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How Much Should I Tip at Restaurants?

Different rules for different kinds of restaurants, and levels of service.

At Restaurants

Wait staff 15% - 20% of the total bill before taxes (Note: some restaurants now suggest tipping after taxes because servers thenselves tip out on the after tax amount).
Wine served with dinner The safe recommendation is to tip 15-20% of the total bill, including alcohol, even for expensive bottles of wine. However, we've seen some restaurants say it's OK to tip around 10% for expensive wines.
Bartenders 15% - 20% of the tab; or, $1 for beer or wine, $2 for mixed drinks.  Ideally, pay your bar tab before leaving for your table.  
Order at front If you order at the front and food is delivered to your table, it depends.  If, once you've ordered, the seating and decor compare with a standard, sit-down restaurant, tip 5%-10%.  If the food is delivered to your table only as a convenience, tipping is not necessary.
What's an average restaurant tip?  Read our survey results.
 

At Cafes

Tip jar Optional.  Leave 5%-10% for good service or complicated orders, especially if the staff is hired and is more dependent on tips.
 

At Buffets

"fast-food" buffets No tipping necessary.
"casino-style buffets" If you have a waitress or waiter who takes your drink order and checks on you, $1-$2 is appreciated.
hotel buffets For business breakfasts, tip $1-$2.  At high-end hotel brunch buffets, 15%-20% frequently is the norm and sometimes automatically added..
 

At Fine Dining

Parking Attendant Usually $1-$3
Coatroom Attendant Usually $1 per coat
Wait staff 15%-20% of the pre-tax bill (Note: some restaurants now suggest tipping after taxes because servers thenselves tip out on the after tax amount).
Wine steward or sommelier For personal service from the wine steward, you may tip 10% of the wine bill.
Restroom Attendant Usually .50-$1
Other (including delivery)
Pizza Delivery At least $1, 15% for normal service, more during rain, snow or other poor weather.

 

Articles:

Should I Tip the Cook at a Japanese Steakhouse?

What's an Average Restaurant Tip?

View a list of All Tipping Articles on iTipping

 
 
Don't see a subject you'd like covered?  Suggest a subject.

Like to contribute your own two cents?  Contribute your advice.

One of our readers writes:

Comments: My wife and I have had a several instances over the years where the restaurants would change the tip amount on our cc charge and add $1 or so. We only find out about this when we check our statements. Is this a widespread practice? Is it legal? How does one fight this?

iTipping's Response: Of course, we think it's wrong for a business to add or alter a tip in any way. But we suggest checking several possibilities first: 1) Does the restaurant have a policy of automatically including a tip at a certain percent? This is often the case at hotels, for parties of 6 or more, and at certain high-end restaurants, and as long as a restaurant clearly discloses its policy, we think it's a fair way to go. 2) Was the amount for a pre-authorization, or for the actual charge? It can take a week or longer for an online credit card statement to show the actual amount (versus the pre-authorized amount). If you believe you've been overcharged, we suggest you first try to resolve this matter with the restaurant's manager. After attempting that, you can contact your credit card company to dispute the charge amount. Or, if you have documented proof of a discrepancy (a credit card statement and a copy of your receipt), and you haven't been able to resolve the matter with the restaurant's manager, let us know.

One of our readers writes:

Comments        I normally tip 15 to 20 percent when dining out at the standard fare restaurants, but on occassion, I love to eat at a fine dining establishment.  Since I do not have an inexhaustable supply of disposable income, a dining experience such as this is a welcome treat, albiet an expensive one.
My problem is when it comes time to leave a tip.  Recently, my wife and I had a glorious dining experience up the central coast of California.  The food and atmosphere were excellent the service was decent.
The dinner and wine came to over $300 with almost half the cost being for the wine.
The waiter spent a total time of about 15 minutes during the dinner.
Now, I am a blue collar worker who does physical labor for $36 dollar per hour and I have a really hard time tipping $50 to $60 just because that's the going rate.  It just doesn't seem right that I would pay a waiter $180 to $240 per hour to bring me dinner according to the price of the check and the time spent at our table.

There are exceptions to every rule, and in the case of this dining experience, I tipped the waiter a full hour of a journeymans wages or $30 and felt it was an appropriate tip.

One of our readers, who is a waiter, replies [edited]:

Response: ...he may have spent 15 minutes at your table but imagine, learning the wine list, learning the menu, being able to talk to people...

