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Tipping at the bar vs tipping at the table

You might think I'm cheap but I've grown up thinking that a tip should be between 15 and 20 percent under normal conditions. 15 percent if the service left something to be desired and 20 percent if I thought it was very good service. In NYC, it's typically closer to 20% on average. I only go over or under in the event that it was terrible or spectacular. Am I crazy to think that eating at the bar shouldn't necessitate as big a tip? It seems like the service you get has much less movement, servers, attention and distance to cross. When you are at the table the server is coming to you, checking on you and is tipping out to multiple busboys. Should I really be paying 20% tip when a bartender goes "what'll it be?" and plops a plate of food in front of me while taking someone else's order? People have long forgotten that TIPS stand for To Insure Proper Service. This is the power the customer has over the server who is handling our food.

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  1. I see your point, but I still tip the same. Or more. Partly, I guess this is because I know that the bartender also has to tend the bar for the entire place in addition to taking care of me, and partly it's because a bartender is much more likely to remember you when you come back than a server and you'll be asked to try new cocktails they've invented or this great bourbon they just got in or something. On the other hand, I'm probably more like to drop 15% for curt but professional service at the bar than I would at a table, where professional and to the point is exactly what I want.

    It may not make much sense, but that's why I do what I do.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Raids

      Bingo! They do remember you, and a nice tip will lead to an cocktail, and a nicer tip will lead to unlimited cocktails. I know this from three bars, and one Houston Mexican restaurant institution where after one round, the waiter brought all other rounds on the house.

    2. wrong, actually, on every single count you mention. if you are a cheap tipper, get takeout, use the drive-thru, etc. don't rationalize your own behavior and try to find work-arounds for not having to tip.

      2 Replies
      1. re: soupkitten

        Is a 15% tipper really considered a "cheap tipper"?

        1. re: soupkitten

          Some of the places I go to the bartender has to go to the kitchen to get the food, taking time away from their other customers, which could hurt their tips.

        2. "People have long forgotten that TIPS stand for To Insure Proper Service"

          This isn't true at all because if it was we would provide the tip before service.
          Snopes has a good explaination as to the etymology of the word. http://www.snopes.com/language/acrony...

          2 Replies
          1. re: reatard

            I get at this point that what I learned about the acronym is wrong but commonly wrong. More people associate TIPS with "to insure proper service" than its 17th century origin. The fact that the tip is at the end doesn't not "insure" but "motivates" services to do their best so that they may be rewarded. If you give them a whopper tip at the beginning and say "take care of us," they may, they may not. There's nothing motivating them now that they have your money in hand.

            1. re: ucallthatcb

              You are wrong about tipping the bartender less and you are wrong abput the etymology of tips. If a tip was to motivate for better service the acronym would be TEPS for to ensure prompt service.

          2. The bartender is focusing on MUCH more than food:

            --they're dealing drinks right and left for both those sitting at the bar and those sitting at tables;

            --they're noting people *behind* those sitting at the bar who want drinks, or would like to look at a menu while they wait for a table, then serving *them* drinks;

            --they're keeping an eye on those sitting at the bar to ensure their drinks are filled or their dinners come out on time (sometimes leaving the busy bar to go get those dishes in the kitchen);

            --they're removing the plates from in front of those who've eaten, remembering to bring dessert menus, bring whatever desserts people order;

            --they're prepping more fruit for the fluffy drinks that people are ordering;

            -- they're tallying up bar tabs and getting them over to those people to pay and then getting them back;

            -- they're ensuring that someone who's potentially drunk too much isn't served again;

            --they're ensuring that no bar fights break out......

            They MORE than earn a well-paid tip. Tip your bartender well and you have a person who will recognize you as someone who understands the hard job that they do. AND they will treat you as a good customer. :-)

            As for TIPS meaning "To Insure Proper Service" - nope. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tip_%28g...


