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Tipping during happy hour

When you go to a place during happy hour, do you tip on the check amount,or what it would have been without happy hour prices? The wait staff doesn't work half as hard if prices are 50% off. They likely work harder. I've asked a few people, and the opinions vary. A lot of people say they tip on the check, but had never really thought about it.
What do you do?

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    1. i tip based on the "regular" prices with a minimum floor amount per drink.

      i have really thought about it.

      1. I would tip 20% on the check amount and then possibly add a few dollars depending on what I thought of the service and how much food and drink was actually ordered by my party.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pamf

          Agree with this. For a start, it's not always easily apparent what the initial price would be. So if there's a drink special on a chalk board saying "X brand caipirinha for the World Cup" - I'm not really going to track down the regular price of the drink.

            1. In a bar, you should tip two dollars per drink, period.

              29 Replies
                1. re: scoopG

                  maybe where you live, but why would I tip 25% on an average $8 drink at a bar?

                  BTW...when I first came of age the going rate was 25 cents tip on a mixed drink

                  1. re: scoopG

                    You're in NYC. $2 maybe for a pint of beer, but on your now typical $15 cocktail or wine by the glass, isn't that's a little low?

                    1. re: Bkeats

                      $2 would be just right for a $15 drink.

                      1. re: grampart

                        Well that's not 15%. I would tip $3.

                          1. re: carolinadawg

                            I took exception to the "$2 per drink, period" statement. My comment that "$2 is a fair tip" referred to the $15 cocktail. Of course, I've never had a $15 cocktail and I doubt I ever will.

                          2. re: Bkeats

                            Drink tips aren't computed on a percentage (at least by me). A beer or a glass of wine is a fixed tip. A mixed drink is more. The amount varies depending on the place, however. So at one of my watering holes, the tip for a beer is a dollar and for a made-to-order bloody mary, two dollars. At a nicer place, the base tip could be one-fifty or two dollars. They wouldn't let me in a place where a three dollar tip for a glass of wine was expected.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              I think with happy hour specifically this brings up the point of people who are happy/willing to go to a place for happy hour deals but find the place over priced/too expensive otherwise. I feel like this specifically for drinks like beer/wine/2-3 ingredient cocktails that don't require significant service.

                              Unlike coupons, I feel that happy hour is more an establishment's way of saying "this is our current menu and prices" rather than when using a coupon.

                              1. re: GH1618

                                When someone makes me a martini or sidecar that is exactly as I specified it and does it perfectly, there's a $3 tip over and above what else is on the check.

                                I'm remembering the very good but very young bartender at one long-gone but then favorite Friday Happy Hour hang in Nashville. He had his Modern Martini down: ice the glass, rinse it out with vermouth, then straight gin from the shaker. When I told him in no uncertain terms that I wanted that vermouth to be an INGREDIENT, he got indignant, then scornful, and then came close to tears as he realized he was going to have to submit to this blasphemy. He made it four-to-one as I'd asked, and grimaced when I declared it perfect. He got double the $2 HH price …

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  The gin:vermouth ratio keeps changing, doesn't it? In the 1930s, the ratio was 3:1, but it started out in its infancy as (gag) 1:1. In the early 1960s, at the end of one of his tunes, Tom Lehrer opined: “Hearts full of youth, hearts full of truth, / Six parts gin to one part vermouth.”

                                  Full disclosure here: I don't make or drink Martinis; my closest exposure came in a brief stay in Bartender's school, where an extra dry Martini was described as making a blessing gesture over the glass while holding the vermouth bottle. Closely related is the comment by Noël Coward, who said that the Perfect Martini is made by "...filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy." The source for the quote doesn't mention *when* he said it; could have been at almost any point from the 1920s on.

                                  1. re: mcsheridan

                                    If you don't drink martini's why do you "gag" at the thought of a 1:1 martini? If you have an excellent gin, and an excellent dry vermouth, a well stirred (30 second), 1:1 martini is a thing of beauty, especially when all the flavors are brought out by 1-2 dashes of orange bitters, and garnished with a lemon peel squeezed over the surface of the drink, then wiped around the rim of the glass, before being gently slid into the cocktail.

                                    The reason why martinis came to use less and less vermouth is that during Prohibition and after, people lost the knowledge that vermouth needs to be used quickly, and kept cool and dark between uses or it goes bad. Also, you couldn't easily get fresh vermouth during the 20's-40's because of Prohibition, then the Depression, and WWII. Folks had nasty martinis because they were made with old, nasty vermouth. So they used less and less vermouth.

                                    The greatest majority of bartender schools teach nothing but crappy cocktail making. Just 2-3 years ago I was making quality cocktails at an event and the president of the New England bartending school had his booth next to us. He asked me why I was wasting all that time squeezing lemons and limes for fresh juice instead of using commercial sour mix. (By the way, we had hundreds of folks lined up at our booth all afternoon. The bartending school never had a line for their cocktails.)

                                    1. re: JMF

                                      more evidence that some people have a discerning palate, and some don't.

                                    2. re: mcsheridan

                                      I had always had vodka martinis (yeah, I know) due to an accidental drinking out of a thermos of what I thought was water at a family picnic as a young kid. I recently tried a gin martini with what was a really beautiful, floral, herbal gin and loved it. I think i'll go with gin from now on, because i'm not that wild about vodka.
                                      The tip? I don't know, I havent' thought about it in a while and DH usually buys the drinks, but i need to rethink it, it looks like.
                                      But if the ingredients make the drink what it is and I"m not too picky about how it's made (I'm not), $3 seems like a lot to me.

                                      1. re: mcsheridan

                                        Wait...someone still drinks martinis with gin?

                                        1. re: jesstifer

                                          i drink martinis with gin, too.
                                          preferable fords gin.
                                          (hell, i can even be happy with fords gin neat)

                                          1. re: jesstifer

                                            What do you think a martini is? Martini = gin + vermouth. If you are drinking something poured into a martini glass that has something else in it, then you need to add a "____" before the tini. But that's another thread and an abomination.

                                      2. re: GH1618

                                        Why wouldn't you tip for the service at a bar based on percentage if you would do that for a meal? Your server is taking your order, bringing it and maybe clearing your place while checking periodically on your meal. For that service we normally provide a tip based on some %. Doesn't your bartender do the same thing with the addition of making you the drink? Why wouldn't the same model apply?

                                        I guess you wouldn't like the places where a round of 4 cocktails could run you $100 after tax and tip.

                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                          Tipping is voluntary. There is no model.

                                          1. re: grampart

                                            I suspect you and I have very different dining out habits and experiences. To each his own.

                                          2. re: Bkeats

                                            That's just the rule I learned a long time ago. I don't remember where.

                                            Using the percentage rule would mean no tip for a complimentary glass of soda water. I always tip for that. On a percentage basis, the tip is incalculable.

                                      3. re: grampart

                                        sounds like we are pinching pennies.

                                      4. re: Bkeats

                                        $2 per beer is extremely generous, even by NY standards. Bartenders must love you.

                                        Actually, they like me too and I tip a buck a beer and then throw in 2 or 3 bucks at the end. More if it's a bartender that gives regular buybacks.

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          I have had lots of great conversations with bartenders over the years. Decent number of buybacks. One of beauties of living in NYC is the ability to indulge and not worry as all I got to do at the end of the evening is stand at the corner and wave my arm around. Probably tipped cabbies way too much after those evenings too. My wife tells me I drink too much. She could be right.

                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                            I think we have similar habits.

                                            At places where I'm a regular the buybacks are more frequent and I increase my tip accordingly. One hand washes the other. Besides, it's the right thing to do.

                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                              Probably right and wIth your surname, I'm guessing that you are well versed in the dark alchemic arts of cocktail mixing.;)

                                        2. re: Bkeats

                                          I'm in nyc too and for cocktails that are $12-15 i leave $3, but for happy hour drinks that are $6-8 i'll leave $2.

                                      5. Where I am in the world, it is relatively uncommon to tip in bars. And, even when a tip is given, it would be very small. Happy hour would make no difference. I havnt tipped in a bar for years.

