On Tipping and Restaurant Service

I really enjoy eating in restaurants for two reasons: people bring me food that I didn’t have to make myself, and it’s relaxing and fun to have conversations over a meal out. But I’m going to rant about something here.

You see, if it’s just me and my husband eating out, when we go to a new restaurant or get a new server, too often we get crappy service compared to the other people in our section.

I suspect it’s because we order what we like to eat from the menu — as most people do.

But the things we like to eat are usually inexpensive, and we get water to go with it. Because that’s what we like to drink. (Unless they happen to have fresh-squeezed lemonade, and then I’m all over that.)

In other words, we look like we are likely to be crappy tippers.

Now I’ve worked in a restaurant before, making the usual less-than-minimum wage, and I am not a crappy tipper. At the very least, I am an adequate tipper. But you know, when I get the servers who are clearly giving only us in particular minimal service, it’s very tempting to tip badly or not at all.

I don’t, but I’m tempted to.

I’m talking about servers who come by once after we get our food, and then don’t show up again til they’ve got the bill in hand — all while refilling the drinks of the people nearby and ignoring our empty glasses. Servers you have to drag a dessert order out of when they finally do show up because they’ve already closed out your ticket. And God forbid you have a coupon. (Yes, I tip on what the bill would have been without the coupon in those cases.)

Anyway, there has to be a way for us to consistently get at least adequate service in those situations, short of ordering a bunch of food we don’t want and won’t eat. I’m just not sure what it is.

So what are your thoughts? Would you speak to the manager during the meal if service is poor? Tip in advance? Really, I just want to eat food I like in an enjoyable atmosphere without having to get up and refill our own water. We could do that at home.

And, what do you consider a “good” tip and an “adequate” tip?

I do 20% on the after-tax total by default, and anywhere from 25%-40% on the after-tax total for actual good service or for very small totals at busy times. (Although 40% is rare.)

Finally, I wish servers and other restaurant workers just got paid a good wage. It’s hard work.


  • Kim

    To tell you the truth, I hate tipping. I do tip but I also get very bad service. We can barely afford to go out and eat and when we do. we also only order water and often split a meal and do not order extra’s because we can’t. Then we get poor service or awful food. The bill comes and they expect 20% more. I feel sorry for the workers (I too was a waitress in college) , but in my day a tip was for service above and beyond the reasonable. Now it is an assumed part off the wage. The whole system is skewed! I will also complain about bad food. Nicely, but they need to know.

  • I recently had a trip to New York and I have to say that tipping was a pleasure!! Maybe I was lucky, but everywhere I went I found that the service was superb. The only exception to getting a good service were the Taxi drivers.

    Here is the UK I rarely ever tip, there are two main reasons for this; firstly, the service compared to what we had in NY is well below standard, secondly, service charges are included.

    Another thing I notice was the value for money that I got in NY. I ordered from a Deli a beef sandwich, I am sure that it contained half a cow!!! For the same price in the UK you get one slice of beef.

    My visit to the States showed me just how much we are being ripped of in the UK.

    • Funny, I’ve never been to the UK (except for airport layovers) but I feel that tipping is a pleasure in Europe just because it IS an additional tip, instead of some requirement to get good service if you’re lucky. And I like knowing that the servers are actually being paid to work all of the time.

  • I usually tip 18-20% for reasonable service. If it is extraordinary, I may go as high as 25% which is rare.

  • I read once that women dining together generally tip less (or it is assumed that they will tip less, more than likely), so waiters often don’t give women decent service. I have absolutely found that to be true. So frustrating, because most of my eating out is done with friends. Yet when I go with my husband, we generally get better service, despite the fact that we eat frugally, while my friends and I will order half the menu.

    I always tip 20-25% unless the service was horrible, then I’ll tip 10-15%. On more than one occasion, I have actually written on the bill that service was awful and that I am tipping only because I used to be a server and know how difficult it is. Always including, of course, that their tip would have been substantially higher if they didn’t suck so badly at their job. There is just no excuse for bad customer service, regardless of the field.

    • Sounds like there are a lot of stereotypes out there about who will and won’t be good tippers. I bet most of them are really just self-fulfilling prophecies.

  • I won’t tip more than 10% for bad service. We generally tip 15-18% for good service and 20-25% for great service.

    • Based on these comments, I’m beginning to think that I habitually over-tip. Oh well, it’s not much money dollars-wise though because of how little we typically order.