            There are common inaccurate claims[2] that "tip" (or "tips") is an acronym for a phrase such as "To Insure Prompt Service", "To Insure Proper Service", "To Improve Performance", "To Inspire Promptness" or "To Insure Promptness." These false backronyms contradict the verifiable etymology, as follows.

            According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word tip originated as a slang term, and its etymology is unclear. The term in the sense of "to give a gratuity" first appeared in the 18th century. It derived from an earlier sense of tip, meaning "to give; to hand, pass", which originated in the rogues' cant in the 17th century. This sense may have derived from the 16th-century tip meaning "to strike or hit smartly but lightly" (which may have derived from the Low German tippen, "to tap"), but this derivation is "very uncertain".[3]

            10 Replies
            1. re: LindaWhit

              I CONCEDE the point on the origin and meaning of tipping. MY BAD. However, I'm not going to pay the bartender more because he's checking on other people behind me, keeping other people's drinks fresh, drunk nanny, food prep for something i'm not ordering or anything else that does not DIRECTLY impact the service of MY meal. I get it's a hard gig with lots of people in a more rushed atmosphere, but they also get the same percentage on drink order for much less effort. For example I order two beers, he pops the top on each and puts them in front of me. 8 bucks and I give him 10. A dollar a drink. That's 100 bucks an hr at that rate.

              1. re: ucallthatcb

                If you had no intention of tipping the bartender the same percentage as a waiter that serves you at a table why even bother composing your post in the form of a question? Just write a rant and be done with it.

                1. re: reatard

                  I have been tipping them the same. It just felt strange to me.

                2. re: ucallthatcb

                  If you're drinking beer only at a bar, and not eating, a dollar a bottle is fine, IMO.

                  However, if you're eating there, and are having martinis or mixed foo-foo drinks that require a bit more work, having several courses that require removal of cutlery, plates, etc., the tip would be different.

                  I was responding to your original point that bartenders don't do the same work as waitstaff do, and I disagreed with you. Depends on the situation.

                  But you do whatever you want.

                  1. re: ucallthatcb

                    you don't get what the job is about. you don't see the bt lugging liquor cases from downstairs, or stocking/rotating beer coolers, or changing kegs. that happens before you get there, and after you leave, or out of your sight. you seem to think tipping a server is proper-- because s/he tips out bussers-- but tipping a bt, who must tip out barbacks, is improper. that doesn't make any sense. it also doesn't follow that a bt's job is "much less effort" than a server's work, or that since the bt simultaneously takes care of everyone sitting at the bar, s/he is somehow paying less attention to you personally, than would a server who spends the majority of her/his time away from your table, but checks in periodically specifically to serve your needs. again, this rationale does not make sense. you can choose to sit at a table or at the bar to enjoy your meal. the service models differ slightly, the job of the person who serves you differs slightly. the tip should be the same.

                    1. re: ucallthatcb

                      "That's 100 bucks an hr at that rate"

                      that is exactly why you tip a bartender well when you eat at the bar. let me put it this way....you sit there for an hour eating and having a drink. your tab is 45$. you have taken up a seat in which at $5/beer could have generated double or triple that in sales, and by extention...tips.

                      if you are looking for validation in being cheap, I highly doubt you are going to find it here...or at least with me.

                      1. re: ucallthatcb

                        >>>>I'm not going to pay the bartender more because he's checking on other people behind me, keeping other people's drinks fresh, drunk nanny, food prep for something i'm not ordering or anything else that does not DIRECTLY impact the service of MY meal.<<<<<


                        Eat at home. You don't deserve to eat out.

                        1. re: ucallthatcb

                          I get you. Plus, doesn't the bartender get to keep more of their tips than a server? I mean, sure they clear plates, etc., but they also don't have to tip out bussers, etc., maybe just a bar back. So, I guess it really must be the fact that your bartender is more likely to remember you than your server, is more likely to chit chat with you and tell you about things the bar has planned, make recommendations off the menu - basically, I probably take up about twice as much of the bartenders time than I do the average server's. Not because I ask for it, just because it's a less formal and chattier kind of environment than sitting at a table. So I also feel that good will and tip higher.

