I Tip, You Tip

No question stirs up as much angst as the “How much do you tip?” issue.

Phil, who has an incredible site, by the way, asks the question I am asked most:

What is your standard tip when you go out? Do you consider it above what is customary? I think I’m a good tipper, and never leave less than 20%. The waiter would have to be purposefully rude to garner less. What do other waiters tip?

Phil, I don’t know what waiters usually tip other waiters, but my standard tip is 30%. Why? Because I figure the server is only getting about 60 percent of that, after tip-outs to the bussers and back waits.

If the service is fantastic and/or the waiter (or bartender) comps me something, I tip 40 percent. I know, I know, I am insane.

And if the service and food sucks, I tip 15 percent, regardless, unless the server is so pathetic, I figure he/she needs five or ten bucks far more than I do.

I hope most folks tip 20 percent for a good experience. If you think the service is a cut-above, tip more. When in doubt, ask yourself: “Would it kill me or my budget to leave just a few dollars more?”

And there you have it. The Gal’s standard, which likely has nothing to do with anyone else’s standard.

Bon appetit.






23 responses to “I Tip, You Tip”

  1. micah Avatar

    As someone who isn’t in the food service industry anymore, but spent many years either as a busboy or delivering pizza in someway connected to it, my standard is 20%. It goes up the better the service is. Now I’m not a hard person to please. I don’t ask for anything special or make changes to menu items, so if someone give me attitude and is generally pretty rude…that 20% drastically drops. I’m not opposed to leaving a 25 cents. I understand servers have bad days, but that doesn’t give them the right to be rude to me.

  2. LoD Avatar

    My dad is a pretty generous tipper too. Even when the service is lousy, he gives 20%. Personally I’ll only go as low as about 15% and as high as 30. I feel like bad servers should get worse tips. Otherwise why would they ever change?

  3. Phil Avatar

    Thanks, RG! My wife was a server once, and she is very much like you. She will often leave 30%. Also, she has taught me to always leave more for the people who work in diners, or “less expensive” establishments. For example, we can eat Mexican for about $12 between us, but she will insist I leave at least $4/$5 as a tip.

    I consider myself like Micah – 20% is standard for me unless the guy/gal goes above and beyond.

    An interesting thing I heard once was from a preacher during church: he said, across the board, that christians were the worst tippers. This stunned me, but after his explanation he convinced me (turns out he was a former waiter, and had asked other waiters their opinions – all of them concurred without prompting). He made a point that has stuck with me and that was you should ALWAYS be generous and giving to those who serve you. People act like waiters are there to do everything including wash your feet and massage your back – and the fact is, we have done nothing to deserve this and should be grateful for their service.

    To all waiters, I salute you!!

  4. p Avatar

    I’m surprised you’d tip less when the food sucks. How is that the server’s fault?

    20% for just ok service; more for good-to-excellent. And, I’ve upped my tip at times when the table next to us were assholes.

  5. LB Avatar

    My sister and I are extravagant tippers, and have had it come back our way in various fashions over time. There’s nothing like going back to a restaurant and being recognized as a good tipper/customer – the personal treatment and friendliness is a wonderful thing. Sadly though, as I have been going on many dates recently, I think that people like us are more of a minority than we realize. I’ve cringed too often when peeking at a bill and seeing that my date left a 10% tip.

  6. Alex Avatar

    I guess tipping is different in London. I’ve never gone out with anyone who tips over… well, 20%, and the standard is around 10-15%. Personally, I tip 13%, but then again, I am a student, and generally can’t tip more than that. Still, it’s nice to think that one day I will…

  7. Anna Avatar

    I”m normally a 20% + tipper. But if the service is bad for no apparent reason (having me and hubby along side a ten top is a good reason to be slow) then I”ll only tip 10% and mention it to the manager.

    I figure, if the service is so bad I am not will to pay for it, I had better tell someone why.

    I also make it a point of asking for the manager and complimenting the server when ever I am inspired to tip high for good service. I think this helps the server out, but mostly it’s fun to see the slightly stressed look on the managers face go away when s/he realizes it’s good news!

  8. Caryn Avatar

    Ever since college, when I had friends in the restaurant industry, I have tipped extra. Now that I’ve worked in a restaurant (as a bookkeeper–I admire those who can wait tables without purposely dumping trays of food on annoying customers) I tip even better, especially since I live in a tourist town with many European visitors who don’t realize that their moral outrage against tipping means the servers suffer, not the restaurant’s owners.

  9. Wilson828 Avatar

    30% is sympathy tipping. Tipping is a subjective gesture of reward for satisfactory or unsatisfacotory performance; in this case for food service by wait staff. 15% is the standard and if the waiter or waitress does a competent job then 15% is the reward. If the person does less, then the tip can go to 10% or no tip. I’m not afraid to not leave a tip. Do a crumby job you get no tip. Anything over 15% like 20%, etc., is when something special happens. Some special courtesy is paid to me and my party or something of notable performance. There has to be a reason. Just being alive is not worthy of 20%. Do a good job and get a good tip. Do an average job and you get an average tip. I’m sorry that you picked an industry in which the money is subject to reward based upon the opinion of the customer -but that’s life and it’s not my job to make sure you make a lot of money. 15% is the average and generally acceptable amount for acceptable performance.

