Just The Tip

I’ve worked in the food service industry since I was 17 years old.  I was an employee at Cold Stone Creamery during high school, I was a server at the on-campus bar at UMiami, and I was a server at a tourist restaurant/popular bar on my summers back home during college.  Just for funsies, here is my staff profile from Duffy’s –

I’m a big believer in karma so I always tip at least 20%.  My father (who is a 2nd grade teacher) worked as a waiter when I was a little kid so I grew up with parents who knew how to tip, and how to treat the wait staff with respect!  I realize that not everyone has worked in the service industry, or even knows someone who has, so I wanted to compile a quick post on an important part of the dining out process: tipping.

  • In most states, serves do not make minimum wage.  According to the US Department of Labor the minimum wage in New York is $7.25/hour.  The minimum wage for food service workers is $4.65/hour.  Restaurant owners are supposed to make up the difference if tips don’t bring workers up to minimum wage, but if that was actually happening restaurants would also have to raise their prices which affects you as a consumer.
  • The standard % for tipping on food and drinks is 18% (I typical get more than 20%).  I don’t believe that you should tip 15% unless your service is pretty bad.  10% is for service that is terrible. 
  • Servers do not control your entire dining experience – don’t stiff them because you are unhappy about things outside of their control.  Servers cannot control: how quickly your order comes, how strong your drink is, whether or not your food tastes good, if the restaurant is too cold, too hot, or too loud… 
  • …However, it is the server’s responsibility to be helpful if you are unhappy about any of those things.  Servers can control their attitudes.
  • If your server actually is awful, talk to the manager.  Managers and owners can only fix problems that they know about!
  • If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal.
  • If you are using a gift certificate or Groupon you tip on the original amount before the credit.
  • Servers often tip out bus boys, the bar, etc based on their sales and not their actual tips; if you stiff a server in this situation then your meal may actually cost them money.
  • If you are in a party of 6 or larger, check the bill to make sure gratuity wasn’t added automatically.  If it was you can just pay the bill and leave, although it’s always nice to tip a little extra.
  • If you order drinks at the bar before you are seated it’s good practice to close out your tab with the bar before you move.  You drinks bill can be transferred to your server, but the bartender may end up not receiving a tip for serving you.

Have you ever worked in the food service industry?  Do you have anything to add to my list?

20 thoughts on “Just The Tip

  1. I’ve never worked as a waitress, but we always tip 20% baseline. 10-15% if the service was really bad, like ignoring us for 20 minutes when we were asking for silverware. But never nothing. I was at Red Lobster last month, and some high schoolers were having dinner there before the prom. At the end the girls went to put on more lipstick and left the boys to pay. For a party of eight and an average $12 entree, sitting around gossiping for 45 minutes after they finished eating, we watched them collectively leave $6, and then announce how generous they were being because the food was just “okay.” We had the same server, and she was excellent, so we left 30% that day, but her night was probably ruined by those kids.

    • Yikes, stories like that scare me! I think you didn’t do a good job as a parent if your children don’t know how to tip by the time they are driving. I bet you guys helped to bring her mood back up!

  2. I always tip at least 20% for good service. Hubs is more of an 18% tipper, though there are some places we go where he is happy to tip more for excellent service. I will confess – and I am not ashamed of this – that I have left nothing on perhaps three occasions. I don’t feel as though I have any kind of an obligation to tip a server who is outlandishly rude, provides lousy service, single-handedly gives me an awful dining experience, and doesn’t give a damn about any of the above. I had no problem walking away without leaving a penny. If you know you have to make up your money in tips, then wouldn’t you at least try to work for them? Just because you carry a plate to me from the kitchen doesn’t mean you deserve a tip. (And I don’t mean “you” as an individual, Emily…just as the collective! 🙂 )

    A friend of mine once wrote on a receipt: “Here’s a tip: Try harder next time.” I at least don’t do THAT. 😉

  3. I’ve actually always wanted to work in the food service industry – but it never worked out for me. Maybe someday I can reach my goal. 😉

    I wasn’t always a good tipper – until I was married. My husband is the most generous person ever, and he’s taught me well!

  4. “Servers cannot control: how quickly your order comes,”

    This one is only true IF: your server truly put in the order completely correctly and they brought it out as quickly as they could correctly as they could notice without touching the food. Now, if it’s another server, then if the order was put in correctly by the original server that took the order, then the other server has to serve the food without any obvious errors such as a wrong side dish, missing side of ranch, etc., anything that the person bringing it out would not have to TOUCH to notice the mistake, because that server has a ticket to verify the food with. The original server has their written order to verify the food with automatically if the original server delivers the food.