                          But yeah, I might tip 15% for a couple of beers that I grabbed with my husband walking around when I was in and out of the bar in a half an hour, assuming it wasn't a packed bar with a lot of other people waiting for my chair. But, OTOH, what are we talking about here? $1 extra? When I can seem generous or not based on one lousy dollar, I add the extra dollar because that's a really cheap price for some goodwill.

                          1. re: ucallthatcb

                            " However, I'm not going to pay the bartender more because he's checking on other people behind me, keeping other people's drinks fresh, drunk nanny, food prep for something i'm not ordering or anything else that does not DIRECTLY impact the service of MY meal."

                            Where is this restaurant utopia that you speak about where they have one patron per server? Because this is the only way that I can imagine other diner's not directly impacting you, or your tip, of course.

                          2. re: LindaWhit

                            I myself would normally tip a bartender (BT) the same as a waiter, when I do sit at a bar and eat there, unless I truly wanted him/her to remember me and I planned on going back again when I might tip more.

                            However, other than your points relating to food handling by the BT, your other points relate to stuff that he/she would be doing regardless of whether I, personally, was sitting in front of him/her. Those duties are part of the job. I don't see the logic for why such job-related activities should be cited as a reason per se for me to tip as much as or more when I happen to sit there. If one said that serving people who sat there at the bar to eat was an additional encumbrance upon their normal duties then there is a reason for a good tip but that did not appear to be what was remarked upon.

                          3. " People have long forgotten that TIPS stand for To Insure Proper Service"

                            that would be TEPS - to ENSURE proper service. Don't know too many companies underwriting your table service

                            and yes tip. tip as much.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: thew

                              haha good point. That would be nice though.

                            2. You should just tip once. Let the wait staff and the bartenders worry about how to get their earned money. They're really not worried about you, so you don't worry about them.
                              On a side point, I'm so tired of everyone constantly bemoaning the hardships waitstaff have to endure! I understand that their job is tricky and full of dealing with the "great unwashed", however, they are NOT (I repeat NOT) digging ditches! If you are a waiter/waitress, I'm sorry but you should not earn enough to afford a summer house! I know many many MANY people who work in the food industry and they ALL make more than I do. They work less hours and earn more (not only on an hourly basis, but in general).
                              Why do waitstaff deserve this pitying respect like they are serving our country overseas? I have been both waitstaff and customer so I know both sides.

                              I'm not saying serving the public is easy, but FOR GODS SAKE, the cojones of these folks who think that they deserve at least 20% even when they do a bad job! I'm done feeling sorry for people who 1) have a job 2) earn a good living 3) CHOOSE that vocation.
                              I'm sorry guys but that job just plain and simple IS NOT THAT HARD. And everyone deep down knows its true.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: sillysheep

                                why shouldn't they earn enough for a summer house? (not that most are, but why shouldn't they?) are they less worthy of it than, say, you?

                                1. re: thew

                                  What part of "they earn more than I do" did you not understand?

                                  1. re: sillysheep

                                    not to sound too much like Yoda, but Jealousy begets anger, anger begets hate, hate begets suffering. Stop making yourself suffer.

                                    1. re: sillysheep

                                      the part where that was a problem for you. the part where you determined they don't deserve to earn enough because they are not as worthy as you - which is how it came across. As you say no one is forcing anyone to take a job, or not take a job - so if the earning was an issue, you could become a waiter.

                                      and perhaps waiters at french laundry earn that much. the waiter and the chat and chow is barely feeding hir kids, much less buying a summer home. and you know it

                                      1. re: thew

                                        My entire point was that there are plenty of people out there with challenging jobs. But you don't hear them constantly complaining how people don't tip enough for them. Constant bitching about how hard it is as though they are indentured servants. I'm just sick of the entitlement that comes especially when my waiter does a bad job. If my order is wrong, you take an hour to get me the food without refilling my water or taking a new drink order etc, It is no longer acceptable apparently to not tip. Instead, the defense is "wow you're cheap, you don't know how hard they had it that night, if you can't afford 20 percent then you shouldn't go out". I just want to know when it was that waiters are now charity cases. If you do your job well, you get a tip. If you don't, you get a smaller tip. If you do your job amazingly well, you get an amazing tip. But the attitude that it's now not a matter of choice is absolutely ridiculous!