Another of our readers replies [edited]:

Comments: ...If you didn't want to leave a $60 tip, you shouldn't have run up a $300 tab! Your server was left there to wonder what he did wrong to deserve only 10%. You may not realize how huge of an insult that is to him. I'm sure you also don't realize all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a dining experience enjoyable... ESPECIALLY in a fine-dining atmosphere. Some people might look at what you do for a living, and assume that you do not deserve $36/hour... I'm sure you would beg to differ. So who are you to decide that your server shouldn't receive the money that he is counting on to pay his bills? Even more so, if he didn't do anything wrong...

Another reader writes:

Comments        I am a server in a fine dining establishment.  My response to the guy who is a blue collar worker & spent $300 on dinner, shouldnt have spent that much.  I understand you want to go out for a nice dinner but there are nice wines that are under $150 & wouldnt have run up the bill so high.  My philosophy is: if you dont have enough money for a tip, you dont have enough money to go out to eat.

iTipping: We recommend a gratuity of 15-20% and we don't think it's accurate to estimate a waiter's average hourly wage based on how much time a waiter appears to spend during one particular meal. Even if a waiter spends only 15 minutes on a particular patron during dinner time, that may be the busiest time of the entire week, and the waiter may be counting on those tips to compensate for slower periods. Also, tips are sometimes shared among other employees, such as the kitchen and bus staff.

One of our readers asks:

Comments:   I have a question. I ate lunch today at a place called Eatin' Healthy in Quincy, MA. I ordered my chicken wrap and soup at the register and retrieved my food at the register. I paid with credit card and on the receipt there was an entry for tip. I figured since this is not a restaurant nor did the staff wait on me, I did not tip and wrote in the amount of my meal. Later tonight when I checked my account online, apparently I had graciously tipped 20% without my knowledge. I was wondering is this illegal and extremely rude? Or am I in the wrong?

iTipping: We believe it is inappropriate for restaurants to charge customers without their consent. First, review the bill to see whether this is the actual charge or the authorization. Restaurants will sometimes authorize an amount that includes an estimated tip, to make sure there is adequate credit. If the unapproved tip appears on your final statement, we recommend you contact the restaurant for a refund.

The restaurant's reply to this question:

Hi, I stumbled across your website and would love the chance to clear something up.  I own a restaurant called Eatin Healthy located n Quincy MA.  One of my customers asked a question here about a "gracious tip"  we put on his bill without his consent.  Your answer was correct to check and see if this was an actual amount or just an authorized amount.  This is in fact an authorized amount, but it is not done by the restaurant, it is done by the credit card company.  I have gone so far as to call the credit processing company and request they remove this feature and they will not.  We are set up in their system as a restaurant so they authorize a gratuity as if we were a sit down restaurant ( we are set up more like a Panera) to make sure their credit card customers have enough available funds to cover their bill with a tip.  The authorized amount changes to the actual amount when I batch out the credit cards, usually at the end of the night.  This is only an issue if you check your account on-line in the same day (before a "batch" has been sent) the actual amount is what you will see on your statement so if you don't check online you won't even see it.
We do not expect tips nor would we add on a tip, even if the food is delivered to your table, my employees know that each and every customer is responsible for thier paycheck and that is why we give great customer service! :)

One of our readers gives the following advice for pizza delivery:

Comments: I delivered pizza for several mom & pop stores between 1987 and 2003. I was older than the average delivery driver - 37 when I started. I had a full time job and was working to get extra money to put my 3 kids through school. I quit when I got robbed at gunpoint, just to let you know what a driver goes through in addition to traffic and bad weather.

As far as I was concerned, the greater amout of $2 or 10% of the cost of the order was perfectly acceptable as a tip. I got a 75 cent delivery allowance but that alone wouldn't come close to car maintenance or the cost of gas. 'Give me the bills and keep the change' doesn't cut it! Besides the money, here are a few no-cost things you can do to make a delivery driver's day a lot easier.

1) Have the money ready! Don't give the driver a $50 bill for an $8 pizza. He is NOT a banker! If a large bill really is all you have, tell the order taker so the driver can bring extra so he can cover it.

2) Turn your porch lights on (at night).

3) Be sure your house number is easy to see from the street. In addition to getting you your food sooner, it has the added advantage of having the fire department find your house when you call them rather than having to wait for the flames to shoot through your roof!

4) be at home! This would seem obvious but I couldn't tell you how many times I've returned to the store, food in hand, only to have the customer call and say 'I thought I'd beat you there'. Now I lose time and money because instead of taking more deliveries I have to retrace my steps to your house for no good reason.

5) If it's raining, ask the driver to step inside for a moment. This would seem like common courtesy, but it's getting less common all the time. It's very much appreciated, I can tell you.

Tom from Philly.