    1. WHEN do you put in my order? Do you wait or do you go put it in immediately after taking it? If you are double sat or triple sat, you can still go put in each order into the computer after taking each table’s order. By not doing that can result in a much longer wait and that would be YOUR FAULT.

    2. FORGETTING to put in an order. My husband and I have experienced this for REAL that servers ADMITTED to our faces they have FORGOTTEN TO PUT ORDERS IN. All of them were appetizers, bar drinks, and a cup of soup.

    3. Did you put in the order CORRECTLY into the computer? Have had many times servers ADMITTED to our faces they did not do that correctly. Have had wrong entrées before due to our server putting in the order wrong. Have had wrong bar drinks too due to the server putting in the order wrong.

    4. Did you FORGET ANYTHING I ORDERED such as a SIDE DISH? We have had this happen a number of times as well.

    5. Did you DROP anything I ordered? Luckily, we have not had this happen, but I have seen a server once drop some fries from a plate before and I did have a waiter spill some margarita martini when pouring into a martini glass. In other words, it is possible, not likely, but very possible.

    6. Did you remember to GET my food? We have had a server do that before. Also, we have had a number of servers forget bar drinks.

    7. Did you bring out my food obviously correctly if you bring my food out? Do you realize how many times OUR OWN SERVER brings out DUH mistakes like the side dish is wrong, the entrée is wrong, something obvious is not correct bacon that isn’t covered up isn’t extra, extra crispy when you can clearly notice that it isn’t without touching anything, etc.? Every DUH mistake you bring out is YOUR FAULT I am waiting for what I did order by you wasting my time bringing me the wrong item or wrongly prepared item or forgot something. While we all make mistakes, I would have to say a good 90% of the time, servers NEVER COMPARE THE WRITTEN ORDERS TO THE FOOD, because they are TOO LAZY and DON’T CARE!!

    If it’s another server, it still doesn’t make it the kitchen staff’s fault I have the wrong side dish for example since that is something that’s obvious. It’s either my server that didn’t put in my order correctly or this other server that didn’t compare the ticket to the food or that this other server did compare the ticket to the food, but just missed it(HIGHLY UNLIKELY, but possible).

    So QUIT LYING to the public, because what you are saying isn’t true MOST of the time. MOST of the time, your server had SOMETHING to do with HOW LONG YOU waited for your food or bar drinks. I didn’t say always, but most of the time, your server is WHY you are waiting longer in general. That is the truth, you can’t argue with facts. I KNOW, WE EXPERIENCED IT!! My husband and I have been going out to eat just about almost every weekend(2-3 times a weekend) since Nov. 2000 since we met, so we know more than you do!!

    • Ok, calm down.

      You made some valid points, however, I think it’s pretty low not to tip someone if you see them spill something, accidents happen!

    • My husband and I have been going out to eat just about almost every weekend(2-3 times a weekend) since Nov. 2000 since we met, so we know more than you do!!

      I’ve been taking a shit every day since I was born, so I know more than you about taking a shit. BEAT THAT.

      Seriously? Trolling blogs to rant like a crazy person who clearly has never worked at a restaurant? Class.

      • angryrunner
        “Trolling blogs to rant like a crazy person who clearly has never worked at a restaurant? Class.”

        The thing is, I PROVED I DON’T NEED to have worked in a restaurant before to KNOW these things is my point. I have worked in a donut shop/diner about 10yrs ago.

      • angryrunner
        “I’ve been taking a shit every day since I was born, so I know more than you about taking a shit. BEAT THAT.”

        You are just mad that I AM TELLING the TRUTH HERE!! Think about it, you wouldn’t be saying this if you had PROOF I was wrong, would you? You wouldn’t be mad like that to say such a thing. Think about it….

      • angryrunner
        “Trolling blogs to rant like a crazy person who clearly has never worked at a restaurant? Class.”

        Doesn’t make you a troll to tell the truth. That’s just spreading the truth around instead of letting people believe lies.

  5. Emily
    “I think it’s pretty low not to tip someone if you see them spill something, accidents happen!”
    I COMPLETELY 100% AGREE with you on this!! I never said I would take off. What I said was it would be *THEIR* fault you waited longer for your food if they dropped it, that’s all.