                                        1. re: sillysheep

                                          I understand the logic of your argument, but there are unique stresses. For example, a waiter or bartender has 10s if not 100s of people a day making a judgment on him/her, deciding if he deserves good pay or bad pay. Quite frankly, I'm glad my boss only does it once/year, it's one person, and he'll willingly forget about my few bad days and focus on the good days, thereby ensuring that my salary doesn't get dinged b/c I feel sick or my kid has a doctor's appt. or b/c a supplier screwed up and now I don't have what I need to do my job.

                                          To be sure there are other more dangerous or higher stress jobs, but since this is not a site that focuses on garbage, we don't hear the trials and tribulations of being a garbage collector.

                                          Moreover, I think the OP came to the wrong place looking for sympathy (maybe a garbage collector's site might be better?). If he/she wants to pay less, then do so. But don't come to a site where people are often gleefully obsessed with food and restaurants looking for sympathy on why you should cut a buck or two off your bartender's tab.

                                          1. re: sillysheep

                                            "But you don't hear them constantly complaining how people don't tip enough for them. Constant bitching about how hard it is as though they are indentured servants. I'm just sick of the entitlement that comes especially when my waiter does a bad job. "
                                            Perhaps if you only earned $2.63 to $4.00/hour, you might understand why. Yes, it shouldn't be that way. But it is. Either way - we the customers will pay for it. If the restaurant owner is required to pay $12.00/hour for their lowest paid staff, and on up accordingly depending on length of service or status of job within the restaurant, then the food costs are going to increase exponentially so they can remain in business.

                                            If you have an issue with the service, bring it up with the manager *while it is occurring.* If nothing is fixed, then tip accordingly. And don't go back to that establishment again.

                                            1. re: sillysheep

                                              those people wih challenging jobs are not paid less than minimum wage, with tips being the only way to turn it into an actual living wage. so yeah - the job,a s it is set up here in the US, does require tips.

                                              and the ideas that a) most waiters are earning enough money for a summer home & b) they somehow don't deserve a summer home are both ludicrous

                                              most waiters are struggling to survive. some are comfortable. very very very very very few are well off in any way.

                                      2. re: sillysheep

                                        I tended bar for about 5 years, yes it is THAT HARD. I didn't make nearly enough money for a summer house, but did make enough to pay my rent. That is when no trips to doctors came up since I wasn't insured. Or if I didn't get sick since I didn't get sick days. Even if you do get sick days, most of your money comes from tips, so getting that $3-4 an hour wouldn't come close to covering my usual daily wages.

                                        Lastly, who on earth gives servers the "pitying respect like they are serving our country overseas"? I sure as he'll don't. Nor do I pity those who serve our country, but I do respect them.

                                      3. >>>>Am I crazy to think that eating at the bar shouldn't necessitate as big a tip?<<<<

                                        In a word, yes.

                                        1. Take care of your bartender, your bartender takes care of you.

                                          1. What is different about how a bartender and a waiter serve you?

                                            They both take a drink order and bring your drink, except the bartender is making the drink, too.
                                            They both ring the order in the computer
                                            The waiter may or may not bring you your food, same with the bartender (runner/barback)
                                            Both check back to make sure your meal is satisfactory
                                            Both refill drink if necessary
                                            Both clear your used dishes
                                            Both drop a check and collect payment

                                            Seems like virtually the same job to me. I usually tip the bar more, but we normally go to places we're regulars, so we get lots of free stuff.

