How Much to Tip

You sit down at a hot new bar and order a drink. The bartender makes it, you pay and then there’s that nagging feeling: Did I tip enough? Did I tip too much?

How much to tip is perhaps the most difficult dilemma you’ll encounter while on the town—besides deciding what to have. To help you out, we turned to’s illustrious advisory board. Together, this group of mixological luminaries has decades of experience behind the stick, and we got some great advice.

First off, tip a percentage of the tab, not a flat rate. Dushan Zaric, Allen Katz and Jim Meehan recommend leaving at least 20 percent, no matter if you’re ordering beer in a dive or a fancy mixed drink at a high-end lounge. Gary Regan is even more generous: Tip “as much as you can possibly afford,” he says.

A few situations merit extra tipping. If it’s happy hour and drinks are discounted, Zaric suggests dropping at least $2 per beverage, while Katz says a tip of 25 percent is appropriate. And if you’re lucky enough to get a freebie, Katz says to add a minimum $5 to what you’d have tipped if you’d had to pay for it.

However, tipping extra on the your first round isn’t necessary—“a large first tip (followed by smaller tips) suggests you want special treatment as a guest,” Meehan says, but “a well-run bar with a good bartender should not solicit or encourage this type of tipping.”

There’s also no reason to tip more generously if you’re paying with a credit card versus leaving cash. And if you see a tip jar on the bar, ignore it: Both Zaric and Katz prefer to leave their tips on the bar, as this lets staff keep better track and properly divide up tips at the end of the shift.

What if you get bad service? Don’t dock the tip. “What goes around comes around,” Zaric says. “I sucked once too as a server and people still tipped me.” Eventually, he got better: The best tip Zaric ever received was a whopping $1,000! To be fair, it was on a $1,000 tab.

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  1. Edju Haliski says

    I am in complete disagreement with the final advice about tipping the same for bad service. To tip a terrible server the same as a good server is an insult to the good server and does nothing to get a bad server to improve. A tip is a gratuity for good service rendered, not a mandatory reward for simply being a server. I normally tip well, typically above the recommended minimums. On the rare occasions when I had to stiff a server, I explained to them, or their manager, exactly why that happened.

  2. David Bergman says

    Edju – I agree with you the author of the article must moonlight as a server. all of my tips directly reflect service rendered. Minimum expectation met then minimum tip anything more then more; anything less then less

  3. I find our whole tipping culture completely out of control. It should not be up to the patron to give the server a decent wage. I believe we should do as they do in Germany and leave the change at most if the service is good. The establishment should pay the people a good wage. And yes I have worked as a server and a bartender.

    • Matthew Hartmann says

      I like Germany a lot, I really do. I have family there and travel there often. They have some fantastic restaurants with great service, but overall, and on average, the U.S. has a better bar/restaurant culture. I think one reason is that the server is paid the same amount regardless of how helpful, but there are plenty of reasons and there are great servers in both countries.

      One reason not to eliminate the tipping culture is that a tipped server never has to ask the boss for a raise. Year over year, prices in restaurants increase and tips follow along since they are a percentage of the total. So servers incomes increase naturally with the cost of dining in an area. This is a never mentioned bright side to the plight of a server. So wages in this case do keep up with inflation, and the best servers can make a lot of money.

      Naturally, it is stupid to tip the same amount for terrible service. If they only spend 60 seconds with me the whole night, then they may have too many tables and they are still getting paid.

  4. Tipping is a stupid, regressive practice that needs to be abolished. Restaurant and bar owners can raise wages and adjust prices accordingly. What other “professions” are expected to make a significant amount of money from “tips”? Women who work at “massage parlors” and strippers. “Servers” are given the same financial consideration as a parlor owner gives to prostitutes. I remember when a tip of 10% was acceptable. Then it became 15%. Now it’s 20%? What next, we’re expected to tip 200% of the bill by 2030? It is time to simply eliminate tipping.
    In no other workplace (except among hookers and strippers) is it presumed that someone who is not “tipped” well enough will not work hard enough. In every job I have had, you were presumed to do your job for your wages or salary. “Tips” did not exist, and it would have been ridiculous to even think of it. Do waiters, bartenders, etc. wish to continue to be paid on the same sort of schedule that one uses for strippers and hookers? Are waiters, bartenders, etc. simply lacking in the moral fiber had by the vast majority of working people, who do their jobs without expecting “tips”?

