A Guide to Restaurant Tipping Etiquette

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How much do you tip for great service at a restaurant?  Marianne, a Coupon Divas reader, recently asked about using a coupon that stated an 18% gratuity would be added to the bill. She wondered if that was the average tip, as she did not dine out frequently. So I went to work, to see if I could find Tips for Tipping!

For the record, there are no set rules when it comes to tipping. You don’t have to give a certain amount just because other tables, neighbors and friends did or you read in a magazine a specific percentage should be given. If you use services that are known to be tipped services such as restaurants, valet and hair salons then you should expect to tip something based on the quality of service provided.

Using Coupons and Gift Certificates:
How do you calculate the tip when you are using a gift certificate or coupon? Tipping should always be based on the cost of the meal before the deduction of a gift certificate or coupon. The server is doing the same amount of work even though you will receive a discounted meal.

Some coupons and gift certificates will specify that a specific Gratuity be added to the bill before the discount to ensure the waiter receives the proper tip. If you feel that the waiter’s service didn’t meet your expectations, ask to speak to the manager before paying your bill. Just keep in mind what’s going on in the restaurant, is it the kitchen that is behind, do they have enough staff? Don’t “punish” a waiter for the parts of service he/she cannot control.

As far as the average tip amount: I found it seems to be anywhere from a 15 – 20% tip.  Keep in mind that it depends on where you live, if you are unsure of your area just check around before heading out.

The general rule of thumb for tipping:

  • 20% Tip: For Outstanding Service
  • 15% Tip: Average Service
  • 10% Tip: Below Average Service

Some might question why they should tip at all if the service was “Below Average”, again, this is totally up to your discretion.