Restaurant Tipping Etiquette

Advice & Stories
on July 3, 2012

This issue of tipping can cause a bit of anxiety if you are unsure how to go about it. How much do you tip, and to whom? You want to be fair without appearing to be socially inept. To some extent, the amount and manner of tipping depends on the type of establishment as much as the level and quality of service. Fine dining restaurants will naturally add more to the bill, and have more personnel to tip than a casual dining restaurant or self-service establishment.

Tipping is not required in the United States, but please be aware that your server is taxed by the IRS on a percentage of sales, and must claim eight percent of their total sales each day as income, regardless of whether that server has been tipped by the customer or not. In today’s economy, restaurant owners are also cutting payroll by putting the onus on servers to supplement the wage of hostesses and bussers.

In plain English, this means that your server is paid $2.00 and hour, and the hostess and bussers are paid $5.00 per hour and $10-20 per shift, respectively. The balance of their pay to bring them up to the legal minimum wage is coming out of the servers daily tips, based on a percentage of his or her total gross receipts for the day.

Here is a rundown of basic restaurant tipping etiquette that will help ensure that you can enjoy dining out without mortgaging your house, while still fairly compensating for the services you receive.

While there is no set amount, the generally expected tipping range for restaurant servers is to add an extra 15-20 percent to your total bill. A quick way to figure the tip is to round the total bill to the nearest dollar, and then add $1.50-2.00 for every $10.00 of the amount of the bill. If the service went above and beyond, it’s okay to add a little extra, at your own discretion.

There are a few situations that many restaurant patrons have questioned regarding tipping of servers, and I will address those.

The issue of whether or not to tip a server because of an unpleasant experience or substandard service has always been a problem. Is it ever okay to stiff a server? Unless there has been some extraordinary case of rudeness and ineptitude that defies reason, the short answer is no.

Regardless of whether you tip or not, the server is still going to pay taxes on the amount of your bill, and it is unfair to punish them for something they may not have had any control over. However, the amount of the tip can be altered to fit the situation.

If there is a problem with your order, and it was not due to a fault of the server, and the issue was resolved, tip the full amount. If the issue was not resolved in a satisfactory many, reduce the tip to ten percent. If the whole experience was a disaster, tip eight percent, but take the issue up with management to receive a reduction in your bill.

If you have a discount coupon, you should still tip on the full price of the meal, not the discounted amount.

Be aware that a 20 percent gratuity is added to the bill for parties of 5 or more, so tipping isn’t necessary. Banquets usually have an 18 percent tip added to the total cost, and this amount is split among the banquet servers.

The usually tip for a bartender is $1.00 per drink, if you are served at the bar. If the drinks service was part of your meal, it isn’t necessary to tip the bar unless they have made special drink requests. The server tips the bar 20 percent of their gross amount on alcohol sales.

It isn’t necessary to tip the maitre d’ or hostess unless they have gone to extra trouble to accommodate you.

The sommelier should only be tipped if they pour your first glass. The amount is typically a dollar or two.

You are not required to tip the busser. If they have gone to extra trouble to help you, or had to clean up a large spill, it’s okay to give them a little something, at your discretion.

Parking attendants usually receive a gratuity of $2.00 per car. Don’t tip them when you arrive; wait until they bring you your car at the end of the evening.

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