                                        11 Replies
                                        1. re: Harters

                                          Do you have happy hours in England, which I believe are typically characterized by half price or otherwise deeply discounted drinks? They are not allowed in Canada. I believe beer prices are already relatively cheap in England, do they get further discounted?

                                          1. re: julesrules

                                            Yes, some bars have happy hours (pubs tend not to). Not just in England but throughout the country. Just looking at one place in the city at the centre of our metro area - they offer two cocktails for £9 (around $14.50 CDN) with some bottles of beer at £2.50.

                                            Needless to say, it can lead to excessive consumption and I reckon Canada has the more responsible policy.

                                            1. re: julesrules

                                              They are allowed maybe just not in your province

                                            2. re: Harters

                                              Yes, Europe is different, in Germany/Austria a Euro is considered "Trinkgeld" as a token of appreciation to the bar tender/server. In Italy is is a rarity to see locals tip other than "rounding up" on the bill. In Rome, and other big tourist cities, most servers "expect" a tip from American tourists, one of the downsides of American Culture's effects!!!

                                              1. re: ospreycove

                                                ospreycove, I concur with your summary of typical _Continental European_ practice, but it omits the crucial further detail that a fixed, explicit "service charge" is typically posted to the bill in the last century or so, and any voluntary addition, "rounding," et cetera, is the customer's supplement onto that.

                                                The North-American practice of making even a basic service charge voluntary, yet customary -- but still a principal source of compensation to servers -- imposes greater obligations on patrons to conform to a custom. This practice confuses visitors and indeed even some natives, who occasionally lose sight of the central role "tips" play in wages, or confuse voluntary-but-customary with completely optional.

                                                1. re: eatzalot

                                                  You are correct, I see it all the time with the European tourists in my area, some places that are tourist favorites now add 18% to the bill, and it is stated in bold red ink on the check.

                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                    Excellent progress on the part of those establishments, ospreycove. Service charge is definitely the way to go in replacing old-fashioned tipping.

                                                    Hopefully, it doesnt catch out Americans who don't appreciate what a service charge is and end up double tipping. Or do those places treat foreigners differently from the way they treat Americans?

                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      No, one has to read the check, many times I have known folks, including me, that have tipped twice!!!!

                                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                                        On my last trip to NYC, I believe there was an attempt to "catch out" this foreigner. Actually two attempts. The bills had a service % added. Once using the addition they might for a large party. Second time in a very casual place where "something" had been scribbled on the bottom - clearly intended that it not be fully understood. Fortunately, I always scrutinise bills closely so no double tip.

                                                        My own country is not immune from such shabby practice.

                                                2. re: ospreycove

                                                  Taking this international digression back to the question posed in the OP, I've never lived in a European country other than my own. I mentioned normal practice here and said happy hour wouldnt affect my tipping in bars.

                                                  I don't know what would be the happy hour practice in other countries - particularly as the continent doesnt have a norm when it comes to tipping and, for restaurants, it varies from countries where there is old-fashioned tipping (or the more modern added % service charge) at varied % rates, through to those countries where service is inherently included in the menu price and where there may be a "rounding up" or a few coins left.

                                              2. I tip for a happy hour drink the same as if it were the regular price. Even outside of happy hour, for a complimentary drink, the tip is the same.

                                                1. I tip on the normal price, which is generally easy to estimate. If there's some sort of half-priced appetizer special or dollar oysters, I generally double the tip.

                                                  1. What it would normally be, or what I think an average mixed drink would be based on their drink menu. If an average glass of wine is $8.50, I leave $10.00. If an average mixed drink is $10, I leave $12.00.

                                                    It's a buck or two at the most. If I can't afford that, I shouldn't be buying the drink in the first place.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      I am with you LW. Reminds me of something I read a while back.


                                                      First part of #19 comes to mind

                                                    2. The only happy hours we've tended to go to are strictly for drinks, and mostly sitting at the bar and paying cash. It's been quite a while, back when a simple non-call drink like something on the rocks or a martini was $1.50 I'd tip 50¢ on every other drink. I still tip $1 for every two drinks at a hosted bar. I know the guys are being paid fairly well but they're working their butts off, and (aside from tickets, if it's a charity party) we're drinking for free.

                                                      1. This is a standard subject that comes up where "happy hour" deals (including food menus) are common, as they are in recent years in my part of the US.

                                                        Bobfrmia: "Opinions" might "vary," but the reality of the server work does not. Any sensible customer (and I am always a customer, not a server) will tip according to regular, undiscounted prices if the server is doing the same work. Tips are how they are paid. The logic of this is inescapable. You still enjoy the big discount, on the check.

                                                        Still, there are always unthinking and "cheap" people. Some of them will even try to escape the logic, and under-tip, rationalizing it in various ways. People also do this about other aspects of restaurants and tipping. Ultimately it says more about them than the service of course.

                                                        39 Replies
                                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                                          The point of my question,to some extent, was to make people think about it. I always tip on the non HH price. I'm mostly talking about food and drink places.
                                                          We have a place here in the great city of Des Moines that does half price pizza, beer and wine during HH. I had a gourmet pizza, and 2 pints of Stone IPA. The check was $13,00 and change. I would have never thought to tip based on that amount. But I guess some people do.

                                                          1. re: eatzalot

                                                            Honestly - I think there are a number of restaurant/bars that function under the concept that happy hour works as a way to bring in customers at a time when they would otherwise be significantly empty (and thus hurt servers earnings anyways). I work in a part of DC where there are a number of places with prices that, especially for drinks, I would never bother with. But they advertise/promote happy hour menus where the patrons may never even check out the regular menu/regular price.

                                                            If I'm handed a menu that says "from 5-7 x drinks $x" - do I then go and search out what the drinks cost from 7:01 onwards? If I'm given an early bird/ pre-theater menu, do I ask what the non-pretheater price would be before tipping? If a meal is priced lower on the lunch menu than the dinner menu - do you tip the dinner price?

                                                            I think it's different when you go to a restaurant with a coupon/discount and tips should be on the pre-discounted rate. However, when it's a time bound promotion for all patrons, I think the notion of tracking down the highest price of an item and tipping on that is a bit absurd.

                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                              "I think there are a number of restaurant/bars that function under the concept that happy hour works as a way to bring in customers at a time when they would otherwise be significantly empty. . ." [Yes, in which case they'd lay on fewer servers or bartenders. That's how it works.]

                                                              What does that concept have to do with compensating servers decently for their service to you?

                                                              The cases Bobfrmia mentioned, just like the ones I see all over California, make very clear to customers that the food is discounted say 50% during "happy hours." That discount brings in the customers, and it's the particular context we were writing about.

                                                              In that situation, how big of a -- and whose -- problem is it to adjust for this simple ratio, when tipping for service? And yet -- my point above -- people still are thoughtless or cheap, even when it would cost them little in either money or thought.

                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                DC is not so uniform across happy hours.

                                                                Some places have specific happy hour menus so it's not just a flat discount. Also with bars there are a number of cases where happy hour or day of the week specials will be written on a chalk board and a physical menu may not need to be consulted.

                                                                If I go to a restaurant for lunch and the lunch menu has lower prices for the same/similar dishes than the dinner menu, I don't see myself tipping on the lunch prices as not properly compensating a server. If someone orders a virgin cocktail - do they tip the same as the cocktail with alcohol? If someone orders the most expensive bottle of a beer - why do they tip more than someone who orders the cheapest bottle as the "service" provided is essentially the same.

                                                                None of this stuff is uniform.

                                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                                  Of course. And it is always possible to contrive extremely complex examples. I don't propose approaching it like brain surgery or rocket science.

                                                                  But in the main, for customers who make use of these specials more than just occasionally, therefore are reaping most of the benefit, there will be a general sense of the equivalent, un-discounted market value, in which case less possible appeal to complexity as an excuse for not tipping decently. Tipping decently is my point.

