How Much to Tip when Dining Out: Your Ultimate Tipping Guide

November 21, 2018
How-Much-to-Tip-when-Dining-Out-Your-Ultimate-Tipping-Guide

There was once a time when you could look at the receipt at a restaurant, and simply double the tax in order to calculate tip. Well, in 2018 things have changed!

Not only is a standard tip measured on service and satisfaction, but the expected amount has increased significantly. A proper tip amount can change depending on what your purchasing, or even what kind of restaurant you’re visiting.

Understanding how much to tip can be a bit tricky. We have developed an easy go-to guide to clarify tipping so that you can dine out (or order in) more confidently.

How Much To Tip in Any Dining Out Situation

Server

Expectation: 20% of the total bill.

These days, a 20% tip is the baseline at any sit-down restaurant. A number of factors can influence your restaurant experience including: wait time for a table, food preparation, atmosphere, speed of food delivery, etc. Unless a server is blatantly ignoring your table or putting off a negative attitude, tip should not be lowered. In these cases it’s best to talk to a manager to allow them the opportunity to improve your situation, rather than stiffing a server and perpetuating the problem. A full dining experience can change depending on the chef, number of servers on the floor, patron increases on the weekends, and much more.

Situations to consider before tipping:

  • Discounts.
    If you paid for your meal with a Groupon or an item was comped, always be sure to tip on the original full price of the meal.
  • Gratuity.
    Some restaurants include gratuity into the total bill (usually between 15-20%) on large parties. Keep an eye out for this inclusion, and feel free to add more for extraordinary service. Serving large tables takes extra work, and often the server is also helping other tables.

Bottom line: If you notice your server is pleasant and helpful even while running around on a busy day, feel free to add a little more to that 20%.

Bartender

Expectation: $1-2 per drink, or 20% of the total bill.

As with a server, always start with a baseline of 20% and go up from there. If using cash, start with $1 (change is frowned upon), and go up depending on how many drinks ordered at once, and type of drinks.

Even if you’re avoiding alcohol and sipping on soda, remember you’re taking up that bartender’s valuable time (and real estate). Kick them $1 tip for each soda, just as you would with an alcoholic drink.

Situations to consider before tipping:

  • Happy hour specials.
    Prices can change drastically with happy hour discounts. If a drink is normally $10 and it’s discounted to $5, increase your tip accordingly. Happy hour is a promotional time to get people in the door, and does not compromise the service your receive.
  • Complicated cocktails.
    A cocktail takes more time to make than popping the top off a beer. More time = more tip.

Bottom line: Bartenders juggle a lot of tasks all at once, such as dealing with intoxicated patrons, remembering names, tabs, multi-ingredient drinks, and who’s next to order – all with a smile. Appreciate their dedication to your celebration.

Coffee Barista

Expectation: $1 per order, or your change.

Making a good cup of coffee takes more training than one might think. Baristas will often spend years perfecting how to properly pull an espresso shot, let alone steaming milk and creating beautiful latte art. Even just brewing drip coffee takes attention and care to make it taste just right.

If a coffee is $2.50 and you pay $3, it’s perfectly acceptable to tip the change.

Situations to consider before tipping:

  • Frequency.
    Do you regularly visit this coffee shop, and engage in fun conversation with the baristas? Chances are they’ve given you discounts from time to time without you noticing. Kicking them a couple extra bucks every now and then is greatly appreciated.
  • Food.
    Often when a coffee shop serves food, it’s assembled and served by those also making your coffee. If you’re adding food items to your order, include a little more tip for the extra work.

Bottom line: Baristas spend a lot of time and training behind the scenes to make your coffee drinks perfect. A tip is always expected and appreciated even if it’s small.

Delivery Driver

Expectation: 15% of the total bill, but no less than $5 on smaller orders.

The amount of food a delivery driver brings to your door can vary greatly. However, they do the same amount of work no matter how much you order. Delivery drivers don’t just drop off your food either – they can also be assigned to packaging the food, making sure your order is correct, and doing side work at the restaurant as well.

Situations to consider before tipping:

  • Delivery fees.
    Although a delivery fee may show up on your itemized receipt, it is not a tip. This cost is to cover the order itself, and is not shared with the driver. A tip should be added on top of the delivery fee.
  • Weather.
    Did you decide to order food delivered because it’s raining or snowing outside? Chances are, your delivery driver doesn’t want to be out there either. Consider raising the tip for inclement weather.

Bottom line: Delivery drivers are hard workers, assembling orders, dealing with traffic and weather, and still get your food to you with a smile. Tip them accordingly.

Takeout Orders

Expectation: $0-$2. Use best judgement.

This is tricky, as you are simply picking up food and not necessarily receiving added attention or service. Most of the time a tip is not expected, however depending on the circumstance throwing in a couple of dollars is perfectly acceptable.

Situations to consider before tipping:

  • The pack-up.
    Were there a lot of ingredients or side dishes to pack up separately? Did they throw in some extra condiments for good measure? Packing up your order does take time and creativity in assembly to make your home-dining experience enjoyable.
  • How busy it is.
    A host or server might be juggling a number of other tasks while making sure your order is ready to go on time, and correct. If it’s exceptionally busy, kicking them a dollar or two will go a long way.

Bottom line: Although not expected, a tip is a very nice measure when appropriate.


When dining out, tipping is not the time to be stingy. These workers put in a lot of effort to make your experience enjoyable, and your tip makes a big impact on their paycheck. And besides, good tipping is good karma! Why not spread the love?

[Credit: Perreault, Abbey. “The Right Amount to Tip for Food in Any Situation.” Greatist.]

Tags: community, alcohol, restaurant, budgeting, money