How Much Should You Tip At Sit Down Restaurants?

Want to know how much to tip people at restaurants? Do you always have to follow general tipping etiquette? This is post gives you ideas of how much to tip based on circumstances and how I personally tip. I'd love to hear your thoughts in a comment on this pin or on the post itself.Everyone has their own opinion about how much you should tip at sit down restaurants, including me.

There is a set standard for tipping, but there are a ton of variables that can make tipping very tricky.

The Base Rule For Tipping

The base rule for tipping in my book is to tip 15-20% of the amount of the bill based on the level of service I received.

If my meal was pleasant and I wasn’t disappointed by anything I’ll always tip in this range.

I’ll normally tip toward the higher end if I never had to wait for a drink and our server was attentive.

Service That Goes Above And Beyond

If service is absolutely amazing and the server goes above and beyond I’ll tip above my standard range. The server must do something outstanding, but if it happened I bet I’d be willing to go above my standard 15-20% range.

Unfortunately, this very rarely happens to me. I don’t know if my standards are too high or I just don’t go to the restaurants with great servers. Either way, I feel this very rarely happens at the standard chain sit down restaurants.

How To Tip If You Use A Coupon

If I use a coupon, I realize that the server still has to do the same amount of work. When I do use coupons I will tip based on what the bill would have been before the coupon reduces the amount of the bill. I still tip 15-20%, but this way the server gets what I feel they deserve.

What If The Service Isn’t Very Good?

If the service isn’t very good, but I got my food in a reasonable amount of time and I didn’t have to ask for something more than once or twice I’ll normally tip at the bottom of my standard range at 15%. Keep in mind, this isn’t how much I tip for flat out bad service.

Horrible Service Deserves A Horrible Tip

Now if the service is down right horrible I’ve been known to not leave a tip at all.

If you come to serve me with a I hate the world attitude, mess up my order (or don’t check to make sure it is right before you bring it out), never check on my table and just try to do the minimum you have to do, you probably won’t be getting a normal tip from me.

It takes a lot for me to not leave a tip, but once you get below my 15% level of tipping, you probably won’t be getting a tip at all.

Servers are not entitled to a tip and if they don’t do their job they don’t deserve to get paid, just like everyone else. If I could fire my server there are only a small number of times I would have definitely done it.

Yes, I’ve Worked In Restaurants Before

Before you get defensive and say that servers work hard and deserve tips no matter what because they depend on tips to earn a living wage, I want you to know I’ve been a server before and I don’t agree.

In my crazy first job I worked in many positions, including serving, at a pizza restaurant. However, if I didn’t do my job, I wouldn’t expect people to tip me just because I felt entitled to get paid no matter what level of service I did or didn’t provide.

I always feel like I gave great service but there are multiple times my tables didn’t leave tips and there were rare occasions where I received awesome tips.

The thing I learned is that most people don’t tip based on service. Instead they tip based on how much money they have at the time or they tip the same no matter where they go. I don’t subscribe to that theory, but there are many out there that do this. At least that’s what their actions show!

How Much Do You Tip?

I want to know what you’re thoughts are on tipping. How much do you tip for good service? What about service that doesn’t hit the mark but isn’t terrible? What about flat out bad service? How much do you tip when you use a coupon?

P.S. Here is another tipping article if you want to read about my views on tipping for takeout.

Photo by: Dave Dugdale Text added by: Lance Cothern

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally not left a tip. If I did that, I would feel like I could never ever return to that restaurant and I would be worried about doing so if I paid with a credit card since the receipt has your name and signature on it at the very least.

    For coupons, I try and use the benchmark that the tip should be at least the value of the coupon. It helps that most of the coupons around here are 25-30% off your meal, so it’s a generous tip, but still feels like we didn’t break the bank.

    • The service was so bad that I don’t think we’ve ever been back to that store. It was flat out awful. It was so bad we wrote a letter to corporate about it to warn them that the server was ruining their entire chain’s reputation. It was one of maybe two times we’ve not left a tip.

  2. Ya know, I generally tip 20% of the total bill unless something went awry. My husband, however, REFUSES to tip based on tax, so he tips 15-20% based on the subtotal. I guess it makes sense, but I’ve never heard of it. Have you seen this before?

  3. We usually tip around 10% in my country. Just as you said, if the service is bad, I might not leave a tip anyway. I don’t worry about anyone spitting in my soup, since it’s clear I’ll never set foot there again in the future anyway 😀

  4. I always tip 20% if the waiter is halfway nice to us. My kids always make a mess and rearrange the sugar packets so I feel like I should compensate for that.