  10. Phil Avatar

    I really don’t think 15% is the “norm” anymore. Gal?

    I had the same views as you Wilson, when it came to pay as it relates to tip. But every person I’ve known who is/was a waiter has said “it’s a hell of a tough job – regardless of pay and you earn every penny” – I’ve taken a different perspective on it.

    I don’t punish the server for bad food – I just won’t go back to the restaurant. And I don’t have a “running meter” in my head during the meal with the tip in mind. If the server is friendly and competent, they will get a good tip from me. What is a “good job” and what is an “average job”? Is the waiter having to cover more tables that night because someone didn’t show up? Is the kitchen holding them up? How do you know who to blame?

  11. Leah Avatar

    I find it funny that, as a server myself, I’m generally harder to please. I’ve discovered that I now know the little things that someone could do for you. I won’t leave less than 10%, but if you get 10% from me, that means you gave crappy service. I hope to leave 20% at least. (And I agree about the more for the lesser establishments).
    There are little instances that are trying for servers, though. When you consider that, like say for me in Texas, I only make $2.13 an hour, I work my butt off to make my guests happy. I’m very happy to say that I’ve never gotten a complaint in the over two years I’ve worked as a server, so I don’t understand people who don’t tip at least 10%. And a lot of Europeans don’t understand the fact that we make so much less per hour than the servers in Europe where tipping is not a necessity.
    Okay, sorry for the rambling. RG, I love your blog, and I read you as often as I can!!! Thanks for your insight!

  12. Restaurant Gal Avatar

    Phil–No, 15% is not the norm anymore. 20% is, at least where I come from.

    To everyone–don’t confuse bad service with a bad kitchen, a slow kitchen, or an overwhelmed but trying server. I still tip well in those circumstances, but will ask to talk to a manager. If you really have an issue with a waiter’s service, always let a manager know.

    To P–Way to go, tipping the sever extra when the customers at the table next to you were idiots!

  13. Karyn Avatar

    Once when visiting the USA (i’m australian) I had rather a bad experience in a diner in the East Village in NYC. We were seated by our ‘waiter’ who dropped the menus on the table and just stood there.

    I said thanks for the menus and continued to stand there. He was old – perhaps 65, so I said to him, politely “May I have a glass of water please”, what I really wanted to say was “f&*(k off and give me a minute to decide.”

    So he goes away, comes back with one glass of water for me (none for my partner who was dining with me), and says “What ya want then?”

    Se we order – quickly (lucky we’d looked at the menu in the window before coming in.

    When he brings the food over, he slaps it down on the table.- grunting when I said thanks.

    The diner wasn’t particularly busy – it was about 9:30am on a Sunday morning, so we ate our meal (as quickly as we could).

    Then we went to the cashier to pay the bill. We didn’t leave a tip on the table or put one in the jar. We just left.

    As soon as we’d stepped out of the door, the waiter came flying out and screamed “F&^%king tourists – don’t ya know ya s’posed to leave a f&*king tip!”

    my husband whispered – “Don’t start with him”

    so I turned around and flipped him off.

    As a guest in a country that uses tipping as a means of making sure service staff are paid a decent wage, I make it my business to be nice, polite, undemanding and a generous tipper. I tip 30%, because it’s the custom, and I don’t want to give tourists a bad name.

    I hope old diner waiter reads your blog, and knows that if he’d been nice he’d a got a 30% tip for 5 minutes work.

  14. Mike Avatar

    Having grown up in Ohio (read: Midwest), I’ve always thought that the rule of thumb was 15% for average service and 20% for anything above. Having gone to college in NYC, I’ve come to see that in more expensive parts of the country, the average tip that a decent person gives is 20%. Hopefully when I’m making enough money to do so, I will do that; however, being a poor student, I generally leave around 18% or so for average service. If the waiter/waitress is above average, comps something, or is having a particularly bad day, I give a few extra bucks if I can afford it. I just hope that waiters and waitresses don’t get annoyed when college students leave 17-18% – sometimes it’s the best we can do.

  15. sara Avatar

    I agree with Mike that the standard tip should, somewhat, depend on the cost of living in the area where you’re dining. I live in one of the country’s most expensive cities, and the base pay for waiters here is a little over $2 an hour. There’s a huge gap there between cost of living and base pay. Some states require that servers make minimum wage as base pay–I think 15% is okay in these states (though I tip more). But very few states require that. Most servers across the country make less than $3 an hour, and for that reason, I think even minimal service should get a tip. Even if a waiter is crappy–if you get your food, they’re doing something.

    I tip 20%-30%, depending on how much money I have–I usually don’t have enough to tip %30, but I try (being in grad school doesn’t help). Even for really shitty servers who are rude to me, I can’t bring myself to leave less than 15%. Usually, people know when they’re being rude (maybe because they’re having a bad day), and I always feel like if I tip at least 15% it might remind them that not everyone’s an asshole, and they can afford to be nicer.

