Tipping Guidelines for Great Service

guest receipt at restaurant

Author: Alan Rust

Tipping is a challenging subject in America since it isn’t mandatory. However, you have to keep in mind that your servers are often dependent on tip income and generally are grateful for any tips received. Tipping is the way to acknowledge good, great, and exceptional service.

Let’s start with the most common tipping situation: the sit down restaurant. The staff at these venues are not making minimum wage and do need tips to make a living. Many of you might not know but there are venues that require the service staff to split their tips with bus staff, bartenders and sometimes even the back of house cooking staff.

A similar tip situation: a bar. The bartender who created your cocktails or explained the local craft beers to you most likely also depends on tips. They also will probably have to split their tips with the back of bar staff.

For both of the tip situations above, I suggest the following percentages. Don’t be embarrassed to use the calculator on your phone to determine the correct tip amount. You can also be a little nicer and round that amount up to the nearest dollar.

  • 15% for below average service that didn’t give you the experience you hoped for

  • 20% for good service that provided you with an enjoyable experience

  • 25% (or more) for exceptional service that was genuine and provided a great experience

Now, with the introduction of the iPad style terminals at walk-up food and drink venues like your local coffee shop, almost every venue is asking their customers for tips. Most of the employees at these venues are getting paid minimum wage and not dependent on tips. I usually consider the level of effort and knowledge the staff needed to do before I offer up a tip at these venues. For example, a barista has to have some skill but the employee that only passes your food tray from the kitchen window to the counter in front of you doesn’t. I don’t think you always need to feel obligated in these situations.

  • 10% if there was a level of knowledge required to do the task

  • 15% if the staff went out of there way to provide a friendly and enjoyable experience

We know that every delivery person gives you the opportunity to provide a tip. You need to realize that the delivery fee that was already charged by the owners isn’t given to the drivers. The drivers are getting paid but probably not getting paid to cover the car expenses to bring your order to your door. The industry information I have read suggests the following tips.

  • 15% for average service with a $2 minimum

  • 20% for better than average service

Let’s not forget the Uber or Lyft rideshare driver that lets you enjoy the evening worry free. You may not know that they don’t actually make a high hourly wage which is only 50-65% of what you pay the company. They don’t get reimbursed for their gas or car maintenance. You can tip in the app for both Uber and Lyft and I suggest that you do.

  • 10% if there was an issue or it was a 3 star ride with a $2 minimum

  • 15% if the ride was good or a 4 star ride

  • 20% if the ride was courteous, on time and with amenities for a 5 star experience