                                                                  (I even meet people who are finickly about never leaving even slightly "too much" tip, as if tips were a way that "they" somehow "rip you off" -- rather than being someone else's honest compensation. It's a particular, self-absorbed, mind-set.)

                                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                                    I really don't think my examples are that contrived.

                                                                    Today I went to a bar for the Netherlands/Argentina game as recommended by a coworker. We were doing rounds of drinks, and I was fourth to order. I ordered what my coworkers requested and what I had been drinking without ever looking at a menu. When the bill came I had no clue if the prices were happy hour or if some were and some weren't. I tipped to the price on the bill.

                                                                    I go to another bar on the weekends to watch Premier League games. They list on their brunch menu and on the chalk board that wings are 60 cents each on the weekends. I have no earthly clue what their weekday price is.

                                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                                      cresyd, I didn't assert that your examples were contrived, only that someone intent on doing so could always conjure hypothetical cases to distract from the central, ethical issue, which I cited and is pretty obvious: decent payment for services rendered. All else flows from that point (which is what started this thread, as Bobfrmia has emphasized). And, a one-time visit to a place with unfamiliar pricing may be interesting, but it's what applied mathematicians call a "set of low measure," it doesn't amount to much in the larger picture.

                                                                      If your basic intent is to tip decently, you will probably find ways to do so _despite_ ambiguous pricing. If your motivation is to be cheap, you will likely find ways to do it that _lean_ on the ambiguity.

                                                                      My personal favorite "extreme" test of such situations (one I've encountered often from various angles) is where customers are "comped" by restaurant owners -- because the owners want to treat a friend, or a new place wants to welcome the local community, etc. I've found that owners are less diligent about comp-ing the staff with tips on these occasions, and it can work out badly for some employees. Some comped customers are alert and conscientious about this issue, and make a point of looking after the employees. Others (especially at large events) don't seem to think of it at all. But they can be encouraged by examples, a "tip jar," etc. Some just are seemingly unconscious of any possible tipping role, unless given an explicit bill.

                                                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                                                        Your point of "decent payment for services rendered" doesn't remain clear. You have a point in your head that suffices as what constitutes "decent payment" - that's hardly a universal within the scheme of tipping. If I'm in a European country, I tip based on their standards - but also am aware that their servers receive "decent payment" as per standards set by the country.

                                                                        In the US, different states function differently regarding minimum wage. Therefore tipping 20% in DC vs tipping 20% in Seattle once the minimum wage goes to $15 per hour wouldn't result in equivalent pay for servers. So does that result in a change in how 'decent payment' is valued?

                                                                        If I go to a restaurant for lunch that has a different lunch/dinner menu were nearly equivalent dishes are cheaper for lunch (maybe due to slightly smaller portions) - the server is doing the same work regarding service. But that doesn't mean I'm going to tip on dinner price. I really see no difference for happy hour.

                                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                                          'Your point of "decent payment for services rendered" doesn't remain clear. / If I'm in a European country, . . .'

                                                                          I just addressed the underlying difference in European practice farther up the thread, to ospreycove. This thread is focused on the US, where the de-facto obligatory part of a tip (the part that would be billed explicitly in Europe) is left to the customer.

                                                                          I did spell out explicitly, earlier, what I meant by decent compensation, but if it still remains unclear to you, I meant whatever percentage you normally tip on an equivalent market value for a comparable meal or drink. AGAIN: if you rarely frequent such places you may not know the typical market, but that will have minor effect on servers. If you do so often, you will have experience of typical pricing.

                                                                          I think this subthread demonstrates a principle I mentioned earlier: granted, it's always possible to argue your way out of decently compensating servers, IF that is your intent. OTOH, if you approach the subject expecting to generally do right by them (subject to all the limitations of price ambiguities, human error, etc.), you'll perceive less need for "yes-but" quibbles.

                                                                          1. re: eatzalot

                                                                            I understand how you've framed "decent compensation" - my point is that this assumption that there is a knowable flat "market value" for a meal or drink is not stable.

                                                                            Ultimately I strongly disagree with the US system of tipping for a variety of reasons. In regards to happy hour - I see it like lunch time - if there's a separate menu than dinner then separate tipping. My quibble is just the notion that there's any flat definition of "standard decency" in the tipping system.

                                                                            All of this is highly negotiated and fluid. If I order the most expensive imported bottle of beer and someone else orders the cheapest domestic bottle - the service provided is exactly the same. The tip is not. Servers working at places with reduced price lunch menus make less in tips, despite providing equivalent service to dinner. All of this is negotiated.

                                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                                              cresyd, I feel that you are complicating the issues here unnecessarily. The thread is explicitly about tipping in the situation of clearly-discounted food and drink.

                                                                              Not about lunch vs dinner. Not about drinks of higher vs lower menu prices. Not about whether "the service is exactly the same" for differently priced beers. That might be a topic for another discussion.

                                                                              De-facto US custom is to tip a percentage (traditionally 15% as a base, up or even slightly down from there for service above or below expectation) on whatever BILL (dinner, breakfast, or late-night snack). That's our context. If an establishment clearly discounts from its _regular_ prices in certain hours, how does the customer tip?

                                                                              That's all. To raise endless hypothetical or side issues might serve some discussions, but here it strikes me as off topic.

                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                I disagree as the question was about happy hour which depending on the establishment is not uniform. However, it is clear we have reached an impasse.

                                                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                                                  The OP stipulated a simple situation, giving the example of a 50% discount. Why not express your views _within_ that assumed situation, EVEN if it isn't what you always see? I believe that's the only fundamental "impasse" here.

                                                                                  I assure you that in eating out frequently for many years around the US, I have very often seen practical situations such as Bobfrmia laid out, or simple variations of those -- it is becoming increasingly commonplace in the restaurant trade. Opportunity abounds to discuss tipping attitudes _within_ that simple model, without digressing into the exceptions to it that exist.

                                                                                  Some realities of the hospitality-customer role are internal to the customer (like, what do I think about X, or how do I choose to tip). Some are not (like how does the establishment set its prices, or how are servers compensated). I understand this thread to be the OP asking about the first of those categories.

                                                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                    The OP initially commented on happy hour prices. Those vary and I was commenting on how there is not a one size fits all happy hour shoe.

                                                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                                                      Yes, I just acknowledged that (NB I was editing while you posted). Why not comment within the spirit of what the OP was clearly focused on, or at least respond to my own comments within that same basic model?

                                                                                      What DO you think about tipping if you see a clear 50% discount??

                                                                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                        The impasse I referred to and feel we have reached is because I do not feel that presented basic model adequately represents the happy hour experience. As such it would be a discussion about a 50% off discount which I do not feel is an appropriate correlation to happy hour.

                                                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                                                          It was the OP's example. So, as someone who has already raised MANY hypothetical points in the thread, why on earth not just treat it as hypothetical, and just comment on what you'd do in that situation? That still allows for holding separate views on how widespread is the model's validity.

                                                                                          My own remarks here were mostly specific to that or similar situations. They include observing rationalizations that people have actually used, in my experience, for tipping inadequately. Such as second-guessing things, even when it's a simple 50% discount, about the establishment's general pricing, how much "labor" they think goes into this or that task, whose "responsibility" is it to compensate servers, etc.

                                                                          2. re: cresyd

                                                                            Then there are the folks who, in order to whittle the tip to its' lowest possible amount, "I do not tip on the tax, nor bottles of wine", etc. etc. If that is how they get their thrills, so be it, for me life is way too short to let such attitudes/practices invade my well being. As an older gentleman once told me, "They don't put pockets in burial shrouds"!!!

                                                                            1. re: ospreycove

                                                                              I have my issues with tipping because I think it places an antagonistic relationship between servers in patrons (in terms of how they're paid and evaluated) when that relationship should be between servers and management. But I digress.

                                                                              I see happy hour like lunch time or a pre-theather/early bird menu. Distinct menu, distinct prices, distinct tip.

                                                                            2. re: cresyd

                                                                              cresyd: you response to eatzalot completely proves his/her VERY clear point.