One of our readers asks:

Comments: While at a local restaurant my wife and I experienced terrible service and mentioned it to the hostess who sent over the owner. He apologized and comped the meal $17.00 it was lunch. He explained that the waiter was new first day on the floor. To me that explained the bad service. I felt that since we we comped the meal and the circumstances new waiter etc I left a $3.00 tip. We did not ask for the meal to be comped we ate what was served and had no problem with the food. I objected to the comp but the owner insisted thus the reason for the tip. Was this the proper thing to do or should I have left a small or no tip?

iTipping: Yes, we believe it was appropriate to leave a tip in such a situation. The manager had already promptly compensated for the poor service with the complimentary meal. In these situations, we recommend tipping 15-20% of the original amount, before any discounts or comps. Also, other employees, such as kitchen or bus staff, may also be sharing those tips.

One of our readers asks:

Comments: I wanted to know if you need to tip if you order over the phone and for "pick-up" at the restaurant.

iTipping:To our knowledge, there is no firm rule here, but we don't think tipping is necessary, since there is a minimal service component. Some restaurants have a tip jar at the takeout counter, in which case we give the same advice as for cafes: you may optionally give a small tip for especially good service or complicated orders.

One of our readers, who is a waitress, writes:

Comments: I am a waitress, and on occasion i do tip various different people of all types of jobs for an EXCEPTIONAL job they have done for me but lets face it, you knew your job requirements and salary before you took your job and your pay should reflect your duties. Why do you feel you should get a tip for doing what you are PAID to do? I am paid 3.50 an hour I live off my tips they ARE my salary. do I get 2 tips for doing my job?

One of our readers, who is a student and works in the restaurant industry, writes:

Comments: I am a server and a student, one who lives soley on the money I bring home in tips, and I just wanted to say thank you for getting the word out about the "correct" amount to tip (which is 20%, give or take a percent or two). I just wanted to mention, however that the way to tip should be based on the total of the bill POST-taxes, not pre-taxes, since that is the total we have to tip-out on!

One of our readers asks:

I just had a New Years Eve dinner at a local Italian restaurant that I eat at frequently throughout the year. Unfortunately, the restaurant served all their usual dishes but raised prices by 20%. There were no complimentary gifts or alcohol and we were waited on by our usual server. What tip should we have left for the server in this situation; tip on what we knew were the normal prices or on the inflated New Year's Eve prices?

iTipping: Although it can be frustrating when restaurants increase their prices on holidays such as New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, we recommend tipping the standard 15-20% on the bill -- even with the increased prices. Also, on holidays, the waitstaff are frequently making sacrifices to work at a time when other people are celebrating.

Several of our readers ask:

What is the going norm for tipping on alcohol? For example, it the food bill is $200 and the wine bill is $100 (one bottle of fine wine), what is the appropriate tip (based on a before tax calculation)?

iTipping: The safe recommendation is to tip 15-20% of the total bill, including alcohol, even for expensive bottles of wine. However, we've seen some restaurants say it's OK to tip around 10% for expensive wines.

One of our readers asks:

I've recently seen a trend by restaurants to "helpfully" provide a tip calculation.  These are always calculated on a post-tax basis.  I've discussed this with different restaurant personnel and have been told it is part of the computer program and can't be changed.  This leaves me looking like I have shorted the server by leaving my tip based upon the pre-tax total.  I know several of these restaurants also have a tip pool.  Other than having a discussion with the server every time, how do you suggest I handle this?

and, one of our readers writes:

 I read your tip chart and it said to tip 15% to 20% of the bill pretax, it really should say post tax because the server has to tip out on what our sales are after tax. Just thought I'd let you know.

Another reader writes:

Comments        You have left out the most important part of tipping!!!!! The government taxes us on our tips reguardless what you tip or if you even tip at all. So if you tip incorrectly I am paying for your meal and I certainly can't afford that!!!!!

Another reader writes:

Comments Tip post tax! If the server owes the house cash @ the end of the night, they pay them the tax on the bill. We also have to claim & tip-out on the total bill. So if you tip on the sub-total STOP!!! I would appreciate if iTipping.com would take the pre-tax section out of the their chart! Thanks

One reader replies:

Comments        I'm just curious why as a patron I should tip post-tax just because a server at the end of the night can't do the math to figure out what the actual pre-tax amount was for the evening to tip out their co-workers. I'm also wondering the amount that the government taxes a server on?

iTipping's response on tipping before taxes or after taxes:

We've also noticed the trend that restaurant bills now sometimes suggest tips on an after-tax basis, and we've received emails suggesting that tips are taxed on an after tax basis. We've modified our recommendations to reflect the fact that some places now suggest tipping after taxes.

