too, re: tipping on to go food. If I'm at some fancy cookie emporium in Beverly Hills, being served by a freshly eyebrow waxed, glowing young creature who just had a liposuction/ boob-job, I might throw a buck or change in her tip jar. If , on the other hand, I'm at a little Taqueria in East Oakland, and the server is 50'ish and has a great smile (gold tooth and all...), she gets 20% on to go. (which amounts to $2.00 for her on my $10.00 order.) Have a great visit! adam

                2. Das Ubergeek Mar 12, 2009 09:46 PM

                  I don't tip for take-out. I sometimes throw the loose change into the tip jar, but it's more about not jingling as I walk around than about tipping.

                  For sit-down service or delivery, tip 15% (for just acceptable service) to 20% (for good service). You can of course tip more -- when a friend of mine had a medical emergency in a restaurant and the server boxed our untouched meals, ordered my car around so that I could follow the ambulance, and left my bill at the front so I could pay it after the emergency was done, I doubled the bill.

                  One common scenario is a place where you order at the counter and the food is brought to you. Tip in that case as you would for a sit-down restaurant.

                  The sales tax rate in Miami is 7%, so doubling the tax is not sufficient and trebling it is possibly too much. In New York the rate is 8.375%; in Los Angeles it is 9.75% (or it will be in July); in San Francisco it will be 9.5% in April.

                  Also, having lived in Europe, it shocked me when I came back to the US and had to adjust to the idea that prices are quoted BEFORE tax is added -- so your $20 meal in Los Angeles will actually cost you $21.95, and then you need to add tip -- anywhere from $3 to $4.40 depending on whether you tip 15% or 20%, and pre- or post-tax.

                  Complex, to be sure...

                  1. d
                    duck833 Mar 17, 2009 09:11 PM

                    If I am in a bar I usually tip a minimum of $1.00 per drink. If I am drinking wine at my usual place with friends the servers have been trained by me. They bring me a nice pour in a larger wine glass, I usually tip them at least 30% or round up to $5.00 or so.

                    We order takeout from PF Chang's quite a bit. The person taking care of the orders is getting paid just a little more than minimum wage, I always tip them at least 10%.

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