                                                                        2. re: eatzalot

                                                                          An honest compensation is the employer's responsibility. A tip is for service beyond what is expected.

                                                                          1. re: genoO

                                                                            So if a server takes your order, brings your food and brings the check....you don't tip?

                                                                            (I'm assuming you are in the US)

                                                                            1. re: genoO

                                                                              geno0, I don't know what country you (and whoever clicks your "recommend" button) occupy, but the usual US reality is firmly contrary to what you asserted, even if sincerely.

                                                                              In the US states I'm experienced with, the typical server will explain to you, if you ask, that they receive a basic "floor" of compensation such as legal minimum wage, but most of their pay comes from tips. The fraction of their de-facto pay coming from tips measures the exact responsibility of you, the customer. End of subject. Next question, please?

                                                                              Most regular customers know this simple reality, but (to reiterate my theme here) always a few strive not to. Recording the variety of such strivings is a useful documentary role for online threads such as this one.

                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                Happy Hour is a loss leader for a business. The owner decides to run a Happy Hour in order to increase the volume of customers and hope to retain them after the end of the period. The servers are serving a higher volume of beverages during the period, so they will make more tips (number of tips) than they would during a non-Happy Hour period of time.

                                                                                To expect customers to magically know what the normal prices are and tip accordingly is bizarre. Cresyd has indicated several recent circumstances where that was not possible. I tend to tip flat amounts ($2-$3 per drink) on beverages. During Happy Hour, it's probably the lower amount.

                                                                                If a server doesn't want to work at an establishment that offers Happy Hour because of diminished tips, that's up to them. I imagine that they make more tips during Happy Hour, even if they are smaller tips, because they will receive more of them.

                                                                                1. re: 512window

                                                                                  Restaurant _owners_ operate h-h as "loss leaders!" Servers remain on their own as usual. (I've talked to them about this. They are SHARPLY aware of which patrons compensate them as usual and which, consciously or not, lean on the h-h pricing to short the tips.)

                                                                                  "To expect customers to magically know what the normal prices are and tip accordingly is bizarre. Cresyd has indicated several recent circumstances where that was not possible."

                                                                                  Yes -- as well as introducing red herrings like comparing lunch vs dinner pricings. (The relevant analogy for this thread would be comparing a _regular_ lunch price to an explicitly 50%-discounted lunch price.) That some circumstances don't use simple discounting formulas evades the reality that many DO; the OP laid out a common example:

                                                                                  "The wait staff doesn't work half as hard if prices are 50% off."

                                                                                  In that scenario, where you DO have an idea of regular pricing (as do most repeat customers frequenting a place with h-h food-drink discounts -- after all, they know the prices are discounted, that's why they're there -- or who also frequent at nondiscounted times), there can be no excuses about needing "magic" to know the discount you're enjoying on the bill.

                                                                                  The only conjuring here is the rationalizations for tipping below the usual US norm of 15%+ (or some rough equivalent on per-drink prices), given that the customer knows that the bill, but not the service, was specially reduced. What about that remains unclear?

                                                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                    Patrons arent shorting the waiters on tips during happy hour- they go because its better value. If 20 percent is normal where you live and that is what you leave then there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Its like saying that patrons go at lunch so they canshorts the waiters on tips because lunch menus are cheaper... completely illogical.... they get tipped on a percentage basis and have way too much time on their hands thinking about how thats so unfair ... except on the nights when they make a killing and would hate to be making min wage.... I dont tip for servers to make the min wage anyways i tip for service and i believe service is 20% of the menu price when i go whether that is lunch happy hour monday night or friday night its all the same and I tip according to the bill I receive each of those times... if the waiters hated working happy hours they wouldnt but I pretty sure most love it because it is very busy so they make a larger amount given the number of customers they serve

                                                                                  2. re: 512window

                                                                                    512 - good point - I think a lot of the posters miss the point that the top take is a function of the volume of food/drink being served and the value of it. So lots of food and drink at happy hour at lower prices probably results in a far higher tip take per hour for a server than full priced service does - even with the tip percentage at 15 to 20% of the bill.

                                                                                    For a server the turnover of orders is going to be far more significant to them than the individual value of each order. If they serve a cheap beer every 30 seconds they are going to make far more than an more expensive beer every 5 minutes....even if the tip percentage is constant.

                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                      I also think that in addition to the faster ordering (want to get in all of those drink/food orders before the close of the window), lots of groups are quicker to clear out as soon as the window ends. So if happy hour is 5-7, most of those groups have either cleared by 7:30 or continued to order at the full price. I think it's the far more rare situation for a group to seriously linger post 'happy hour' without ordering anything new.

                                                                                      In regards to DC, I can think of a few restaurants with fairly expensive price points that have far more "aimed at the masses" happy hour menus. Whether it's a case of "get an entire office crowd to show up to then woo managers to dine here later" or "we'd be so dead at this time of day otherwise" or some other reason, I dunno. But when a set of happy hour cocktails are priced at $5 but the regular price for cocktails is $10-$15 you're going to attract different patrons with different spending patterns in mind. (And it may still end up being that the happy hour cocktails are smaller in size, use less premium ingredients, etc as opposed to just being cheaper.)

                                                                                    2. re: 512window

                                                                                      512 window: if we are going to talk about things that are bizarre, this statement of yours would be exhibit 1 for this thread

                                                                                      <<To expect customers to magically know what the normal prices are and tip accordingly is bizarre>>

                                                                                    3. re: eatzalot

                                                                                      "The fraction of their de-facto pay coming from tips measures the exact responsibility of you, the customer"
                                                                                      See, this is where you are wrong. It is not my responsibility to make up their wages. If it was it would be included on the invoice, like every other business.
                                                                                      The responsibility belongs to the employer and employee. It is called a tip, not a fee.

                                                                                      1. re: genoO

                                                                                        I just cited the reality, which most people are aware of (and everyone should be -- maybe you too, I don't know if you're actually serious there, since it's such an eccentric claim).

                                                                                        You can deny the reality, but that doesn't affect the reality.

                                                                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                          The "reality" is tipping is voluntary. In your world, it isn't. Why in the world should anyone feel obligated to support a bartender who is probably already taking home (thanks to you and others like you) a couple hundred dollars a night in tips in addition to a salary his employer deems fair?

                                                                                          1. re: grampart

                                                                                            I don't know why you insist on characterizing both common employment practice and basic courtesy as "my world," but I referred to the cases where the bartenders, in REALITY, get a minimum-wage "floor" income from the owners, and most of their actual pay from tips. That's a common US arrangement for both bartenders and restaurant servers. Anyone interested can verify it to their satisfaction. It isn't in any serious question.

                                                                                            Most of their income comes and has always come from "tips," therefore directly from customers. geno0 earlier made a bizarre assertion that "honest compensation" was entirely up to the employer and "tips" were for services "beyond what is expected." That simply does not reflect common practice (or expectation of the customer role) in the US, as anyone can (again) easily verify if they really, truly don't already know it. (Most people know it.)

                                                                                            In some countries, a "service charge" is added onto the bill, then any additional from the customer for "services beyond what is expected" is indeed optional. In the US, the basic "service charge"of around 15% is left to the customer to add, but is customary and customarily expected, not optional.

                                                                                            The extent of rationalization or apparent self-deception visible in parts of this thread is amazing even me.

                                                                                            1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                              According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for a bartender is $10.36, and the average yearly take-home is $21,550. These numbers, however, in no way reflect the reality of the situation. Generally speaking, a bartender earns much more than the government ever finds out about.


                                                                                              1. re: grampart

                                                                                                I have merely pointed out some typical realities of the hospitality trades. Countless Chowhound posters know them already and don't need them pointed out. (I've been all over the US, talking to restaurant personnel, owners, bartenders.) But you don't have to travel much to understand their reality if you actually want to.

                                                                                                The base pay plus tips resembles the compensation of agents and sales people on commission, though the details are of course different.

                                                                                                In typical modern US restaurants I see, tips are tracked on the POS computer, so it's difficult for servers to hide their full income. (Things have changed since the day when bills were settled in gold.)

