Tipping Standards at a Restaurant

If you grow up in a certain country you might come to expect that your country's standards for tipping are the same as around the world. Nothing could be further from the truth! Tipping is very different from location to location, and it's important to understand how tipping works in whatever part of the world you're in.

In the US, waitresses are generally paid the bare minimum wage - if not BELOW minimum wage. The excuse employers give is that those waitresses will earn tips to supplement their salaries, if they do a good job. They calculate that the waitress should earn on average 15% of all meals in tip value. A tip is given on the total cost of the meal - food and drink - before tax. In fact, the IRS *assumes* the waitress is going to earn that much and will penalize her if she reports less than that. Since tips are primarily a cash business, claiming "I got no tips" used to be an easy way for waitresses to hide money from the IRS. They IRS has gotten suspicious of any waitress who claims they have low to no tips coming in for a given year, and penalizes them.

On the upper end, incredibly fine service at a restaurant would earn 20%. I actually tend to tip 20% of the total bill (including the 5% meal tax) because I would never survive as a waitress. I would be forgetting peoples' orders, mixing them up and dropping food on them. I consider being a waitress to be a very rough job and am happy to thank them for making my dinner out a wonderful occasion. The very few times I had awful service, I have tipped 5% to 10%. You want to tip SOMETHING because if you tip nothing at all they are likely to think "oh they just forgot". You want to make it clear you DID remember about the tip and felt they were much in need of improvement.

People in countries where tipping is not normal can be baffled by why tipping is done. Remember, in a country with NO tipping, those waitresses are paid a straight salary. They are paid regardless of how well they serve you - meaning they have little incentive to serve you well. I have in fact heard from people in those countries that the waitresses are notoriously unresponsive. In the US the waitresses CAN earn that same good level of salary - but only if they work at it. Their base salary is MUCH lower. They have to work hard, to please their customers, to earn the tip amount to bring their salary up to a proper level. It is built in incentive with instant feedback.

It is also important to note that in some restaurants tips are shared out. So if a waitress gets in $50 for a night, she has to share $10 with the bus boy, $10 with the person who mans the booth at the front door, and so on. So if that waitress comes up short (because of her bad service) then all her co-workers are going to know about it and bug her about it, so it gives her even more incentive to want to earn good tips.

From Catherine in the UK:
"In the UK. you are expected to give a percentage and a lot of places state the amount of the percentage, It kind of makes it easier for someone like me. However, women are reported to be misers when it comes to tipping in general. However, I go overboard and tip more than I'm required to do. My reason is that I do not envy the staff their job. It's not an easy one, suffering fools gladly instead of throwing something at them and telling them where to get off."

Iíd actually heard many people donít tip in the UK, that itís not part of the culture over there? My UK friends say they get awful service because of that, because the servers have no incentive to do a good job. They donít lose anything by doing a bad job.

If you tip a standard amount, what is that amount? In the US it is 15% and I usually tip "high" - 20% - for the same reason you do, that I would never survive as a waitress ? But even so, the tip is on the service, so if you have a really high priced wine bottle, there isnít any extra "service" involved in pouring out $500 of wine vs $50 of wine?

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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.