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Sep 21, 2012 08:13 AM

Tipping a Bartender

Coming from another thread - I wondered how people view tipping bar tenders and if they compare that at all to how they tip a server. Also while the server's position is largely to serve as an intermediary between the kitchen and the dinner - the bartender not only serves as the customer service provider but also the "kitchen". And if the bartender is responding to requests both directly from customers and orders from servers, then their time available to be friendly or attentive may be strained. Obviously this varies based on how busy the bar is.

When in the States, I've either tipped around a dollar per drink if I'm paying per round or if I pay for the bill all at once, I tip 15-20%. In Jerusalem customary tipping is 10%, and that's what I do generally do.

If the bartender is being particularly attentive/friendly, has given free shots/drinks, or if the bar is particularly busy and I'm waited on quickly then I'm inclined to tip more. If the bar is particularly busy and ordering/paying is frustrating then I'm less inclined to tip as much. I personally view tipping to be largely related to service, and if the service isn't great - I won't tip as much.

Based on the other thread it seems like attitudes on tipping bar tenders can really range and I wonder what comes into pay with other people's choices.

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  1. I'm much like you and typically leave a dollar per drink if I am buying a round and paying for it at that time. If I am sitting at the bar and have an open tab for a few rounds, I typically leave 15-20%. If I am ordering food or having an actual meal at the bar then I also leave usually ~20%.

    1. Bartender tips start at around 20% of final bill, basically meaning that I tip them the same as I would a server if I'm sitting at a table.

      They go up if: bartender is attractive, or particularly friendly or attentive, or I am served free drinks.

      They go down if: I wait for drinks or they have an inhospitable demeanor.

      For servers I consider it tough for them to improve their tip; however, I will ding them if several of the following occur during my meal: I wait longer than I desire for drinks or food or they deliver incorrect items, cold food meant to be warm/hot, forget items, or have an inhospitable demeanor.

      1. As the OP indicates, the culture of tipping bar staff differs depending on where you are in the world. I havnt tipped in a bar here in the UK for many years. It's not expected, although obviously not going to be refused if offered. If there's been a crowd and we've been running a tab, a few coins might be added at the end of the evening - a sort of "keep the change" thing.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Harters

          Again, and depending on the service, I will throw a few £2 coins onto the bar.

          In some cases, I will assume that the "service" is included, though in those few cases, the word "service" does not apply.


          PS - a £ for the coat-check person, the doorman, who hails my cab, etc., is about my norm. At some hotels, I will wait until checkout, and then tip the door staff for the week, as I often find myself without £ coins. Just do not like a pocket full of coins.

        2. North of Boston, MA here...20% if service is what I expect (pleasant bartender, satisfactory drinks), less if service is shoddy, sloppy or the cocktails are crafted poorly, more if the service and drinks are stellar. Pretty much the same thing I do with food.

          1. Having both waited and tended bar back in college, I will say that there is a large difference between the level of service for the two positions. Waiters are really the face of the entire meal, dealing with all the needs of the table, orchestrating service from the kitchen and bar, and serving fewer people, over a long time. Bartenders tend to serve and move on, doing a high volume over a short time interval per customer. Of course, there are exceptions. If the bartender is doing service bar as well, they are tipped out by the waiters.

            In a busy restaurant with a good bar business, the bartenders make as much or more than the waiters. I tip bartenders $1 to $2 a drink, and it will go up from there. If I am running a tab, then I will add about 20%. If I am comped, I will tip close to the value of what I am getting comped. So a free $12 cocktail can easily get a $10 tip. Upgrade me to a super premium for the well price, that is easily worth $5. That goes for servers as well, unless it is to make up for something.

            I don't tip hot bartenders any more than I would normally, even if she is flirting. It makes for a fun night, but that is part of the game to get more in tips.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ocshooter

              Out of curiosity - in regards to the US, I know a lot of discussion regarding tipping servers is related to the fact that they don't make minimum wage and so tips are not just about rewarding service but also ensuring that the person makes a living wage. Is there a standard way in the US that bartenders are paid? If the person tends bar in a bar/restaurant vs a bar-bar? If it's a bar where there are bartenders and also servers, but it's just drinks?

              In Israel bartenders/servers are paid according to minimum wage/living wage standards. So while there's a custom of tipping 10%, it's more inline with in the US if it became customary to tip a 'barista'. That attitude, I think, ultimately leads to the notion that if I'm comped a drink it's going to bump the tip from 10% to 12-15% - not the value of the drink.

              1. re: cresyd

                bartenders in us are tipped employees and make same sub-min wage as servers (exception san francisco etc). no difference in type of establishment. in a restaurant or busy pub/nightclub where the bartender(s) make all of the "service station" drinks for the servers, the bartenders will be "tipped out" a percentage of total tips by each server, and in turn the bartenders will generally "tip out" a percentage of the total to barbacks. these barbacks change kegs, fetch cold cases of bottled beer and liquor bottles, keep ice wells filled, etc. and generally keep the bartenders able to most efficiently serve.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  I think just like most things in life, there can be some variance in bartender pay, especially based on the type of establishment, locale, etc. I bartended in a restaurant where aside from weekend nights and a few hour rush on weeknights, the actual bar side was fairly slow and my time was primarily spent getting drinks for servers or studying. We weren't tipped out from the servers and it wasn't really custom for people to tip well in the bar. It was a rural area, probably half of the customers wouldn't leave the quarter if they got a $1.75 beer, let alone a dollar per drink or 15-20%). I started at minimum wage and was making $10/hour when I moved away. I've had friends who have tended bar in similar situations or in actual bars and there is no way they could have survived on tips alone in small towns where people just don't tip at bars.

                  My boss grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska. The closest town (~1000 people) was 20 miles away, the closest city, Omaha, was 4hrs away. Since then he has lived in Portland, Philly, and now KC. He has traveled the world. He still won't leave the $2 in change for a $18 pitcher of beer at a bar. When asked why, he said, why would I tip at a bar? He tips 20+% at restaurants, gives money to the car hops at Sonic, but just grew up in a culture where you didn't tip at bars.

                2. re: cresyd

                  The deviation from the standard minimum wage for tipped employees present in federal law and some state minimum wage laws is a credit and does not allow for the employee to make less than the minimum wage. For example, if the federal minimum wage is $7.25 and the tip credit is $5.12, the employer is only obligated to pay an employee in the "tipped" category $2.13 per hour as long as that employee makes at least $5.12 in tips. If the employee makes less than that in tips, the employer is legally obligated to make up the difference. If you assume that most people tip the bartender at least one buck per drink, it would probably have to be a pretty slow night for that to happen. And a lot of states don't have a tip credit in their minimum wage laws.