  6. I also thought about some more things that the server can control with how long you wait for your food:

    1. Once, we had a Red Lobster waitress had our 2 entrées on the tray as well as 2 side salads that were for a couple that wasn’t even there when we ordered. Anyway, instead of bypassing their table to hand us ours first since WE DID ORDER FIRST(common sense would tell you that it takes more time to cook food than it does to fix a side salad anyways even if it wasn’t our server that delivered our food, but it was our waitress that delivered our food), she decided to hand them theirs first off the tray. THAT IS SOMETHING THAT IS IN THE SERVER’S CONTROL TO HAND OUT THINGS OFF THE SAME TRAY IN THE ORDER IN WHICH IT WAS ORDERED IN!!

    2. Once, we had a waitress that greeted us which we ordered an appetizer as well as our drinks when greeted. I saw she tucking in chairs at empty tables and pretty much doing everything but coming back to get our entrée order. Well, I found out what happened. She brought out our appetizer and when I asked she said that she wanted to wait to put in our entrée orders. The thing is, that delayed us more by not at least coming to GET our orders. That way, when the appetizer was ready, we wouldn’t have gotten delayed eating our appetizer since we then had to give our entrée orders when we could have given our entrée orders WELL BEFORE THAT and we would have gotten our entrées faster due to that she could have just left to put our entrée orders into the computer after delivering our appetizer instead of taking time to order when our appetizer was sitting in front of us.

    The point is, SHE delayed our entrées as well as to be able to start eating our appetizer because she could have at least TAKEN our entrée orders and then when our appetizer would have been brought out, could have immediately gone to the computer to put our entrée orders in.

    What she did was make us wait while our hot appetizer was sitting in front of us, we couldn’t touch it, because we had to order our entrées and could have done that wayyy before that.

    She also delayed our entrées because we had to spend extra time AFTER our appetizer arrived to give her our entrée orders when we could have done that wayyyy before that.

    3. Once, we had a waitress that assumed that because they were out of raspberry topping for a cheesecake slice when we had ordered dessert that she’d bring us strawberry. Turns out, she knew when she put in the order that the computer had it the manager told us. So she did it on PURPOSE to be so lazy and uncaring as to not come to ask if we wanted the next closest thing. We didn’t, we sent it back, so she had MORE WORK. Also, she didn’t even think about what if someone is allergic to strawberries. I just honestly can’t believe someone would do that. If they are out of something, common sense would be to come to see if the next closest thing is ok. Not everyone wants the next closest thing. So it wasn’t like it was just getting the order wrong by accident or by not verifying the written order with what she was bringing or putting in the order wrong by accident, this was on PURPOSE to be LAZY and to ASSUME. I didn’t know at first that she did that. I thought at first she just was that stupid(or truly just messed up(highly doubt it)) to bring us strawberries on top of a cheesecake when we ordered raspberries.

    4. Your server delays coming to get your order or delays you ordering due to personal conversation. We have had that before as well. Once, we had a waiter that we didn’t know after waiting 15 mins. for a table on Mardi Gras day ask us BEFORE we ORDERED ANYTHING “How’s y’all’s Mardi Gras” “Go to any parades.” See, I don’t mind chit chat with a stranger, but be considerate to do it AFTER we have our orders into the computer so you don’t take up our time. THAT was in the server’s control as well. We have also had servers not come to get our order due to playing around. That’s in the server’s control too.

  7. Emily, your blog is decompensating. LOL

    Springs1, given how finicky you seem to be about dining out, I’m surprised you even go. A server asking you how your Mardi Gras is going and if you’ve gone to any parades isn’t exactly a time-consuming conversation; I imagine that took all of about 15 seconds, unless you or your husband kept the conversation going longer. And I realize that everyone is different, but I see that at a server being personable, which would likely lead to me giving them a bigger tip! But to each his own.

  8. Nicole
    “A server asking you how your Mardi Gras is going and if you’ve gone to any parades isn’t exactly a time-consuming conversation; I imagine that took all of about 15 seconds, unless you or your husband kept the conversation going longer. And I realize that everyone is different, but I see that at a server being personable, which would likely lead to me giving them a bigger tip! But to each his own.”

    I LIKE conversation, it’s just that if it’s someone I don’t know, think about it, would you like to be buddy buddy with a server that was lazy and uncaring that didn’t give a care if your order was OBVIOUSLY correct or not? Think about that….

