Restaurant Tipping Guidelines

| August 20, 2012

Restaurant tipping suggestionsRestaurant tipping takes practice. A number of variables affect how much you should tip and on what, but the guidelines below will prepare you for any situation. If you need help finding restaurants, Dex can help with that too.

Sit-Down Restaurant

Whether at a fine dining establishment or a family-friendly diner, leave 15 to 20 percent of the pre-tax amount as a tip; pre-tax tipping serves as the norm. Lean toward a larger tip for exceptional service, but never leave less than 10 percent, even if you weren’t thrilled with your server.

Buffet Restaurant

Because you serve yourself the majority of the meal, shaving the tip down to 10 percent is acceptable. Tip higher if you run your server ragged fetching drinks and other items not on the buffet.

Takeout/Counter Service

Opinions vary on whether or not you should tip on takeout from restaurants. For example, Emily Post says no obligation exists on takeout orders but suggests tipping 10 percent on overly complicated ones. Serious Eats blogger Helena Echlin, on the other hand, recommends tipping between a couple of bucks and 10 percent on all takeout orders. Let the situation guide you in most cases. For example, if getting takeout from a restaurant that uses servers to package takeout orders, pulling them away from their tables, tip more than you would a counter person simply handing you a tray.

Food Truck/Cart

Because food trucks are a relatively new phenomenon, tipping guidelines haven’t been clearly established yet. View food trucks as you would takeout or counter orders and tip accordingly. If your food requires special attention or if everything must be wrapped to-go, tip 10 percent.


Tip 10 to 15 percent. If your order comes in below $10, tip at least $1. If the driver must park and walk far — for instance, if you live in an apartment complex — consider tipping more, up to 20 percent. Do the same if it’s pouring out and your pizza box arrives dry.

Other tipping considerations to keep in mind:

Just Drinks

If sitting at the bar or at a table in a restaurant’s bar area, tip $1 to $2 per drink if paying as you go or 15 to 20 percent if settling the tab all at once. Tip less than $1 if simply sipping a soda or water while you wait for a table in the main dining room.

Gratuity Included

When you have large parties, typically more than six people, certain restaurants roll the tip, usually 18 to 20 percent, into the bill. Again, this amount of gratuity should be pretax. If the service does not come close to warranting the included tip, speak to a manager. Be ready to give specific examples of where the server fell short, such as not refilling drinks or forgetting to add a dish to the table’s order. But keep in mind, large groups are challenging to serve, and the server typically gets assigned fewer other tables — and so has fewer tips coming his or her way — in order to focus on the large group. Conversely, if the server provided exceptional service, don’t hesitate to tip on top of the gratuity, especially if only 18 percent was included.


If you use one of the many deals available today or a coupon to pay for your meal, remember to tip on the amount you would have paid without the discount. Your server does the same amount of work and should be tipped accordingly.

Put these restaurant tipping guidelines into practice whenever and wherever you eat out. Servers remember good tippers and will aim to impress you again. If you need help finding a new restaurant to try, check Dex’s restaurant listings.

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Category: Food & Dining

About the Author ()

Pamela Mitchell spent more than 15 years at daily newspapers such as the Hartford Courant and Houston Chronicle before becoming a full-time freelancer. She now writes about a variety of topics, from dining and entertainment to pets and travel.