    • It sounds like you think you deserve to be served by others for nothing in return. The reason that “servers” work so hard to please is that they know their final wage depends on their level of service, an excellent opportunity to go the extra mile for the customer. Do you also think that people working on commission should just suck it up and accept a flat hourly rate? Working with people, serving them, is a damn difficult job. People are picky, disagreeable and many have their own set of preconceived notions about how things are going to be, which almost never lines up with reality. Making sure people are satisfied, delighted or merely able to tolerate the level service is all a matter of skill, one that is difficult to master. Unfortunately, there will always be a someone out there, like you, who believes that no matter the level of service, tipping is superfluous. After all, you were born to be served, right?

      To compare a bartender or other server to strippers is just plain demeaning, it’s just not the same thing. Bartenders and servers are selling ambiance, hospitality and, if they are any good, a personal touch, not raunchy, sweaty sexual fantasy. Newsflash: no one deserves to get paid minimum wage to kiss your penny-pinching ass, (but there might be a few stripping opportunities interested in that quality of yours.) I

    • So, since I was tipped as a golf caddie, that means I was really a stripper? There are plenty of occupations out there where your compensation is directly related to your performance. While you wouldn’t think of them as tips, the business world moves based on referrals and reputation. Do a bad job and people will stop coming to you for that service, so you still see performance based compensation.

      This just happens to be a circumstance where it is easy to distinguish and directly compensate a particular individual.

      Ask bartenders if they would prefer to be paid as opposed to getting tips. The young people who dominate the profession would turn down the steady pay for the opportunity for that $500-$1,000 saturday night.

    • Generally speaking, hookers don’t get tips. Perhaps you know better than I on the subject though. If the hooker you go to goes the extra mile for you then by all means tip said hooker. I imagine though that if he or she agrees to service you then they are already going that extra mile.

  5. Did you know TIPS stands for “To insure proper service”? Now those who think tipping should be abolished wages should be raised to accordingly, what is the correct wage you think they should be paid hourly? Minimum $7.25, $8, $10, more? Have you ever worked in a restaurant/bar that is full? If you have, you know how stressful & tiresome it can be. It’s even worse when it’s a slow night. Working 6 plus hours on your feet without getting a break, cause you’re lucky if you get 5 mins for a smoke and potty break…it’s the ultimate customer service job. Do you take into consideration the kitchen? If the kitchen maybe busy then your food may not come out as quickly–do you fault the server? How about if the kitchen messes up and takes even longer? Who do you blame? I’m not saying that all fault lies with the kitchen either, but take them into consideration as well when it comes to tipping. Did you also know that servers have to claim a % of their SALES for taxes? So if you don’t tip, that server still has to pay % for tax on your bill. If you have bad service you should still tip something–shouldn’t be 20% more like 10%, but definitely talk with the manager. Management wants to know if their employees are doing something right or wrong. It is a business after all, they want you to come back.

    • Obviously a person who works (or has worked) in a restaurant and thinks they deserve to be paid more than they are worth. Yes, they deserve minimum wage, but serious… people are talking about 15 a hour, which is ridiculous. And no, if you get crappy service, you shouldn’t tip. It is the servers (bartenders) JOB to provide good customer service.

    • JORDAN… Oh, please. I used to serve and you only have to pay taxes on what income you earn. After all it IS called INCOME taxes. The customer already pays a tax (used to be 8.5%) for pre-prepared food. So no, the server does not have to pay taxes on sales. The customer does that with the consumer tax on the receipt. Get your facts straight. The server only has to pay taxes on their income, and their income only consists of their hourly wages and tips. Many servers (illegally) only pay taxes on their hourly wages and don’t even report tips because there is no way for the government to prove how much they made in tips. Therefore even if a server gets audited it would be impossible for the IRS to say they owe any money for the tips that were not reported, because the IRS can’t prove how much the server made in tips.

  6. Bartended for 20 years and always tip well if justified, and it usually is. The part where I get a little hung up with tipping on percentage is with the rare selection of a $35 bourbon, or a $100 bottle of wine. On one hand I know it counts as a percentage of sales, which the bartender has to claim, but throwing $25 at a guy for popping a cork is tough too. $7 at 20% to pour me a Pappy…..ouch.

    • If you can afford the $35 Bourbon or $100 bottle of wine, you can afford the proper tip. They still have to pay the taxes on it.

      • Yes they have to pay taxes on it, meaning they have to actually claim most their income.

        I choose to afford a rare $35 bourbon maybe once every 5 years. I am buying it there because I will never afford the bottle. Telling someone that need to throw down a ten spot for a simple little jigger pour is dumb, as is $25 for pulling out a cork. When I bartended, I expected to be tipped on quality of service and degree of difficulty. Not on menu prices. If you think it should strictly be menu prices, never work a happy hour, or complain when people tip percentage during happy hour. It goes both ways.

        If that is the new standard, I will just drink at home. The sense of entitlement by the likes of Captain America are exactly the types I weeded off my staff. Telling people to stay home is not the answer, moving on to the next customer with a smile or getting out of the industry are far better options.

