Tips on Tipping

After some discussions and observations over the past year and seeing some lengthy Facebook threads, I thought this was a good topic to research and publish my findings on: tipping.

What kind of tipper are you? And do you feel that tipping is a bonus that you give for good service - and that you are not at obligated to offer? Or do you recognize that waitstaff typically receives a small wage that is far below minimum wage with tips expected to make up the difference? Are you generous? Do you give tips very sparingly? Have you ever stiffed a waitress because you were unhappy with the service?

Although many diners feel that tipping restaurant staff is at their own discretion, that's only partly true. Because of the wage gap, tipping is tied to minimum wage levels.

Here is a tip guide that comes from


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
  • - 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.


  • 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 may already be included if a table was reserved for 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.


    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.


    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.


  • 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.
  • 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.


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


    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.


    • 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 requestsadd 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.

    A few personal tipping practices that I'd like to add:

    If service was fair to good, go with the 20%. It will go a little farther toward the wage discrepancy and be appreciated by your server. Besides, it makes it so easy to figure out the tip in your head. 20% is one fifth. Round up (or down, if you prefer) and divide your bill by 5. Easy peasy. If your bill is $49.35, round up to $50. One-fifth is $10. Leave a $10 tip and you're done. Or, look at your bill and you can easily figure out 10%. Then just double it. Your bill is $32.30? Ten percent is $3.23. Double it and you've got $6.46. I'd then up it to either $6.50 or $7.00 It's really not all that hard to figure it out without a calculator.

    If service was great - you had a very attentive waitress, your waiter made some great recommendations and brought you lots of extra bread, your server was extremely patient with your moody toddler and brought extra crackers and crayons - show your gratitude by going to 25%. Again, makes it really easy for math purposes. Quarter your bill and leave that as your tip.

    Overall, I get good to superb service when I dine out. And I dine out quite a bit. I dine everywhere from small little mom and pop places to chains to swankier spots and if I get very friendly service, I tip appropriately. Realistically, I'm not really hard to please. If a dish isn't cooked properly, it doesn't necessarily mean it is your server's fault. Penalizing the waitress with your tip will have no effect on the cook, who was more likely the one who made the error. Or, sometimes mistakes just happen. Let your wait staff know there's a problem - politely - and give them a chance to correct it. If your waiter forgets to bring you lemons or ketchup, ask again. They've got a lot to remember. Everyone deserves a second chance. I can probably count on one hand - maybe two hands - the number of times I've had "bad" service - and even the snarkiest waitress still gets 15%.

    What is your opinion on tipping? How much do you typically tip when you dine out?