Tipping: Because otherwise your server would make $2 an hour. While other countries pay their service employees enough to live on without tips, in this country, if you're a server, a bartender, a delivery person, or a barista, they're your lifeblood. But often we're put into situations where it's not clear how much to tip.
To remedy this, we've rounded up a number of experienced service industry workers and asked them to anonymously tell us what they expect to be tipped in a number of different situations. The answers may surprise you. If you want to be educated, read way more than 20 percent of this.
HOW MUCH TO TIP... BARTENDERS
Bartenders put up with people who maybe should've stopped at two buttery nipples, frustrated dudes who have struck out with 95 percent of the girls at the bar, and impatient people who don't understand it takes a few minutes to make a craft cocktail. Here's what to tip your saintly bartender, along with commentary from a bartender who's young, but already grizzled.
Average Service: $1 p/drink (at a volume bar) or 20 percent of the total (at a craft cocktail bar)
"When I worked at a nightclub, it was $1 a drink, though if you get a Coke and a draft beer, the tip can still be $1. At a craft bar, we're all about the total."
If you order a water/soda: Anything other than change is appreciated.
"We hate when people give us quarters. If someone's gonna put 50 cents at the bar, I smirk and won't even take it. Don't waste my time with change. if you're gonna make an effort, give me a dollar."
If you order a draft beer/bottle/bomber: $1
"Think about the effort the bartender has to make. To open a bottle of beer or opening a bomber is the same amount of effort."
If you order a craft cocktail: 20 percent
"If I'm making someone a Ramos Gin Fizz -- a drink that's gonna take me two to three minutes to make, I expect at least 20 percent on that. These drinks take so long to make, some customers get mad they'd take long, and then they'd give less than 20 percent because they think we're giving bad service. Chipping an ice ball with your bare hands takes time."
If you order multiple drinks at happy hour: 20 percent on the drink's original price
"You're supposed to tip on the drink's normal price. Say a drink is normally $10 and you get it for $5, you still tip $2 for 20 percent even though it's discounted. It's cheaper for you, but the bartender isn't getting paid more hourly. They're still working for the same, right? People should still tip like it's the normal price. No one says, 'Can I have the menu with the real prices? I need to make sure I need to tip right.' No one even thinks about it. I just tip really well on happy hour, usually around 50 percent."
If you order multiple drinks and the bar's packed: 20 percent+
"Depends on how much they order throughout the night. If it's four people deep at the bar and they come up and order three to five drinks for their friends every so often, then that's time I could be serving other people. And by that time, they ask me my name and shout my name across the bar and expect special treatment. If I'm holding a tab for them and keeping track of all that, then a bigger tip helps. At a busy nightclub, even if it's super busy, $1 a drink. At the craft cocktail bar where I used to work, we'd get super busy and I'd have two six-tops to myself and a whole bunch of people at the bar, and sometimes I'd get swamped, and 20 percent would be great."
If you're with a huge group: Auto-gratuity and another 10 percent on top
"The place I used to bartend, we'd take six to eight tops on our own. I'd have to make eight drinks that took me two to three minutes each, and take care of people at the bar. After a while, some people drink faster, so you get stuck with a single drink order. I'll ask 'Does anyone want anything?' Everyone stares at you. When you go back to the one person who ordered and drop the drink off, then everyone asks. Every time you go back to the table, people order another drink. If I do all this legwork and have to deal with stupid people for an hour or two and you tip me 10 percent, I'm gonna stab somebody. Some auto-gratuities are 18 percent, so even with that, it's not up to standard. Some people see auto-gratuity on their bill and say, 'They didn't ask me.' A lot of times you gauge out a table. If people are cool and appreciative, then there's no point. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it backfires."
If you want to be a regular the staff likes: 50 percent on the total
"I think most regulars, most people who are liked at a bar have established themselves as being good tippers. A lot of bars have regulars that take up a barstool all goddamn day and barely tip. The ones you like are conscious of that. Instead of them sitting there for four hours, we could've had six to eight people sit at that barstool and make money on the collective checks. A lot of times people become regulars because they're nice to talk to, and they also establish themselves from tipping well. We had a regular [at the craft cocktail bar] who'd be there for three to four hours, and he'd read in the corner or he'd want to have an existential conversation. No matter what he had, he'd tip a $100. We'd usually hook him up with a drink or two, or buy him and his date a drink. No matter what, he'd tip well."
HOW MUCH TO TIP... SERVERS
They remember to put your dressing on the side, get you an iced tea with lemon, and bring more napkins to the table because you're a slob. And because of that, they deserve to be compensated. Here's what to tip your kindly waiter or waitress, along with commentary from a veteran server.
Average Service: 20 percent
"When I've refilled your Diet Coke 10 times and have run my ass off for a table for an hour, I deserve 20 percent. I have to deal with people being idiots, and answer their stupid questions. There's also a ton of physical labor. On the plus side, I'm also getting my workout when I'm working."
Horrible Service: 5-10 percent
"If someone doesn't deserve it, they don't deserve it. It shouldn't automatically be assumed that you get 20 percent. For people who work in the service industry, when we go out, we'll tip more than 20 percent if the service is awesome."
Exceptional Service: 30-50 percent
"If someone goes out of their way to give you a great experience, then they deserve to be compensated. I don't experience it that often."
If you're drinking at a table, but not ordering food: $1 per drink
"You don't need to leave 20 percent for just drinking. If we're really busy and there's a wait at the bar, and people are just drinking at a table, it sucks, but it's inevitable. I wouldn't be a dick to someone just because they're drinking and not ordering food."
If you just get takeout: A few bucks
"I never expect 20 percent because I'm not giving them full-on service. I used to work in a place that had curbside pickup, so I had to make sure the order was together (along with napkins, utensils), and I'd run out to the car. Yeah, it was easy, but it's nice when people throw you a few extra bucks."
If it's BYOB: 20 percent
"I've never worked at a restaurant that did this, but the servers there are doing the same things as they are anywhere else: They're hospitable, they bring out food, clear plates, etc. When I've visited places like that, the bill comes out to a lower amount, but I still tip 20 percent."
If you're eating with eight or more people: Another 10 percent on top of the auto-gratuity (even if it's 20 percent)
"A lot of times when you go out with that many people, there are people at your table you can't control. Your co-worker's husband joins you or something. If I go out with a big group and someone is being difficult, then I'll always leave extra. Definitely more than 20 percent."
If you get food/drink comped: 20 percent of the entire bill, including the free stuff
"You should tip on the full amount because you still received the full service. It doesn't matter whether you got a friend discount or if the kitchen screwed up, you should still tip on the original amount. I get screwed over when that doesn't happen. It makes me regret doing them a favor if I took stuff off the bill in the first place. Sometimes the table assumes a screw-up is my fault, so I get punished when the bartender took too long or the kitchen f**ked up. It all reflects on me."
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