    • Where are you people getting the notion that the server has to pay taxes on that alcohol. There is a sales tax that pays for the taxes on the alcohol. The server only has to pay taxes on their tips and hourly wage. Not how much the customer spends in the restaurant.

  7. If I’m paying cash, I’m not figuring out if 20% +/- is appropriate. Whether I order a Coors Light for $3 or a Fullers ESB for $6-7, I’m likely tipping $1 if I’m paying cash per drink (not a tab). A laborious drink, especially something I might ask for a certain way, like an old fashioned, usually gets $2. If I run a tab via credit card, I’ll calculate around 20% depending on service and types of drinks. If it’s a really good happy hour with low drink prices and some decent free or discount food, I will share the savings with the bartender.

  8. Sorry, but most of the advice given in the article is self-serving. Of course servers will tell you that you should tip more – even for bad service. That’s absolutely ridiculous! Why not ask the fox how much time he thinks he should have in the hen house?!
    Be thankful I don’t call your boss over to complain about your bad service. That’s the only thing you have to offer, your service. If you don’t have that, you basically are worthless to me, so, no I WILL NOT be tipping you.
    Slightly off-topic. I don’t think servers should be tipped anyway. I think you should be paid a living wage that means you can live a decent lifestyle on your salary alone. March in and tell your boss you want a raise, and if you don’t get it, you’re out on strike. I may not want to tip you, but if you tell me you’re raising money for a strike fund, I’ll happily kick in $20.

    • Very well stated.

    • You’re all idiots! Restaurants will never change to an hourly wage so if you want to be served, tip! Otherwise go to McDonald’s. To get stiffed (to a way lesser extent, but still the same) is the same as you working at your job for the week and your boss telling you “I don’t feel like paying you for your hard work this past week.” “And on top of that, you’ll still have to pay your coworkers (janitors etc.) some of your wage that was expected and pay your taxes too with the money from your savings…since I didn’t feel like paying you.”

  9. This article is written by bartenders to serve bartenders and is completely wrong. Tip for bad service? Good one. $2 for a beer? Get real. 25% for overpriced cocktails? Seriously? A buck a drink is fine.

  10. Captain America says

    All right you ignorant, self righteous complainers – Next time when you are in doubt how much tip, if any, you should leave – ask yourself how is it to be a server who has to deal with people like yourselves all night long. For weeks and years. Maybe then you’ll understand why you should tip. Maybe…but I doubt it.

    this is how ignorant and selfish you sound:

    …”A buck a drink is fine”? – I pity the people who have you at their tables or at their bars.

    …”Be thankful I do not call your Boss over and complain”… Dude – any real boss will always work with their staff to help them grow as they too once started in this industry…Who do you think you are you moron? Fucking Consumer Affairs? Yelp was not meant to fall under first amendment rights…

    …”To tip a terrible server the same as a good server is an insult to the good server and does nothing to get a bad server to improve”… – Not true you idiot. All tips in the house are usually pooled which means you are not only tipping your waiter or bartender but all their support staff like busboys, foodrunners or barbacks who work really hard so that your ass can have a fresh squeezed fucking magarita and food delivered to your table and cleared of from it. Not to mention that these people clean your vomit and your piss and shit from our bathrooms. People who are usually illegal and very honest and hard working. With their labor and tips their are supporting whole families…Trust me – any bad server quickly gets put straight by their team. Please stay out of it and do not try to fix our world. Fix your own…

    Please (most of you up there) do us all a favor and buy your booze in a liquor store from now on…

    and stay out of our bars…

    • Want paid more, get another job. While, I normally tip fairly well (25-30%) depending on what I get and the setting, I don’t believe that tipping should be mandatory or even tipping large amounts are. It is your job to serve or make drinks, regardless what I may or may not tip. So, do your job and stop whining.

      • God damn right! I offer a service far fucking more valuable to the world. I help job seekers find employment. My wage is neither here nor there when comparing with many others working with the public. I help a lazy, thankless, entitled sort of person get a job and I’m surprised to hear a simple thank you. Forget a tip, although I just helped greatly put them back into a livelihood. Every dollar I make is taxed at a criminal rate (Canadian) and I have no tips to falsely declare values on my tax returns. So don’t tell me something as simple as pouring a drink often deserves an additional 20% plus above their wage. Last time I checked normally those professions paying more, not requiring tips, included a helluva lot of blood, sweat and tears in terms of slugging through years and cost of education. My point is, why should you make what a university graduate makes when a mixology course can be completed in mere days. It boggles the mind as to the dependence of grown adults in modern society, it truly does.

