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Feb 4, 2011 09:28 AM

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.

          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.


            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 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

                      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.