                                                                                                1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                  I do understand the reality of tipping being voluntary.

                                                                                                2. re: grampart

                                                                                                  That average hourly wage of $10.36 must include tips. Because it has no reality to it. A top level mixologist bartender is lucky if they get a salary of $10 an hour. The only bartenders who make a barely living salary are union bartenders at hotels and member clubs who get around $20 an hour. And may not be allowed any tips at all.

                                                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                                                    "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for a bartender is $10.36, and the average yearly take-home is $21,550. These numbers, however, in no way reflect the reality of the situation. Generally speaking, a bartender earns much more than the government ever finds out about."

                                                                                                    This statement sure doesn't sound like the $10.36 inclused tips.

                                                                          2. 2 bucks a drink and at least 20% on the food.

                                                                            It's discussions like these that make me really miss soupkitten. She'd write a very long, well though-out screed on why and how much to tip. Wah.

                                                                            1. I try not to tip during happy hour. First, they are really busy and probably won't notice. Second, I'm finally getting a drink that is priced right, why spoil it with a tip?

                                                                              1. I sometimes go to a place that has a happy hour: all appetizers and drinks are 50% off. So it's very easy to calculate what the tip would be without discounts. If the bill is $25, it would have been $50, so the tip is $10. As someone upthread points out, I'm still getting a bargain ($35 vs $60) and I'm not penalizing the servers for having the misfortune of being scheduled to work the happy hour shift.

                                                                                1. Three dollars per glorious martini

                                                                                  1. Go for it,if you had a good time and liked the service, leave about 30-40% of the check amount; what difference does it make to you in the long run? Yet, wait staff personnel are overworked, especially at "Deal time" happy hour, etc. If you can go out to a bar for multiple drinks, you have the $$ to leave a good tip.

                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                      I think it's great that there are folks like you who tip so generously. It makes up for those that tip 15%, or 10%, or nothing.

                                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                                        The way I see it, 50,000 years from now when the burned out cinder, that was once Earth, is tumbling through dark space, does it matter that I left a few dollars more for the waitress? I dare say not. As an older friend of mine once said, "They don't put pockets in burial shrouds".

                                                                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                          I agree, but it doesn't take away from the fact that tipping is a terrible institution.

                                                                                          1. re: grampart

                                                                                            No disagreement from me I think there should be a "built in" service charge on the bill. Extra gratuity is up to the patron.

                                                                                            1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                              If the service surcharge is mandatory and, say, 18 percent, why not just increase the menu prices of everything by the same amount? That should help shield the restaurant from angry customers who didn't think that the service they received was worth 18 percent.

                                                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                  "why not just increase the menu prices of everything by the same amount? "
                                                                                                  Because you'll drive away existing and potential customers.

                                                                                                  If the local price point for a 12oz NY Strip with potato, veg and salad is $25 in midpriced restaurants and Restaurant A using your theory raises the menu price to $29.50 and the competition doesn't, business will fall. When comparing menus on line, viewer look at the item cost, not whether a gratuity is automatically added.

                                                                                                  Secondly there are tax ramifications:

                                                                                                  Depending on jurisdiction that mandatory service charge may or may not be subject to sales tax, but the increased menu price definitely will be subject to the sales or meal tax (if any).

                                                                                                  Thirdly, the increase could up the rent being paid by the restaurant.

                                                                                                  It is not unusual for restaurant/retail leases, especially in shopping centers to call for the landlord to receive a percentage of sales as part of the rent. The automatic service charge is not sales and not subject to the sales provisions of the lease, increased menu prices are. In fact it is very common for shopping center leases to have percentages due the landlord go up after a business reaches certain sales volume levels:

                                                                                                  Example: up to $1 Million per annum 1%
                                                                                                  between $1 Million and $1.5 Million 1.25%
                                                                                                  Between $1.5 Million and $2 Million 1.4%

                                                                                                  Angry customers who don't think the service received is worth the mandatory percentage, often have this amount adjusted/removed after speaking to management. In some jurisdictions the law requires that it be removed at the patron's request.

                                                                                                  Older B daughter worked weekends at a Fairfield County bar/restaurant/music venue while in grad school. She averaged 20-22% from groups of 5 or less who decided what to tip. The establishment had an autogratuity of 18% for groups of 6 or more and almost never did those patrons leave additional amounts.

                                                                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                    "When comparing menus on line, viewer look at the item cost, not whether a gratuity is automatically added."

                                                                                                    The comparative advantage of having lower on-line menu prices is only likely to last until the first time a customer visits. Then the restaurant is in for a severe backlash including pissed-off Yelp reviews. "They charge an 18 percent mandatory service charge for a party of two!" Look at what happened to the Linkery in San Diego. Yes, it's closed now.

                                                                                                    "Secondly there are tax ramifications:

                                                                                                    Depending on jurisdiction that mandatory service charge may or may not be subject to sales tax, but the increased menu price definitely will be subject to the sales or meal tax (if any)."

                                                                                                    Could you name any jurisdiction that wouldn't consider anything that is a legally enforceable, mandatory part of the cost of the meal as subject to sales tax? I don't know of any.

                                                                                                    But let's take this idea a step further: Let's say a restaurant dropped its menu prices by 50 percent but instituted a mandatory COG surcharge equal to 100 percent of the lower menu price. Total revenue stays the same, but menu revenue cut in half. Can you name any place where the tax authorities would be so stupid as to let the restaurant only pay half as much in sales tax? If you can, let me know where it is because I want to move there.

                                                                                                    "Angry customers who don't think the service received is worth the mandatory percentage, often have this amount adjusted/removed after speaking to management. In some jurisdictions the law requires that it be removed at the patron's request."

                                                                                                    If a customer by law can chose not to pay a service charge, it's not a mandatory surcharge but more like one of those suggested tip amounts that some restaurants print on the slip.

                                                                                                    And BTW, the word "autogratuity" is a contradiction in terms as normally applied to service charges for large parties. Those charges are typically mandatory, but courts have long held that anything with the word "gratuity" in it refers to a voluntary gift and can never be enforced as mandatory. That why smart restaurants call them "mandatory service charges" rather than "mandatory gratuities".

                                                                                      2. If I am running a tab/check, I tip at the end based upon the service, quality of drinks, and the original price of drinks.

                                                                                        I don't think I have gone to a happy hour in decades, but back when I did, I tipped the same amount per beer or drink as normal price. Beers were anywhere from $1-5 back then. $1 was for a pint of regular American commercial beer, $5 was for a pint of craft or European beer in a high end beer bar. Back then a buck a drink was a very good tip, and at the end of the night I might throw the bartender another $5-10 on top. I always got great buy-backs.

                                                                                        1. Responding to kpaxonite upthread:

                                                                                          It isn't necessary to raise issues never in dispute here.

                                                                                          "If 20 percent is normal where you live. . ." (Much of my HH experience isn't even "where I live," but in traveling around.) The core issue under discussion isn't preferences (who tips 20%, 10%, 50%) but ethics and expectations in the server-customer relationship. Those go beyond personal taste or preference: they involve other people, customs, etiquette.

                                                                                          "Patrons arent shorting the waiters on tips during happy hour - they go because its better value." (OBVIOUSLY patrons go because it's better value, that was never in dispute. And bartenders, not I, mentioned patrons shorting their tips in my comment above.)

                                                                                          I spelled out a simple, clear principle here. You visit a place where a certain order is normally billed $10. For simple numbers, just suppose you'd normally tip 20% for that -- $12 total. Now at special limited times, you know that the _identical_ order is billed at 50% off, $5. The server does the _identical_ work. [This is definitely a simple model, but I've seen many actual cases just like it.]

                                                                                          If you are going to compensate the server as you USUALLY do, you tip again $2. Your total outlay is now $7. You've saved $5 (42%) from what you'd pay at other times. Still a SUBSTANTIAL discount, getting most of the benefit of the lower billing price. No one can dispute that it's a better value. And no one can call you "cheap."

