Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tips for Tipping

Today is National Waitstaff Day.

Many people just don't treat their waitstaff properly, which happens to be a pet peeve of mine.

I never treat them as my servants, but as my helpers. I'm hungry- they are the people that can help me fix that!

In my mind, they deserve to be treated and tipped well for meeting one of my basic needs.

*Always keep in this in mind....NEVER offend someone who is preparing or handling your food behind close doors....for obvious reasons.

I found a list of tips for tipping from, and thought that it would be appropriate to share it here.


Determine the "tippable" total.

If you used any coupons or discounts, calculate the tip based on how much you would've paid without it.[2] Otherwise, you're punishing the waiter for the restaurant management's efforts to bring you in the door.[3] For example, if you have a 2-for-1 coupon, you may only have had to pay for half of your meal, but the server still did the full amount of work.
If there is a tax on your bill, you should technically calculate the tip based on the pretax amount, since the the service you received has nothing to do with the tax.[4] But since the difference between a tip on the total (including tax) or the pretax amount isn't significant, it's not a recommended squabbling point.[5] If your order costs $30 and the tax is 8%, the total is $32.40. A 15% on your order, before tax, is $4.50. The same tip on the grand total is $4.86. That's only a difference of 36 cents. Even with an order of $1000, the equivalent difference is only $12!
Evaluate your service. The key is to objectively judge the service, and the service alone. If the food isn't good, the menu is sparse, the prices are outrageous, the decor is appalling...all of this affects your dining experience, but is not the waiter's fault. If you're unhappy with it, don't patronize the restaurant again, or write a negative review somewhere.

The service itself should be judged on:

how quickly your food was brought out to you
how the food matched with your order
how often the server checked on you
how quickly your empty dishes were taken away
how quickly it took to get your check and have your payment processed
how friendly the server was

Give the benefit of the doubt. If the service was not quite stellar, it may not be the waiter's fault. Unless your waiter was clearly rude, or neglectful, consider the following:

If the restaurant is busy and understaffed, that's a management issue. A waiter can only do so much.

If your food wasn't brought out quickly or cooked correctly, that could've been a mistake in the kitchen, not on the waiter's part.

If the waiter is forgetful, it might be that they're new. Waiting tables requires a lot of multi-tasking and for many, it's a steep learning curve.

Determine the tip.
The general guideline is 20% for excellent service, 15% for solid service, and 10% for bad service. On average, people tip 18%.

Even if the waiter was undoubtedly terrible, you should still leave at least a 10% tip. In many restaurants, tips are pooled and shared with other employees who might've done their job well. 10% is enough to avoid punishing people who might not be at fault, and to let the establishment know that you're not happy with their service on the whole.

"Punish" bad service with feedback instead of cutting the tip. If you skimp on the tip, you'll most likely just get the waiter and other people frustrated, especially if they're not all at fault. It's no guarantee that the service will improve because they probably don't know what you were unhappy with or who to blame for that. Instead, call or write a letter to the restaurant the next day, and be very clear about what you weren't happy with. Not only will the manager be able to correct the situation, but you might also get a gift certificate out of it!

If you occupy your table for an inordinate amount of time, especially during a busy period, you are preventing your server from seating additional guests. Increase your tip to allow for this, even if you don't require additional service during this time.

If you're eating with small children, remember that the servers will clean up the mess, and that this usually takes quite a bit of time. Try leaving servers a little extra for this big inconvenience. Also, a professional server recognizes that dining with small children can be stressful on the parents and will do his/her best to create an entertaining atmosphere for the kids so Mom and Dad can enjoy their meal in peace. If, through skilled service, you have a more relaxed experience, consider how much cheaper adding a few dollars to the tip is than hiring a babysitter would have been.
Calculate the tip. Now that you know what percentage you want to pay, it's time to actually crunch the numbers.

An easy way to figure a 20% tip is to move the decimal point of the cost to find 10%, and then double it. For example, if the bill is $35.00, 10% would be $3.50, and a 20% tip would be $7.00. For 15%, you would halve the 10% and add it to the original number. For $35.00 again, that would be $3.50 + $1.75* = $5.25.
Another way to figure out the tip is to remember:

10% = $1 for every $10
15% = $1.50 for every $10
20% = $2 for every $10
Pay with cash if you can. If you pay with credit card, the waiter might have to wait a week or two in order to pocket that money, whereas cash can be taken home sooner.[8] If you want to reward good service, it's more motivating to help the waitstaff take home their hard-earned tips sooner rather than later.

Round up. Don't leave pennies or excessive change on the table; waiters hate that.
Another reason to pay with cash is that if you pay with credit card, some restaurants subtract the credit card service fee from the tip.

TipsMany restaurants have curbside and carryout servers. If you order food to go, you are still expected to tip. Servers taking care of to-go orders generally make more per hour than regular servers, but part of their income still comes from tips. Just remember, when you place a to-go order, this "to-go server" is expected to take your order, package it correctly, and, in some cases, bring the food to your car. A small 10-15 percent tip is acceptable and greatly appreciated.
In a buffet restaurant, leave a 10% tip. The waiter is still doing some work, like clearing your plates, bringing water, and taking drink orders.
"Tip jars" are becoming more common at small take-out places, (e.g., coffee, bagel, and ice cream shops). These employees spend very little time with each customer but are usually not paid a reasonable wage by the business. Tipping here is not customary nor should it be expected. However, if extra friendly service is offered, or you receive special consideration for your order, a little something will certainly be appreciated.
Different parts of the world have different tipping etiquette. In most of europe, service is included in the price (and thus the waiters already have a decentish hourly wage), and a 10% tip is very generous. Basically, the above rules still apply, just subtract what you would tip for not-too-good service and tip the rest.

Warnings: The U.S. Government taxes servers, bartenders and baristas based upon an assumption that they made a certain percentage of their sales in tips. If you do not tip a server or a bartender in America at least 8%, you are actually costing your server money.
Keep in mind that in many U.S. states, waiters and waitresses are paid a base wage that is significantly lower than the regular minimum (usually around $2.00/hour) because it's assumed that tips will make up the difference. Thus, unlike some other countries, tipping is expected in the U.S. if you receive service that is at least satisfactory.
Check to see if the tip is already included in the bill. Some restaurants will tack on a service charge for large groups and many restaurants outside the US include the tip as part of the bill. If you are unsure, ask a member of staff whether tips are already included.

~~~~~~~~ So go ahead, make their day!
Tip big!


  1. Great post. As a former waitress and server I understand this well. My husband on the other hand, has never worked in food service and has no clue! It drives me crazy, but he is getting better after years of my pestering him. (Poor husband lol)

  2. Good information! My son waiters from time to time.... the stories he has to tell ... you wouldn't believe.... but you are right on all points... and I hope people follow your advice.