What's an Average Tip?
Survey respondents average a 15-20% tip
At restaurants, it varies. Some say tipping should be entirely an option, not a requirement. Others point out the importance of tipping as a source of income for those in service industries.
A recent web survey shows that Americans most frequently tip 15%, followed by 20%. Only one in twenty tips 25% or more, and about one in eight people tip 10% or less.
Typical comments were "I usually calculate 15% and round up" and "I usually go between 15 and 20 but it will go up or down depending on the wait staff." Others vary the amount more based on service: "junk service:10%, average: 15% and excellent: 20%." One person was even more punitive "if the service is good, I give 20%, but if service is terrible, I give a dime. That way it's clear I'm tipping them, but just very, very little."
Another common thread was that those who previously worked as a waiter or waitress were more sympathetic. One person wrote: "I worked in a restaurant for 3 years during high school and college [and] I always give 20%."
Our recommendation? It depends on where you live, how good the service is and what your finances are. For reasonable service, we suggest the standard 15-20%.
As for "punishing" poor service, remember that it's not always the waitress's or waiter's fault -- the restaurant could be understaffed, or other employees, like the chef, could be causing the delays, cooking the food incorrectly, or delivering it cold. If you're dissatisfied, it's better to alert the manager to the problems instead of stiffing the wait staff.