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The Etiquette Scholar blog answering you dining etiquette questions.

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Tipping Etiquette - Restaurants

the usual tip is fifteen (15) to twenty (20) percent on the pre-tax amount of the bill

self-service restaurants: 10%

extra accommodating waiters: an extra $5.00 for extra special service

lingering at your table on a busy night: an extra ten (10) to fifteen (15) percent

bartenders: fifteen (15) to twenty (20) percent of the total bill

sommeliers:

  • - fifteen (15) to twenty (20) percent of the wine bill - but only if they were especially helpful
  • - if the sommelier took your order and poured your first glass, no more than ten (10) to fifteen (15) percent
  • - tip your waiter only for the food portion of the bill.

tipping the maitre d’, bartenders, washroom attendants, valet parking attendants, busboys, and musicians. tipping less, tip jars

Guidelines for Tipping:

  • Tip on the pre-tax amount of the bill, not on the total.
  • Tip discreetly. Tipping is a private matter, so don't play the big spender who likes to flash bills.
  • Money is the tip of choice in most cases, but sometimes a small gift, usually given during the holidays, can be substituted.

A gratuity is already included in the bill. Check the bill to see if a gratuity is included (or a service charge). Gratuities are typically included when a table has been booked for groups of more than six people. If you think it is deserved, you can leave an additional tip.

Your meal costs much less than the restaurant average. If you eat light, or use a coupon, it is thoughtful to leave a tip commensurate with a full-priced meal.

A line for the captain's gratuity. Most restaurants with captains combine tips, with seventy-five percent going to the waiter and twenty-five percent to the captain. If there is a separate line for the captain, you can ignore it and increase the tip if you like.

Host, Hostess and Maitre d’

Unless you are a frequent patron, it is not necessary to tip the maitre d'.

  • If you are a regular, you may want to give the host $10 to $20 every once to cultivate your relationship and to say "thank you" for special services.
  • A tip may be appropriate if the maitre d' has gone out of his way to find a table for you on a busy night. (Offer him $10 to $15 after he's shown you to the table.) If your dining party is large, double or triple the tip, depending on the number of people.

Bartenders

How much you tip a bartender depends in part on whether you're waiting at the bar for a table in the adjoining restaurant or you're at a bar for its own sake.

  • As you wait for a table, you can either pay for drinks as you order or run a tab, which will be added to your dinner bill. Leave a tip for the bartender before you leave the bar. One dollar per drink is standard.
  • If you're at a bar simply to have a drink, tip between fifteen and twenty percent of the total. If the bartender has given you a free drink or two, add a couple of extra dollars to your tip.

Washroom Attendants

  • Tip washroom attendants at least one dollar for handing you a towel.
  • If the attendant brushes off your jacket, leave $2.00 or $3.00.
  • A small dish of coins is usually on display and the tip is placed there instead of in the attendant's hand.
  • If washroom attendants do nothing but stand there biding their time, no tip is necessary.

Valet Parking Attendants

  • Tip the parking attendant $2.00.
  • Give the tip when the car is brought to you, not when you arrive.

Busboys

Busboys are usually not tipped, with two exceptions:

  1. You spill something and the busboy cleans it up - you may give him or her $1.00 or $2.00 as you leave.
  2. If a busboy in a cafeteria carries your tray to the table, $1.00 or $2.00 is appropriate.

Musicians

  • In nicer restaurants with piano entertainment, do not tip the piano player unless you see a tip jar - that is unlikely.
  • You may tip musicians in more casual restaurants - $2 to $5 on leaving, even if you've made no request - receptacles for tips are usually in clear view.
  • If you have made requests, add an extra dollar or more for each song.
  • For strolling musicians, the basic tip is $1 per musician, $2 for a party of two; a total of $5 is enough for a group.
  • If you make a special request, add an extra dollar to each musician's tip.
  • You needn't stop eating when musicians perform table side. Just smile and thank them as you tip when the musicians finish.

Related Tipping Etiquette:

We have complied thorough international tipping guidelines in this section. If you are traveling on business or pleasure, investigate this valuable tipping resource.

Tipping Less

Is something goes wrong your tip depends on how well the wait staff addressed the problem.

  1. If there was a successful resolution, tip the full amount.
  2. If your waiter did not get adequate results, but doesn't deserve all the blame, reduce the tip to ten percent.
  3. If the problem wasn't taken care of or your waiter was surly, tip eight percent. (According to the Internal Revenue Service most restaurants report eight percent of their take as wait staff income, so reducing the tip any further actually costs the server.)
tipping

Tip Jars

Whether to put change into the jar is your choice. Workers at counter-service businesses normally receive sufficient base salaries.


- , Editor, Etiquette Scholar

If you find any typographical errors, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies, or if you just have something to add, please email us.