    • LOL…stay out of “your” bars…

      You must be over capacity at all times that telling people to go away is an option.

      I think that it may be time for you to consider other professional options.

    • You know what your right! We should stay home and drink and then perhaps an asshole like you will be out of a job, because obviously you’ve must have been stiffed a few (oops did I say a few) HA a bunch of times due to your such SWEET (*cough cough*) personality. Go to Hell and Hell no I would NEVER EVER tip fully if the person doesn’t deserve it, and if I had a person like you, I would NEVER tip. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Ahole!

  11. I totally disagree with the “advice” in this article. You really shouldn’t get advice on tipping from those who receive the tips. Tipping 20% for both a beer and a complex and high-end mixed drink is ridiculous. Tipping needs to be tailored to the type of establishment, your location, and the drink. A person merely opening a bottle of beer or pouring a shot of vodka really doesn’t warrant a $3-4 tip. But, with the suggestion regarding “happy hour” or if you get a free drink is right on. I typically will tip whatever the regular price would be on top of whatever tip I would of normally give.

  12. Katarina says

    I always tip $2.00 per drink (so if I order 5 drinks, I tip $10.00 for that round). I continue that tipping throughout the night.

    I find that not only does that keep the bartender happy and attentive, but I also get stronger drinks and bigger pours.

    Plus, I know I helped make someone’s night :-)

    And for happy hour? Definitely tip based on what the bill would have been with normal prices.

    • How the heck is it happy hour for me if I’m paying the same for the drinks. The point of having happy hour earlier in the day, usually later afternoon is to pick up business earlier in the day. Why do I have to pass off my savings in tips?! It’s like redeeming a coupon from Maxwell House for $1 off and then giving it back to the grocery store owner because you’re such a nice person. I’m sorry but I don’t understand. For the record, if a server in a restaurant provides me with above average attention and consideration, there will be a nice tip for him/her once the cheque arrives. But, if there’s a two for one entrée promotion going on in the restaurant, I sure as shit won’t tip on the value of two entrees. Otherwise, where the heck is my deal? Happy hours, two-fers are all designed as incentives by business owners to get my ass in the door. Why would I possible pass that full savings back to the server? I’m sorry I just don’t get it.

  13. Fact is, the tipped employee wage is set by the United States Department of Labor and not the employer. The tipping percentage has increased over time because the cost of living has increased over time. If you don’t agree with the tipping practices, then don’t go out.
    These comments in opposition of tipping probably comes from a deep seated unhappiness with your own job and your wage. Serving is just another job with it’s own set of skills and training. You can tell when you are being served by someone doesn’t care about what they are doing but this is more about them not having any pride in what they do. In this day and age, more people spend much of their work day behind a computer so maybe that one and one human contact is what people crave.
    There are some terrible servers out there, there are some dismissive bartenders, I can personally attest to this because I have worked with some of these people. So, let the manager know, don’t go back to that restaurant, if you do go back to that restaurant request somebody else; hell, tip them 15% instead of 18%. Whatever you decide to do don’t make a sweeping judgement of all tipped employees because it simply isn’t right. I’ve had doctors who are rude and dismissive but I still have to pay them for services rendered; don’t get crazy, I don’t think that doctors are the same as servers but it’s just to illustrate that there are people everywhere that are terrible at their job.

  14. I always hate reading comments on articles about tipping/the industry/etc because of peoples ridiculous opinions. I work in a french bistro, make about 1k a week in tips. so 60k a year cash take home, give or take. I, as well as most servers and bartenders, would be very displeased if tipping were abolished in exchange for wages. Generally, people that complain about tipping/don’t want to tip/whatever are either poor or low class, and those types don’t usually come in to where I work so its not really an issue for me. I’m dissapointed if I make less than 20% on a check, but have enough tables/make enough that some cheapskate isn’t going to bother me much.

  15. tipping?! don’t make me laugh, i don’t tip because, i believe that a waiter should be paid as any other employee, they WALK FOOD AROUND… they require no skill other than writing, an memory. a cook however, should be paid in tips so the food isn’t shit. yet you claim i shouldn’t tip for a bad waiter? why should i pay for bad food? why should i pay someone’s wages, when that is the companies responsibility? also, if you have a problem with the fact i don’t tip, try get a different fucking job…you take the job, it’s not required to tip. accept the fact that people shouldn’t have to spend inflated fees on prepared food, that is usually not fresh, and then tip? i’ll cook at home, i’m a better cook then half the restaurants i’ve been to anyway. just ask my girlfriend.

    • also, overhead for the food, is what pays wages… ceo’s realized this, decided to have tips for waiters, and the ceo takes what a waitress would make. don’t hate on me, because i realize your all tools.

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