    Also, that 15-30 seconds can HONESTLY lead to 5-10 mins. delays. Here’s why:
    A bartender can put in the same order the same way for example an appetizer. Also, orders in general can be put in BEFORE ours get put in even though 15 seconds ago we had the opportunity to PLACE our order. Think about it…. If Joe Schomoe server decides to put in his table of 2’s order 10 seconds BEFORE our order, they get theirs at least STARTED ****BEFORE**** OURS!! Especially if it’s something that isn’t something like a steak or a burger.

    SO YES, 15 seconds delay can turn into a 5 min. or more delay over 15 seconds of hitting the ***SEND*** button on the computer to send that order in.

    SO YES, 15 seconds DOES COUNT and especially if you waited for a table, damn straight that’s MY TIME I DON’T WANT WASTED WITH A SERVER THAT CAN’T BE ********considerate******* of someone ELSE’S HUNGER BESIDES THEIR FREAKIN OWN!

    HOW DO *****************YOU************************* FEEL WHEN**************YOU***************** are freaking thirsty and extremely hungry?

    I would just like to know???

    Also, in general most customers don’t want to make conversation with their servers. Think about it, if you are on a date, do you want to talk to the server? LIKE DUH, MOST WOULDN’T!!

    Also, you have to think about your OWN POCKET, that the LONGER you take to put in that order, the LESS CUSTOMERS you have during busy times. THE LONGER I WAIT TO GET MY FOOD, THE MORE TIME I AM FOR SURE THERE, DUHHHH!!

    It’s a WIN WIN, to just SHUT UP and TAKE OUR ORDER!! HOW COME we have only had less than 5 people do that crap that were STRANGERS, huh?

    It’s because they know that their money is going to come from getting more customers, NOT chewing up time that a table is there.

    I see lots of bitchings about that customers stay beyond their time, well GEE, if they would GET THEIR STUFF FASTER due to the server putting in the order faster, LIKE DUH, MOST LIKELY it would come of faster, LIKE DUHHH! MORE CUSTOMERS, MORE TIPS!!

    I agree a bigger tip IF the server was good, but if it’s my first time having them ONLY if they didn’t ****INTENTIONALLY*** DELAY ME FROM GETTING MY DAMN FREAKIN STUFF!!


    That’s NOWHERE NEAR CONSIDERATE, IS IT, HONESTLY, think about it logically????


    Just read some of what people said. MOST DO NOT LIKE CHATTY SERVERS!! READ AND WEEP!!

    Sure there are some that do, but think about when ******YOU****** are hungry and thirsty or ready to leave. WHY THE HELL would YOU want them to delay YOU? CHIT CHAT if you want ****************AFTER****************** you put in my orders while I am waiting when you are waiting for the stuff to be prepared. THINK ABOUT HONESTLY WHEN******YOU************ are thirsty and hungry, especially, waiting a freakin HOUR for a table, which we HAVE, every SECOND COUNTS at that point HONESTLY.

    YOU ARE SO SELFISH!! YOU AREN’T A CUSTOMER MUCH OBVIOUSLY, OTHERWISE YOU’D UNDERSTAND OR YOU COME TO THE RESTAURANT NOT HUNGRY OR THIRSTY WITHOUT SKIPPING ANY MEALS OBVIOUSLY!! If I know I want a huge lunch, I skip breakfast. If I know I will be eating after work at a restaurant I will skip lunch so I can maybe share an appetizer, part of my entrée, and dessert. Don’t you want the bill to go up for us to order more?

    I have came to restaurants with almost 12 hrs or more difference in when I ate my last meal so I CAN get BUNCH OF STUFF!! Then waiting over that is really hard. NO ONE is making me, but NO ONE IS MAKING YOU DELAY MY FREAKIN ORDER, ARE THEY?

    15 seconds can be a difference between 2 tables’ orders being made before mine. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT? Obviously you don’t, do you?

    • If you keep YELLING at other commentors I’m going to have to block you. Life is too short to be that worked up about such an insignificant issue.

  9. I seriously am laughing out loud here! This is good comic relief for my Saturday morning.

    Springs1, I sincerely hope you’re trying to be funny, or at least that you’re going out of your way to be dramatic. With all of the injustices in the world to really get fired up about, expending so much energy on this one seems rather ridiculous and wasteful. But as I said before: To each his own!

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