                                                                                          Servers are sharply aware of decent vs. cheap tippers; they obsess over it. One of them in New Orleans said publicly "look, we're not your mom. She serves you for love. We do it for tips." You may encounter the same server at another, non-HH time, or at another establishment. Please believe they'll remember if you're a conscientious tipper, or not. $1 is a small price for good karma.

                                                                                          That's really all there is to it. No need to cloud the picture with self-serving speculations ("they make a larger amount because of more patrons" -- how much a server makes doesn't alter your role) or straw men ("because lunch menus are cheaper").

                                                                                          Speaking of "illogical," this topic illustrates a larger class of hospitality-customer situations that bring out "moralities of convenience" -- ways people justify (to themselves or others) doing things that are ethically debatable, but that save them a little money. I may summarize other examples here on CH -- some of them are real doozies, it's amazing the games people play.

                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                            I agree completely but I'm afraid you're not going to persuade some people. Logic doesn't always work.

                                                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                              Indeed, Bob. People will think what they want (regardless of facts), particularly if they don't like the implications of the facts. (I saw intense examples of such behavior in a couple of other threads, yesterday.) At least the point has been made.

                                                                                              On another discussion forum once, two (two!) different people reported cases where they'd knowingly done sleazy opportunistic things to special-occasion restaurants they respected, and wanted to dine at. Only, the reason they posted was to complain that the restaurant people were upset when they found they'd been treated shabbily! AND, these complainers even got many sympathetic responses! Moralities of convenience.

                                                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                However the logic is flawed. The reason given for tipping is to reward fairly especially as servers have very low base wages. The take home pay is a function of volume and cost so HH with high volume results in high payouts due to the volume that offsets the lower price. In normal time the higher price offsets the lower volume.

                                                                                                If you tip on the hypothetical full cost of the food/drink during HH you are probably giving the server a big bonus.

                                                                                                It does see quite odd that such a simple system (15 to 20% of the bill) gets so complicated and people get so worried about it.

                                                                                                As a side note I wonder if the tipping take has increased substantially since the advent of the internet (now 20% is standard with some saying 25% - or is this bragging?) because we get so much advice from servers about their view of the fair rate - after all are they not the generation with the inclination, and the jobs with the time to post.

                                                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                  You conveniently left out the fact that while half the price and twice the volume may cancel out, twice the volume means that the server is working twice as hard.

                                                                                                  1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                    so instead of watching TV 45% of the time they actually have to work. For the most part it is a slacker job for people with little ambition to do much in life.

                                                                                                    1. re: genoO

                                                                                                      Sounds like you've never been a server or bartender.

                                                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                                                        Nope, I had real jobs, ones that would support a family. Jobs that when I wanted to buy a car the bank would tell me to just write a check and come by in a few days to take care for the paperwork.
                                                                                                        Jobs where I could get a mortage on a home, or even two.
                                                                                                        Blue collar, bust your ass jobs, not watching TV, popping caps off of beer bottles in a climate controlled room.

                                                                                                        1. re: genoO

                                                                                                          You shouldn't diss a job if you haven't done it. Or obviously don't know much about what it really requires.

                                                                                                          Serving, and bartending, are some of the most difficult jobs there are. Underpaid and under appreciated in the US.

                                                                                                          You basically say it all. Which isn't saying much.

                                                                                                          1. re: genoO

                                                                                                            GenoO we have agreed on many topic's in the past, but here we couldn't be further apart. I grew up in the industry and performed every job a restaurant and bar has to offer. I can tell you first hand being a server is a physically and mentally challenging job. (I am talking about pre-pos system's and food runners which most places now employ) Back when it was you a note pad and 5 tables, you had to mentally coordinate every step you took for maximum efficiency. The worst servers were the ones who were one task orientated, who went back and forth to the kitchen for ever table individually, being able to bring 1 tables salads out with another's desert or coffee etc. taught me lessons in mental organization not many other jobs could.

                                                                                                            Compound that with the fact you are on your feet 5-6 hours straight (in every restaurant I have worked, managed or owned, servers are on the floor and visible to the customers if there is 1 table or a full house) carrying trays and in and out of a 100 degree + kitchen, the physical demands are more than most realize.

                                                                                                            I will admit in today's world of POS systems and food runners a waiters/ress position is more of a facilitator than a true server, but there are still legitimate rigors to the job.

                                                                                                            1. re: genoO

                                                                                                              I have known many people who worked in food service jobs through college and grad or law school.

                                                                                                              Most are now working in climate controlled rooms.

                                                                                                              1. re: genoO

                                                                                                                So basically you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about? Got it.

                                                                                                          2. re: nocharge

                                                                                                            I didn't conveniently leave it out, it would be too complex to go through all the unders and overs. In essence you need to look at the work profile across a shift and the tip loading across the shift to understand the relative reward structure.

                                                                                                            Certainly during the happy hour they will work harder than other periods, but that happens in any job. It does seem odd that customers need to try and do complex calculations to feel they adequately reward staff....in the olden days didn't people just people use a set percentage?

                                                                                                            I wonder if social media contributes to this angst and facilitates the self interest of the recipients by increasing the guilt, and provides a platform to spruik higher tips (why else do we see 20 to 25% amounts mentions - or is it just a pissing competition).

                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                              you think of these calculations as "complex?"


                                                                                                              if one has a basically generous approach, there is no complexity to speak of.
                                                                                                              if one is parsimonious, i guess one could create more complexity in an attempt to legitimize one's stinginess.

                                                                                                      2. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                        I really dont care. If that is what the restaurant charges then I will tip accordingly. I dont care how much work goes into any dish/drink I order. If a beer and long island iced tea(which has at least 5 ingredients)are the same price I will tip the same.

                                                                                                      3. I tip by how happy I am at happy hour. I drink, I get happy and I tip a lot.

                                                                                                          1. This is awesome. Thank you. We haven't had enough tipping threads lately.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. The convoluted lengths to which Americans will go to talk about tipping, justify tipping and try and browbeat others into tipping more is a clear indication that it's a system that is broken.

                                                                                                              27 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                Certainly for foreigners it makes for an interesting social commentary on the country.

                                                                                                                By comparision, for example, if you look at European-led boards (or even TripAdvisor forums for places mainly frequented by Europeans), tipping is almost never mentioned. And that's even though we have no common tipping culture across the continent. It's just a non-issue for us.

                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                  As an American who has seen tipping or non-tipping practices world wide I see why the process really needs to be changed in the US.

                                                                                                                  The past few months I have been working with a private member club where no tipping is allowed. Bartenders are Union, get paid $20-21 an hour, and there is a 16% gratuity, which goes to servers and bartenders. Since it is Union, a 37.5 hour week, time and a half for overtime or more than eight house a day, this means the salary for the bartenders is a minimum $40K, plus full benefits, and total seven weeks vacation/sick time annually. The gratuity seems to average another $30-40K.

                                                                                                                  If all servers and bartenders made that salary, benefits, gratuity, etc. Service everywhere would be amazing, and career serving or bartending would be a well respected job as I have seen in Europe and other parts of the world.

                                                                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                    But, to show where the system is broken in the US, in the same type of private club, I saw the management trying to keep Unions out, hiring bar staff for $7-8 per hour, not letting them work full time to keep them out of the Union. No benefits, no tipping allowed, and while a 16% gratuity was charged, it wasn't paid to the servers or barstaff, but went into the club profits.

                                                                                                                    Another way they got around this was by calling head bartenders "management" so they weren't Union, and paid them $15-20 an hour, but minimum benefits.

                                                                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                      That's a gross income of, let's say, $70k. To put it in context for me, how does that compare with other American jobs?

                                                                                                                      It equates to around £41K which would be an exceptionally well paid job here in the UK. Few folk in the hospitality industry would earn close to that - serving jobs in Europe are not well paid, although it is, generally, a respected job. In fact, few folk in most UK industries would earn close to that - average earnings for full-time employees are approx £27. £41K would definitely be middle management earnings.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                        The median individual income in the US (2012 data) was $27K and mean was $40.5K. A wage of $70K for a bartender is pretty unbelievable. I think the key here is that it was in a private club presumably with fairly wealthy members who don't mind over paying for their cocktails.