    For those of you who’ve never worked in a restaurant, there are so many reasons service might be slow–people get slammed by hosts who don’t space out the tables, for instance. Someone’s working a double on two hours of sleep because they always work twelve shifts a week in order to make rent on time, for instance. Even little things, like cleaning up broken glass, can slow you down.

    But serving is hard, hard work. And if a server’s polite to me and tries to get me what I need, I’m not going to consider that “shitty service.” I also know that the average consumer needs to be a little more patient. I can’t tell you how many times a customer comes up to me at the hostess stand to tell me that they’ve been waiting an “hour” when I know I wrote their name down twenty minutes prior (we record times). Also, I usually give people a range of times, like 30-45 minutes–and they never choose to hear the second part. So, next time you think your service is slow, think about how patient you’re being.

  16. Kyarra Avatar

    I completely agree with your post. I recently left my job at a bar and ever since have always had 20% as my absolute minimum. Nobody understands the tip-out. factor. You never make what you earn and you’re not going home with a decent amount of money unless more people like us are around. 🙂

  17. Evan Avatar

    I have to laugh at the audacity and arrogance of people who think like Wilson28 or whatever…

    you truthfully think that that person has taken a job that requires them to make ‘something special happen’ to get paid? no… yo can’t seriously. you just have an odd sense of humor.

    servers deal with around 30- 100 people in an 8 hour shift. i can assure you they don’t make “something special” happen for each of them. you may have gotten your servers consfused with the clown you paid for to put on your 5 year olds birthday party. your views on tipping are strangely similar to a 5 year-olds. the fact is, that you opted to pay for your meal plus 15% before you even met your average server.

  18. Hostess Jo Avatar
    Hostess Jo

    when is accepting a gratuity bad form ? I am a hostess in a small country inn, occassionally I will get a tip, usually when its super busy and I dont have time to be embarrassed. unfortunately, when I get some of these tips, its because I have had to pick up to cover one of my servers who may or may not be in the weeds.
    once in a while I feel like I may be taking part of my servers tip from them. so when is it bad form?
    Thanks RG!
    Hostess Jo

  19. veiluX Avatar

    I will leave great tips for great service, A buddy of mine and I ate at a new olive garden that opened up right. Well everything was going well until the server came up. He was just ugh. He made it sound like my friend and I were gay, and was just an not professional. He forgot about us. Well the food was OK, we waited 30 min for him to come back for our checks. He finally gave us our checks, we payed seperatly with our visa’s. He then brought back the receipt along with the tip sheet, and then left, he forgot the pens so we could sign it….i was so mad. I asked another waitress for a pen, and signed gave him a dollar for a tip, my friend gave him non. He came back and stood over me as I wrote in the number, then asked how was it, I was said “I have had better and left!”. I believe in tipping good service %25 percent. I dont tip for bad service!

  20. cassandra Avatar

    Just a few tips. You can’t always tell when a server is having difficulties. Unless they are rude (really rude, not just they didn’t get your joke or you are one of those people that think everyone is rude) tip them. Don’t complain on your way out the door. You are just being mean then, because no one is given the opportunity to fix anything. Finally, if you cannot afford to tip, you cannot afford to go out. By you not tipping appropriatly, it starts a cycle. They have no money to buy other things and eventually you have less money.

  21. Rachele Avatar

    I way over tip. Spending 17 years as a restaurant manaager I feel for the servers, especially the good/great ones. The poor ones who either lack the skills or the caring, still get at least 15%, depending on my mood, but they also get a verbal tip on how they could of gotten more. It’s a lot easier, and they tend to actually listen to constructive criticism, when they are not getting “stiffed” in the process.
    Great blog, I’ll be back

  22. Jen Avatar

    I always go out to dinner or lunch backwards. It’s not what I can spend on the meal, it’s what I can afford to spend for a meal and tip (18-20%). And if I can’t do both, I stay home.

  23. vinny b Avatar
    vinny b

    I have had a wide rage of care from many waiters,
    being of the age 18 most of my friends are surprised at how i tip,
    -if i get a waiter/ waitress that does a horrible job i leave a penny for a tip, with a friendly note letting him/her know what caused me to leave such a crummy tip.
    -if i have a mediocre waiter/waitress i leave a 10% tip with a note
    -if i have had an average service i would leave a 20% tip
    -if i have had very good service i leave a 30% tip
    -and rarely i have exceptional service i would leave a 50-60% tip,

    i love it when servers don’t treat you different because of your age, most waiters/waitresses treat teenagers differently believing that teenagers won’t leave a good tip so why waist the time, so when i do get exceptional service i believe they deserve it.

    i will walk into a restaurant with ripped clothes a long metal chain, and no emotion, if the waiter/waitress still treats me as if i walked in with a suit and money hanging out of my pockets, deserves at least half of what the food is or more.