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Nov 25, 2009 10:09 AM

Tip Advice for Thanksgiving Buffet

Our family (infant, five year old, two adults) is eating the Bernards Inn's Thanksgiving buffet tomorrow afternoon. It's $133 before tax and drinks, and it's served in its ballroom, not the dining room.

Assuming we will have our plates cleared and our drinks order taken and delivered by staff, what do you think an appropriate tip percentage might be, of which amount?

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    1. re: duck833

      On the entire bill? At a buffett? In a ballroom?

      1. re: LED

        I think 10% is more than appropriate for the extent of the service provided.

        1. re: bgut1

          add another recommendation for 10%, maybe a little more because it is the holiday.

          1. re: jfood

            I concur. I normally tip 20-25% for a standard sit-down meal, but only about 10% for buffets. If there is extra service, such as wine service or extra work beyond bring the water/soda, clear the plates, and present the bill, I'd add as much as 2-5%.

      2. 18%-20%.

        It's Thanksgiving. The chefs, servers and other employees are working on Thanksgiving -- to provide you and the other diners with a nice, family holiday. While I respect the fact that it's very expensive these days to raise your two kids, I don't think the $30-$35 gratuity is gonna break the OP's bank.

        There is one instance where I'd make an exception. It appears as if this location is trying to maximize its Thanksgiving revenue by putting on the buffet in their ballroom. The servers are aware that many people tip less for a buffet than they would at a full-service restaurant. They may be resentful of the establishment's decision to do this. If they give you even the slightest inkling that they're less than cheerful and efficient, by all means reduce your tip. It's up to them to prove that they should be tipped the same amount for buffet service as for what they usually do.

        15 Replies
        1. re: shaogo

          here's my take.......

          When I worked at the Country Club, 18% was automatic, regardles of party size. We used to serve 1500 on Thanksgiving.

          1. re: fourunder

            Four, I don't agree with all your assumptions, in particular, the number of visits the "server" will make, nor the amount of work per table. But you left out one other point. The number of tables worked per person is likely to be more with a buffet than with a typical restaurant, perhaps by as much as a factor of two. In that case, even with the smaller tip per table, the server still makes a larger total tip.

            Nevertheless, shaogo makes a good point. Considering that it's a holiday, increasing the tip by a buck or two a person is probably the right thing to do.

            1. re: cantkick


              as much as I like a spirited debate with you....I was being conservative with my examples and to some extent generalizing.....but these are not my assumptions, these are the numbers given to me by the three examples of buffet operators. People at buffets waste an incredible amount of food. I've seen little kids(under 10) go up to the buffet more than a half dozen time, eat very little of each plate and go back up for more. Think of all you do not see while you are occupied.

              I'm not here to tell you how to spend your money.....just consider that the staff is working harder than most people think and deserve more than 10%. I stated clearly I feel 15% is the appropriate number.

              1. re: fourunder

                It is never appropriate to tip less than 15%, except for poor service. The dynamic is no different in this setting. Instead of the servers bringing the food to your table, they are bringing it to the buffet line all day. Do understand it is their expectation, holiday or not, that you tip between 15 and 20%. Regardless of what you decide to do, don't talk yourself into the fact that you're leaving a "good tip" at 10%.

                1. re: hotfoodhot

                  It is never appropriate to tip less than 15%
                  There certainly is truth in that, but I would say leave what you can.

                  1. re: hotfoodhot

                    I've never seen servers bringing food to the buffet line.....only kitchen staff.

                    1. re: im_nomad

                      I have seen servers filling in desserts on the buffet line many times, including at a brunch buffet this very morning.

              2. re: fourunder

                A country club has to subsidize the food and beverage operations to keep it open. Some clubs require members to spend (or bill them) a minimum amount for food/bar every month and they figure the 18% mandatory gratuity is going to ensure they have enough good help with low turnover.

                If I go to a country club with a friend and service is exceptional I'll hand the server a few extra bucks, knowing they are getting a guaranteed gratuity.