                                                                                                                      2. re: JMF

                                                                                                                        JMF private club with a no tipping policy or not, tipping still takes place. I have belonged to clubs which you paid a monthly dues, which you could eat or dine against your minimum, there was a mandatory service charge ontop of your minimum if you used it, but regardless you had to pay the minimum if you ate against it or not. The last weekend of the month was always the busiest as people would want to use their minimum up by the end of the month.

                                                                                                                        Now you could only eat your minimum, wine, beer and drinks were not applied to your minimum but charged to your account monthly, in addition to your minimum. Even though the bartenders received the automatic gratuity of 18% (same as servers) a quick handshake with a nicely folded $20. ensured only 1-3 drinks ordered showed on your check.

                                                                                                                        It's a known practice and the bartender probably averages 5-10 handshakes a night. You can do the math from there.

                                                                                                                        I know many establishments in the NJ/NY area where servers and bartenders are making $1,000 - $1,500 + a week cash. The servers and bartenders are professionals and conduct themselves as such, there is a difference.

                                                                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                          I do find the term "professional" applied to someone who is defrauding the establishment by not charging for drinks in exchange for "cash in hand" slightly odd. Isn't the better description "criminal"?

                                                                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                            PhilD, you would be correct if you were speaking of a privately owned establishment. However a private club as I'm describing is in fact owned in equal parts by its membership. So it's not much different than an owner walking behind his bar and pouring himself a drink. Remember the focus of this topic was bartenders receiving additional tips at a private club, not the intricacies of the bartender providing them. Regardless though in a private club situation as I described the member is the owner so it's not as "criminal" as you describe.

                                                                                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                              I am not certain your logic is quite right. The club may be owned by the members but it's really owned by the body (or collective) of the membership i.e. the club would have articles of association, rules etc. I think it's unlikely than it's an informal collection of individuals - think of the risks of that if your bartender was to sue you if they injured themselves.

                                                                                                                              So the barman will be an employee of the club not an employee of each member and the club will have accounts and books available for members to inspect and hopefully audit. It may be a private club but it's still business albeit owned by the members.

                                                                                                                          2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                            you are correct in NJ/NYC I know of at least 2 very good places where the Maitre d, (in most better restaurants they do the schedule), charge the waiters $200.00 per shift to work, average waiter makes $750-900/night.

                                                                                                                      3. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                        ". . . a clear indication that it's a system that is broken."

                                                                                                                        While the US approach may seem strange from other countries, I would not characterize the "system" as broken, but rather just a distinct custom or protocol, consistent for generations.

                                                                                                                        All that's "broken" is that some Americans don't understand the protocol. But that's hardly limited to tipping practices in the US: it extends everywhere from word-use protocols to laws to internet etiquette (see RFC1855).

                                                                                                                        There's extra incentive to misunderstand established US tipping protocol, because doing so invariably happens in a way that leaves more money in the misunderstander's pocket. Even though it isn't much, people are resourceful at rationalizing any action that leaves their pocket fuller. You can marvel at the variety of such rationalizations in this very thread!

                                                                                                                        A restaurant near me tried instituting a European-style "service charge" (15% on all bills; any further additions, for service "beyond what's expected," being totally optional).

                                                                                                                        Despite being carefully and repeatedly explained on menus, by servers, on website, cards on each table, etc., it was a disaster. Customers constantly misunderstood it and reverted to more usual US customs, so the owners dropped it.

                                                                                                                        So: been there, done that.

                                                                                                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                          The "European" added service charge is comparitively rare in Europe. We have it in the UK in a growing number of places and I've seen it in Ireland but not elsewhere. We've only had it in the UK for a relatively short number of years and I can't recall ever reading anything that folk couldnt understand the change from old-fashioned cash tips. I am genuinely surprised that the American customers you mention didnt have the same ability to understand the change. Particularly as the principle of added gratuity is already well established in America for larger parties. Surely they were not stupid people?

                                                                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                            First of all, a mandatory service charge is not the same thing as a gratuity and it's not even clear if all of it will end up with the servers. I you are going to add a mandatory surcharge of, say, 15 percent to everything, might as well raise the menu prices by that amount. The reality, of course, is that people like the discretionary aspect of a gratuity and frown on having to pay a restaurant-determined service charge for service that might not deserve it.

                                                                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                              I'm afraid you're responding to a point I havn't actually made.

                                                                                                                              eatzalot's comment was that customers "misunderstood" not that they "objected".

                                                                                                                              As for whether places should simply raise prices, I would entirely agree about that. It is far, far better even than having service charges. And works well in many other countries and I wish my own would move down that road. But that's another question.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                              Harters -- just on some matters of detail here:

                                                                                                                              I don't know where you've been in continental Europe, but I could show you restaurant receipts from numerous countries in Western Europe in recent decades that call out a "service charge" explicitly. Occasionally it will be factored into menu pricing (aka "comprised"), in which case the policy is explicitly stated on the menu. But for clarification, I was contrasting the system I've just described (regardless of anyone's personal experience with it) to US protocol.

                                                                                                                              As to the US restaurant customers balking at an attempt by a US restaurant near me to institute a European-like policy, I am just reporting the reality, regardless of any theory. Most Americans are simply unaccustomed to ordinary restaurants billing basic service charges (I've also seen their confusion when cofronted with it in Europe and not having bothered to check local custom. (Tipping customs are a traditional section in US-published guidebooks to other countries. That itself indicates the existence of contrasts.)

                                                                                                                              There do exist US hospitality businesses with an explicit billed service charge (generally private clubs of some sort), and it's quite common in many establishments for the house to stipulate a billed service charge for large parties ("banquet" business in US restaurant parlance, regardless of the function's specific nature), but those situations are spelled out in advance, and differ from everyday small-table restaurant meals.

                                                                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                Ah, I had assumed that when you'd mentioned "service charge" you'd meant the % charge added to bills as in the UK & Ireland. I also regularly visit France, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Cyprus and Malta and havnt seen an added service charge in those countries.

                                                                                                                                Several of those countries do include service within the menu price and nothing further is expected ( a couple still havbe old-fashioned tipping). Whilst I couldnt follow why American customers would misunderstand a service charge as I know them, I can follow why they might misunderstand the intent of a fully inclusive menu price. I'm aware, from Chowhound threads, how wedded many Americans seem to be to the concept that old fashioned tipping provides good service and, therefore, may not understand the change that the restaurant was trying to work to.

                                                                                                                                One can only hope that it doesnt deter other restaurants from trying the model - as my previous post, I hope that places in the UK also move towards that model in due course, although the discretionary added service charge is a step in the right direction in improving standards of service. There is already some movement in towards the fully inclusive price - one of my favourite places notes this on its menu "Our Tariffs are fully inclusive of service" . It's rare but very welcome to see.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                  " I also regularly visit France, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, . . . and havnt seen an added service charge in those countries."

                                                                                                                                  Are you serious? Those are the countries (and a few more) from which I can show you a thick file full of receipts from numerous restaurants with explicit basic service charges added on bills. Generally 10%, 12%, or 15%.

                                                                                                                                  That is the "traditional" European model and has been emphasized accordingly in US guidebooks for _generations._

                                                                                                                                  My first such experience was in 1972 and the most recent was a few years ago. But if it is genuinely true that western Europe has discarded its longtime handling of this situation by explicit billing, then that's a development of recent years (some EC thing, maybe) and your own experience does not correspond the the "European" service-charge model as I specifically used the phrase earlier.

                                                                                                                                  If what you describe is now typical, then the practice of absorbing "service charges" into the menu prices for simplicity (which happened at a minority of European restaurants of my experience) must have become more popular in recent years. It is _still_ different from the basic US protocol, because Europeans know they've paid a service surcharge -- the menus undoubtedly still spell that out -- and are not _expected_ to leave anything more, except for service beyond the mimimum. I agree it's a sensible approach. It is not the US tradition.

