Tipping Etiquette: Who to Tip at Restaurants and How Much

When it comes to tipping staff at a restaurant, it can get confusing as to which employees should be tipped and how much. While tipping can sometimes feel overwhelming, with a short cheat sheet of who to give a gratuity to and how much, you’ll never have to wonder again. Keep in mind that who to tip and how much can widely vary depending on the country or culture you are in (this article is intended as a guide for restaurant tipping in the USA):

Who to Tip:

  1. Waitstaff: Let’s start with the backbone of your dining experience—the waitstaff. Whether you’re enjoying a sit-down meal or indulging in a buffet feast, showing appreciation for their service is essential. For traditional table service, the standard tip ranges from 15% to 20% of the total bill before tax. 
  2. Host or Maitre d’: While there’s no obligation to tip for a simple greeting and seating, if the host or Maitre d’ goes above and beyond—say, securing a table for you on a busy night or recognizing you as a regular patron—a tip of $10 to $20 is a gracious gesture.
  3. Bartenders: Whether they’re crafting your favorite cocktail or pouring a glass of wine, bartenders deserve recognition too. Tip them $1 to $2 per drink or 15% to 20% of the tab for exceptional service.
  4. Takeout: While there’s no obligation to tip for takeout, if the restaurant provides extra service like curbside delivery or handles a large, complicated order, consider tipping around 10% of the total bill.
  5. Delivery Drivers: If you opt for food delivery, show appreciation for the driver’s effort with a tip of 10% to 15% of the bill, or about $5 for a pizza delivery, (however depending on the order size and delivery difficulty you may wish to add more). If there is a winter storm or rainy day out, boost their tip with a few more dollars to say an extra big thank you!
  6. Tipping Jars: While there’s no obligation to tip when you encounter a tipping jar, consider doing so occasionally if your server or barista provides a little something extra or if you’re a regular customer.
  7. Restroom Attendants: For their often-overlooked service, tipping restroom attendants is a thoughtful gesture. Consider tipping between $0.50 to $3, depending on the level of service provided.
  8. Valet Attendants: When utilizing valet parking services, have a few dollars ready to tip the valet attendant upon the return of your vehicle. A tip of $2 to $5 is customary.

How Much to Tip:

Now, let’s talk specifics. While the standard tipping percentages mentioned above are a good starting point, it’s essential to adjust based on the quality of service, the size of your party, and any special circumstances.

  • Exceptional Service: If your server, bartender, or delivery driver goes above and beyond, feel free to tip more than the standard percentage as a token of appreciation.
  • Large Parties: When dining with a large group, double-check if the restaurant automatically includes a gratuity or service charge on the bill to avoid double-tipping. PRO Tip: Want to brush up on your dining etiquette at your next group meal? Click here to read Top 10 Table Manners.
  • Splitting the Bill: If splitting the bill, calculate your tip based on the total bill amount, not just your portion, to ensure fairness and gratitude for the entire dining experience. 

Remember, tipping is a way to express gratitude for the service provided and many restaurant staff rely on tips as a part of their salary. Tipping etiquette is important and says as much about you as it does about the service you are tipping for. 

So, the next time you find yourself enjoying a delicious meal at your favorite restaurant, keep these tipping guidelines in mind. By showing appreciation for the service you receive, you’re not only practicing good manners but also supporting the individuals who work tirelessly to make your dining experience unforgettable. Cheers to that!

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