                                            1. I am sorry, but anytime you wanna chisel a downward tip, you really need a good cause.
                                              First meanings change with language use. Geek, as ' People have long forgotten" denoted people who bit heads off of chicken sorta circus side shows. Is the the current meaning? I think not. Let's look at the work hacker, that " People have long forgotten" meant someone who made a program work better (oh yeah in computers) outside and away from original use.
                                              So I think tips meaning "People have long forgotten that TIPS stand for To Insure Proper Service" is also a term that has changed.
                                              Right now you want it to be based on ok, I'll say it," weird stuff. Someone should be tipped less because of " It seems like the service you get has much less movement, servers, attention and distance to cross." So if you are at a table closer to the kitchen, you should tip less??? If they move less? Geesh, read what you said!

                                              Also think about your comment of "power over" deal. I suspect you eat at the bar for your convenience and wish to rationalize away, for your convenience a lower tip.

                                              1. Depending on the place, sometimes the bartender works much harder than the servers. There may be only one or two bartenders that have to deal with 300 people per night at a bar, while 8 servers in the dining room handle 150 covers. Plus, at any decent place the bartenders have to understand the menu and the wine list just as well as the servers do, on top of knowing how to tend a bar. Furthermore, many bars and restaurants pool all the tips from a the night, and servers, runners, busboys, bartenders, barbacks, etc. all get a share. So don't feel bad about tipping the same at the bar as you do in the dining room. And keep in mind, servers are only making about $4/hr from the establishment (legal minimum wage for tipped employees), so in effect you are paying them directly for the services they provide you. It's not an optional bonus for you to dispense if you're feeling generous, and it shouldn't be thought of as a "power" that you have over them, but the basic economic contract that exists between any buyer and seller. You wouldn't expect to be able to pay 25% less at the grocery store because the cashier is slow or unfriendly. Tip your servers. 20% is standard, in New York City at least.

                                                2 Replies
                                                  1. re: sabroso

                                                    Sabroso ( and others...)
                                                    Then why call it a tip at all? In your opinion it is a "Service Charge", Why not just call it that and be done with it.

                                                  2. I am a bartender at a restaurant. I provide full service to every guest who chooses to dine at the bar. I know the menu back to front. I'm "checking on you" the entire time, because I'm standing right there, able to bring you anything you want at any time. You may not see me looking, but i know exactly how much water is in your glass.
                                                    That glass of wine you're drinking? I ordered it, received the delivery and signed and coded the invoice. I stocked and organized the bottles and ensured they are kept at the proper temperature. I polished the glass you're drinking out of. I opened the bottle carefully and made sure the wine wasn't flawed. I spend many hours a week outside of work, learning about wine, unpaid, because I love it and want to be able to share my knowledge and passion with my guests.
                                                    I would also like to note that I do tip out to the support staff - in my case 13% of what I make, although many restaurants require a higher percentage.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Caforbes

                                                      And this is why, every time I am alone, I sit at the bar!!! I only choose to sit at the table if what I want to eat is not served at the bar.

                                                      TY, Caforbes for helping (I hope!) others understand how much bartenders do!

                                                      1. re: Quine

                                                        Thank you. I too frequently prefer sitting at the bar. Service is generally better, there is always someone nearby to help me, and I enjoy the conviviality of most good bt's. I never would even think of tipping less at a bar, indeed it's quite often the opposite.

                                                      2. re: Caforbes

                                                        Thank you VERY much, Caforbes. Always good to hear from a professional who actually does the job.

                                                        1. re: Caforbes

                                                          I love to sit at the bar & eat dinner. We get the best service, as Caforbes so ably demonstrates.

                                                        2. >>People have long forgotten that TIPS stand for To Insure Proper Service. This is the power the customer has over the server who is handling our food.<<

                                                          I have found that people who say nonsense like this usually have no power over anything else in their lives. The "power" to screw with someone's livelihood becomes intoxicating to them. Power over a server ? Really?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Whinerdiner

                                                            Is that even accurate anyway? The only time I've really ever seen that reference was in one of those e-mails that also included the reference to fornicating under consent of the king.....