A huge part of a restaurant’s success is the ability to maintain great wait staff.  This becomes a major challenge when customers do not adequately compensate the waiters.

In some states, waiters are paid a base salary that is a fraction of minimum wage, with the expectation that tips or gratuity will make up the difference. The lack of appropriate tipping is the primary reason excellent waiters move on to better-paying gigs. Soon after great staff leaves, the service begins to suffer and customers wonder why.

So many situations call for tipping that it is easy to become confused.  Sit-down restaurants, buffets, bars and hair salons are only a few of the locations where tipping is not only desired but expected. Tipping is considered a part of etiquette, according to the experts at the Emily Post Institute. How much to tip and how often are the questions that perplex many.


The foundation of tipping in restaurants begins on the total of the bill, excluding sales tax. There are various types of dining: table service, buffet and fast food. Each type has a different expectation of tipping.

Table service comes into play at establishments where the customers sit down and the wait staff comes to the table to provide full service. Based on the level of service received, the tip should a minimum of 10 percent, which reflects poor service. A tip of 15 percent communicates satisfaction, 20 percent stands for excellent service, and greater than 20 percent represents outstanding service. The standard tip for table service is 15-20 percent.

The impact of a zero tip says more about the tipper than the waiter. It also impacts the restaurant and potentially the next customer. If you receive poor service, speak to the manager so that the problem can be corrected.

Gratuities, service charges or tips are usually not automatically added to bills unless there is a large party, usually six or more people. Check the bill prior to adding an additional gratuity.


Buffets tend to be a combination of self-service and table service. The waiter may take the order and fill drink orders. However, the customers serve themselves by preparing their own plates. As a result the tip can vary from $1 per diner to five percent of the bill depending upon the service level received.

The tip is earned because they keep the table clean by clearing plates through multiple trips to the buffet line and maintaining drink levels. If the waiter brings food to the table in a buffet restaurant, the tip may be increased to 10 percent.

Fast food

Tips are typically not given in fast food restaurants.

Coffee shops/bakeries

A growing trend amongst coffee shops and bakeries is a tip jar strategically placed at the checkout counters. Tipping in this environment is purely optional and at the customers discretion.


Bartenders primarily make their money on tips as well.  The standard tip is a minimum of $1 per drink or 15-20 percent of the total bill.


In a hotel, there are multiple expectations of tipping. Housekeeping, concierge, skycaps, bellhops, parking valets and doormen all have an expectation of tips.

Upon check in, a client may require the services of either the skycap or bellman to assist with bags. The tip is typically $1-$2 per bag.

The valet or parking attendant tip is $2-$5 to retrieve the vehicle, not typically to park.

The doorman does not expect a tip simply for opening the door. However, if a cab is hailed, expect to pay $1-$2 per bag. Remember, if the bags are also carried to the room, the tip is typically $1-$2 per bag. Also remember to tip for directions and/or restaurant recommendations; $3-%5 is an appropriate tip.

It is easy to overlook housekeeping because the contact may not be direct.  However, they are working extremely hard for the guests’ comfort.  From providing clean bedding and towels daily to maintaining a spotless room overall, housekeeping is hard at work.

The typical housekeeping tip is between $3-$10 per day. The tip is left daily because housekeeping may change daily. Leave the tip on the pillow so that it is easily found. If additional items are requested during the stay, such as pillows or blankets, the tip is $1 per item at a minimum of $2.

Help businesses maintain great staff. Tip appropriately.

(Contact Carlee McCullough, Esq., at 5308 Cottonwood Road, Suite 1A, Memphis, TN 38118, or email her at jstce4all@aol.com.)

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