One of our readers writes:

Comments        Just from a server's point of view... I make 2.13 an hour, granted, I did choose my job, but also, most of the time I am able to pay for school, rent, electricity, cable, groceries, etc on what I make. However some people genuinely believe that 10% is an appropriate tip. I work in fine dining and some people fail to realize the fact that we aren't just paying our own bills, we have to tip out at least 5 people on any given night. We have to give money to the bar (even if we serve no alcoholic drinks), host, busser/server assistant, food runner, and a service manager, who is available to handle guest issues.

Anyway, as a server, I feel that I should express to people that 10% is not enough of a tip, we work our rears off all night because as guests you should realize that we are not only dealing with you; we have to run food, talk to the kitchen, keep in touch with the managers, all the while having other guests than just yourselves. If you don't have enough money to give to your server you probably shouldn't be eating out anyways, because if that's the case then we might as well have paid for your meal.

One of our readers writes:

I'm a manager of a fine dining restaurant and would like to remind the person who didn't want to tip 15%-20% to the server who was only at the table for 15 minutes that the tip is payment for a job well done and not how much time was spent at the table.  Our servers are taught that they are NOT to disturb our guests by idle chit chat and constant interruptions as most are there for a night out away for the kids, entertaining clients or friends and family from out of town.  Many servers are so well trained and so aware of their guests needs that they can give A+ service in 15 minutes while some couldn't give the same quality in 2 hours!!!! These servers depend on your tip to pay their bills and have to share those tips with several others in the restaurant such as bartenders, bus boys and hostesses.  So, you cheated several people not just the server.  Ask yourself...do I get paid for how long it takes me to do my job or how well I do my job and would I want my boss to adjust my salary???  I think not.

One of our readers writes:

I was recently charged 18% gratuity for a buffet at our retired folks
community restaurant.  Is this a normal rate?  We were at a table of ten.
We were also charged l8% on the sales tax.

All the waitresss did was take our drink orders and serve coffee.

iTipping's Response: It's not uncommon for restaurants to automatically add a tip for large parties (more than 6 people). The restaurant should clearly disclose its policy, though. Tips of 18% buffets seems a little high -- although some high-end buffets add this amount; otherwise, around 10% or $1-$2 per person would be more typical. Sales tax is determined by your municipality and state. If a restaurant added an incorrect sales tax, we recommend you contact the restaraunt's manager. If the problem cannot be resolved, you can contest the charge with your credit card company, or, if you still have the receipt showing an 18% sales tax, you can let us know.

One of our readers, a pizza delivery person, writes:

Yo How About Pizza Delivery Drivers!!!
Almost All Pizza Company's charge a Delivery Charge, leaving most customers thinking that they have already tipped the driver because of this.
This is NOT TRUE.
The National. Pizza. Co. that I work for no names mentioned, just went up to $1.50 delivery charge. They Pay us: $1.08 for the first delivery, .76 cents, for the second, & a whole .54 Cents for the 3rd delivery that we take out.
Thats an average of .79 cents. With Gas currently at $3.14 a gallon.
With our local AFB being a round trip of about 20 miles, we have to get a $2.35 tip to just break even. BREAK EVEN!
WE Were Told that the prorated scale was so that we Do Not make a Profit off of our gas allowance. HELLO MCFLY! EVER POOR FOOL that is going to work today, is going to make a profit for there time. IT's CALLED A PAYCHECK!

So To All of Those who Tip The Pizza Guy:
 Thank You, it is a pleasure serving you.

And to All those who don't: You Should watch The Movie "Waiting" We Do Remember you!

One of our readers writes:

ok as a customer i think 15% tip pre/post tax is acceptable and reasonable in most cases.  However, i've been to a few restaurants (especially this restaurant named Abode in Santa Monica)with waitors who will turn their snobish noses on you if you pay them less than 20%. I mean, if 20% tips is not mandated by law, we as customers certainly have a choice an amount we feel comfortable with. Instead of putting pressure on us consumers and make us feel guilty about paying less than your "standard", why not blame the restaurant industry who pays you $2.15 per hour, way below minumum wage??? I mean, why is it even legal to do so?

 In fine dining restauants, the tap can easily run up to $300- $500, and honestly, the service isn't all that greater than Cheesecake factory or Dennys. I just don't see how a $100 tip is reasonable (with average service) and a waiter still complain with $75. Also should "fine dinning" restaurants pay more than $2.15/hour if the waitors are working all that harder? Why isn't there any standards or pressure to make the true culprits to feel responsible or guilty about the hard working waitors who are trying to make a living and not making enough on tips.

   

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

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