                Thanksgiving was the busiest day because it's at the end of the month when they have to use up their food/bar allowance or lose it.

                Then again, a hole-in-one at the beginning of the month and you might not be going to the club Thanksgiving dinner. Good reason to have hole-in-one insurance.

                1. re: monku


                  Actually, the breakdown for the 1500 I referenced was:
                  Outside public, three seatings at 600 per
                  Membership, one seating at 250 per.

                  We really served over two thousand....


                  At our club. the catering staff was unionized and received pay for an 6 hour shift, anything over was overtime. The 18% was actually a labor charge. The public dined in the ballroom. The members had their own restaurant. Any meal for the members was allowed to applied to their monthly food minimum....but holiday dinners were not the busiest day or event.....the last Sunday of the month was the busiest day.

                  We guaranteed staff for the members an hourly wage, plus the 18% above on chits who handled members. In the catering department, the staff did not receive gratuities, but were paid shift pay and overtime. If a gratuity was left, for a formal function, the booking manager stuffed it in his pocket, but the owner dispersed it to the staff accordingly throughout the departments as he saw fit. Agree with the policies, or not, that's the way it was.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    I was going to say the 18% gratuity was like a labor charge, but didn't want to appear too crass.
                    Yes, makes sense the last Sunday of the month would be the busiest day.
                    Thanks for the Thanksgiving breakdown and "inside" stuff at your club.

                    1. re: monku


                      I would add further, for our *buffets*, we had food stations for hors doeuvres, salads, carving stations, pasta stations, wok stations, raw bar and dessert during entire seating sessions. First course, soup, salad, coffee, desserts and turkey were served at table with Russian Service.

                      Not your ordinary buffet.

                    2. re: fourunder

                      Should I also assume that besides food, golf is also your passion?

                      1. re: monku

                        Only since you asked...I was scratch for over 20 years. The inspiration for my moniker is explained here in this thread.....


                        Food and golf are my passion......but behind in ranking to another....I'm sure you know what that is.

                    3. re: monku

                      And-->in states such as Connecticut where the tip is mandatory at a country club, it is billed on the after tax amount. I inquired about this years ago, and was shown a letter from the Department of Revune Service instructing the clubs that a billed manadatory gratuity was on the gross amount of the bill.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Interesting...what do you think the reasoning behind it is?

                2. It is nice to consider the fact that it is a holiday, but you can also base your tip off of the level of service. If the staff is only there to refill drinks and clear plates, I'd probably hit the 15% mark. If they do more like getting special requests or other small things to make you more comfortable, I'd have no problem going up to 20%. So, consider if the service is the bare minimum or more of a full service setting where you just happen to help yourself to food.

                  1. Depends on the type of buffet whether I tip 10% or 15%.
                    If it's like one of those AYCE Chinese lunch buffet places I'll tip 10%. Some reason they don't seem to do much more than pick up the dirty dishes and bring the check.
                    Higher end buffet places like Las Vegas the servers seem like they're more attentive to your needs and always stopping by the table asking if you need refills or checking up on you (more refills or coffee after). There l'll tip 15% and hand it directly to the server before I get up. They seem grateful when I do that and it's 50% more than the 10% they're probably getting. When I'm invited to a special comped buffet for like New Years Eve in Las Vegas I'll give the server $5/person...I think only a handfull of people ever give them anything at those type of events.

                    I don't know why I call them "servers," since they're mainly bussing the tables.

                    Place you're going sounds like a 15% tip kind of place to me.

                    1. For a buffet, I normally tip 10-15% but since this is the Bernards Inn AND it's Thanksgiving I would probably go with 15%.

                      Just be glad you're not going to The Grand Colonial Thanksgiving buffet near Clinton. They will charge you a 20% service fee (different from a tip) plus 7% tax regardless of the size of your party.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ambrose

                        For a buffet, I normally tip 10-15% but since this is the Bernards Inn AND it's Thanksgiving I would probably go with 15%.


                        with due respect to duck .....

                        kudos to you for being the first to take into account the venue and date for your decision without preconceived notions on absolute terms.