                                                                                                                                  -- Which is for the customer to leave even the basic minimal service charge -- "voluntary" but customary, expected, and NOT explained on the menu. That indeed is confusing to visitors accustomed to other systems (hence the value of guidebooks, again) but it's widely understood in the US. Subject to occasional eccentricities naturally, as visible in this thread.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                    Yes, of course, I'm serious. I take minor offence that you might think otherwise. I am not about to get into some silly pissing contest with you about your experiences in 1972. Just use Google and go and look at some European restaurant websites in the countries I mentioned.

                                                                                                                                    I agree that European tradition is not American tradition. I first responded to you saying that that restaurants customers "misunderstood" the restaurant policy which, if they really did, then I will alter my original comment and, instead, say that they were indeed stupid. It is not a difficult concept to grasp. If you actually meant they "objected" then that is another matter, and one that I really can't be arsed discussing (it's a frequent Chowhound subject and one I really couldnt give a flying one about one way of the other).

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                      No offense intended, and not just 1972 above, please (try, 2006 -- most of my experience was in the 1990s and 00s), but I was honestly astounded. It is such a change from a European protocol that not just describes most of my own (400?) restaurant experiences there to date, but also was famous worldwide. It was even taken for granted on the internet, in earlier days (including before Chowhound existed). This isn't about some "pissing contest," it's that the reality you are informing me about is relatively new. Please also be aware in turn that the billed-service-charge system I experienced in Europe was in place for a long time.

                                                                                                                                      Americans in Europe whom I touched on earlier were simply confused. After all, if people tip a certain way in Hackensack or Dubuque, surely they do the same everywhere else in the world? :-)

                                                                                                                                      Such notions are hardly limited to the US, but may be notably well-developed here.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                        Its a bit late, but I go to France very regularly most recently in March. I can't recall ever seeing a service charge line on a bill. Especially with the point of sale devices that are used to run my credit card and print the receipt.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                          Right: Just be aware that the line-item service charge was a classic European format (exceptions being restaurants that added it onto menu prices, a policy that would be spelled out prominently on the menu, e.g. "Service est Compris"), even if it has faded, as people are reporting here.

                                                                                                                                          European vs US "tipping" customs were so fundamentally different that they invariably featured prominently in publications for visitors. I see that my latest Marling Menu-Master for Germany (a pocket FOOD dictionary) mentions "German law now requires" service charges be factored into menu prices ("ENDPREIS") rather than as a separate line item as before. Another (Swiss-published) pocket reference has a table listing variations on service-charge customs among several European nations.

                                                                                                                                          The relevant point of all this is not what any of us has experienced, but rather, that the European concept of "service charge" is fundamentally distinct from the US counterpart. Whether factored into menu pricing or added as a separate bill item, either way the European establishment has already included a basic amount for servers in the total presented to the customer. Anything further can be added voluntarily based on satisfaction, generosity, etc

                                                                                                                                          In US custom, even that minimal provision for the server is left to the customer, both to calculate and to pay. That's the key difference, and the range of personal interpretations, preferences, etc. within the US method accounts for discussions like this one.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                    " I'm aware, from Chowhound threads, how wedded many Americans seem to be to the concept that old fashioned tipping provides good service . . ."

                                                                                                                                    That may be your impression from CH threads, but I assure you that many or most Americans, including me and probably everyone I know, are not particularly "wedded" to the existing tipping model here, and do not advocate it specifically as some mechanism for good service.

                                                                                                                                    What we are, though, is accustomed to it. If you haven't noticed (and you probably have), people take for granted what they're accustomed to, and find ways to defend it against alternatives, irrespective of any question of objective merits. I would guess that's what's behind any US "defenses" of what is really just a familiar custom.

                                                                                                                              2. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                And yet there are examples of restaurants in the US successfully implementing a Service Included model.



                                                                                                                                So: are there, doing it.

                                                                                                                                1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                                                                  Nope, not in my part of the US.

                                                                                                                                  Talk is cheap. Try it when you open your own restaurant and then comment here about how viable you think it is.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                                                                    Don't think either of the French Laundry or Per Se are "no tip" in the sense of banning tipping altogether. Rather, they have a note on the menu indicating that service is included in the menu prices. But those places are so famous that they could probably implement any policy they wanted and still be successful. For other places, the jury is likely to still be out. One place mentioned, the Linkery in San Diego, had a complete tip ban. The concept was so "successful" that the restaurant closed amidst a flurry of mediocre Yelp reviews, many complaining about crappy service and the mandatory service charge that couldn't be changed in either direction.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                      Yes, Yelpers also pounced on the local restaurant I cited, with complaints and misunderstandings of the service charge. Some of the comments were deeply clueless of the policy (meaning that the writer managed somehow to ignore the server, the tent card on the table, the menu, and the website, in order to misunderstand the existence and purpose of a fixed service charge) -- all in the Yelp tradition -- but the restaurant saw the writing on the wall as it were, reverted to stadard US practice, and now thrives, with positive comments online (even on Yelp).

                                                                                                                                2. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                  In my real life, I have never experienced anyone discussing tipping to this degree (or caring so passionately about it).

                                                                                                                                  I go for happy hour more than for a dinner. I don't care much about the price difference, it is more about what fits into my schedule and lifestyle. I tip about 20 percent on the total bill, more if something was terrific (unless I only order a drink). The standard amount "per drink" at a bar where I live is a buck per drink, unless you are camping at the bar, then leave more. This standard would be more perhaps in NY or LA, I try to be knowledgable about customs where I travel.

                                                                                                                                  I don't use coupons. I don't have angst over how much my server makes. I don't wrap up my self esteem in over or under tipping. I don't worry about the "why's and how's" of the costs of happy hour menu vs dinner menu vs luch menu. My social circle is older, professional people and I don't think any of them spend time thinking about all of this much.

                                                                                                                                3. How would you handle this scenario?

                                                                                                                                  My group of 10 gets together mid afternoon (pre happy hour pricing). Drinks and apps are ordered and consumed. Then happy hour kicks in. More drinks and apps are ordered (some are happy hour priced; others are not). Happy hour ends; drinks and desserts are ordered. Then comes the check. If itemized, it comes with a register tape that is 2 feet long. It would be impossible to figure out what the total would be if the happy hour items could be sorted out and the tip calculated on their full price. We just tip 25% on the total (after tax) and have always been enthusiastically thanked by our server.

                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Pwmfan

                                                                                                                                    You are a true Gentleman/woman!! Again, what difference would it make 50,000 years from now when the former planet Earth is a burned out cinder, if you tipped a few dollars more. Go for it!!!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Pwmfan

                                                                                                                                      I never go out with a group that large if there is any chance I can avoid it. For starters, you can hardly count on having a conversation with more than a handful of people in the group, which is probably about as many group members that you would be interested in talking to anyway.

                                                                                                                                      Secondly, when the check comes and has a 2-feet register tape, it will invariably give rise to a half-hour discussion that I would consider a wasted half hour of my life. I'd much rather go out with a smaller group and pick up the check for everyone.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                        But, "Now Ester had a dessert that she shared with Mildred, they should pay more".

                                                                                                                                        nocharge, I more than agree with you!!!!!! Life is waaay too short!!

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Pwmfan

                                                                                                                                        It's great that you have friends who can divvy a bill this way. I usually get stuck with a group that wants to itemize. It's a drag and I end up putting in another 20 to cover the tip. People think they've paid their "fair share" but they forget tax and/or tip.

                                                                                                                                        When I'm with a group that agrees beforehand to split a check with a 20 - 25 % tip, it's lovely. I envy you!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                                                                          Yes, we are very fortunate to have among us not 1 but 2 restaurant math wizards (not me). The check goes directly to them, they put their heads together and tell the rest of us what we owe. We've known each other for a long time (mostly former coworkers) and try to get together about every 3months. We started out as a core group of 6 and had so many that wanted to join that we had to limit to the current 10 (too large,but we couldn't say no).