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How to Know How Much to Tip in Restaurants and Bars

Don't get indigestion trying to figure out who to tip the next time you dine out. Rely on these guidelines from etiquette experts.


  • Step 1: Know the general rule Remember that tipping is voluntary –you are under no obligation to reward bad service. On the other hand, don't forget that many workers rely on tips to supplement low hourly wages, so don't stiff someone for no reason.
  • Step 2: Take care of your server Tip your server 15 to 20 percent of the bill before tax – less if your service was unsatisfactory. If a sommelier helped you choose wine, tip them 10 percent of the cost of the wine or $20, whichever is less. No need to tip at a buffet unless a server brought you something, in which case 10 percent of the bill is sufficient.
  • TIP: Don't penalize your server for problems with your meal caused by the kitchen. Voice your concerns to the restaurant manager instead.
  • Step 3: Don't try to bribe the maitre d' in the hopes of getting a table without a reservation or cutting the line; it's considered bad manners, especially if you're obvious about it. But you can slip them a little something to try to ensure good service. And it's perfectly fine to reward the host with a $10 or $20 "green handshake" on your way out.
  • TIP: The trick to greasing a palm is to pass a folded bill, with the denomination visible, out of the sight of other patrons.
  • Step 4: Tip the attendants Give $1 per coat to the coatroom attendant unless there's a fee, in which case there's no need to tip. Tip the restroom attendant at least 50 cents for each visit.
  • Step 5: Take care of your bartender If in a bar, tip the bartender or cocktail server $1 per drink or 15 percent of the tab, whichever is less. Tip a bit more if the bartender had to make drinks involving blenders or shakers. And tip even if it's an open bar.
  • Step 6: When in Rome… When traveling outside the U.S., check what is customary before dining out. Some countries automatically add a service charge to restaurant bills; others expect far less than the 15 to 20 percent that is the norm in the U.S. And in a few places, like Japan, a tip is downright insulting!
  • FACT: One theory on the origin of tipping is that the word "tip" is an acronym for the phrase, "to insure promptness," and comes from the 18th-century practice of leaving a few coins on a restaurant table before placing an order.

You Will Need

  • General tipping guidelines
  • Your own judgment

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