  5. I almost always tip around 20%. I generally get good service. Nothing extraordinary, but attentive and good. Plus with what I order, 20% typically comes out to $2/3

  6. I always leave at least 20%. I am a high tipper though, and usually only eat at the same restaurants, so leaving a bad tip wouldn’t be good for me because they would remember me next time! 🙂

  7. Average is 15% for me, but if service is really bad, I don’t mind giving 10%. And if it’s really good, I’ll add a few extra dollars.

    And I always round up, if your bill comes out to $42.33, don’t add $7.67 to the bill, If you do, the server may get their tip in cash, which results in an annoying amount of coins to carry around. Sure, it won’t look as pretty on your credit card statement, but it saves the waiter you just tipped some hassle.

  8. I like to tip well, especially for great service. Even for bad service, though, I tip about 15%. As a Christian guy, some morons out there give us a bad rap with their terrible tipping, so I like to make up the difference in generosity, and show grace to even places with bad service.

    That being said, I don’t go back to places with bad food/service. Period.

    • Thanks for making some of the morons look good. I will leave a 0 tip but it is very very rare. Hopefully that doesn’t put me in your moron group!

      • Nope, you’re definitely not a moron if the service was outright terrible. Christians have a bad history of being cheapskates, leaving little or no tip with service being just fine. Not sure why, as the entire premise of our faith is based on the generosity of God….Not sure how that didn’t sink in for some people. 🙂

  9. I usually tip 20%. If the service is sub-par, I tip closer to 10%. I’ve never had a situation where the service was so bad it warranted not leaving a tip. I’m not opposed to the idea, I just never have experienced super bad service.

  10. Debt and the Girl says:

    I tend to tip more because I used to be a server in college and I know how much crap they go through. It makes me mad when people stiff good servers out of a tip. If you are broke, then stay home and eat!

  11. I tip 20% standard unless the service was way sub par and only if it’s the waitperson’s fault, not the kitchen or the fact that the restaurant maybe didn’t hire enough people or the food wasn’t great. I almost never not tip though.

    • There definitely is a difference between the server’s fault and the kitchen’s fault. However, check my order before you bring it to me to make sure it is right please!

  12. I usually tip about 17=18 percent as an average. I will go to 20% when the service is extraordinary.

  13. Bryce @ Save and Conquer says:

    We generally tip 20%. The math is easier. 🙂 And yes, you should always base the tip amount on the total cost of the meal before applying any discounts or coupons.

  14. Honestly, I think it depends where you live too. I’m in Canada where at the very least these waiter/waitresses are making minimum wage. It’s not like other parts of the world where they make a base salary of something crazy like $3.00/hr in anticipation of being compensated with tips. Here in NS min wage is $10.30/hour. So yes, I tip, but not necessarily 20%. I usually tip tax (15%) and if it’s terrible service I wouldn’t think twice about not tipping.

  15. I worked in the service industry throughout high school and college. If you’re my server and you do a terrible job I’ll leave a quarter tip (literally one quarter) just enough to let the server know I didn’t “forgot to tip”. I can honestly say this has only happened a couple of times. I understand waiters are people too, so as long as you attempt to give a crap I’ll still tip at least 15%.

  16. It seems like from your post, as well as the comments, that people generally start at 15 – 20% and then work their way down if the service is bad. I actually work the other direction. My starting point is 10%. If they do nothing special, it stays at 10%. If service is bad, it goes down. But I have to see something from the server for them to EARN a tip over 10%. Regardless of what the service industry has tried to pound into our heads, a tip is something earned, not something that the server is entitled to. That being said, if the service is outstanding, I don’t mind leaving a tip of 15 – 20%, but they have to EARN it.

  17. Lance – that’s about how I tip as well. 15 to 20% as the range, with mediocre service getting toward the low end and 20% for excellent service. I’ll rarely go higher or below, unless extraordinarily good or bad.

    If amazing, I’ll go to 25% or even more if the bill is small but the server’s effort was high. For the maybe 1 out of 100 restaurant visits that has horrific service , I’ll go below 15% all the way down to a few pennies to make the point. But generally, 15% to 20% for almost all visits.

  18. As long as the service is reasonable, I usually calculate 20% and round up to the nearest dollar. The thing I always struggle with is when you order out and there’s that “tip” line on the receipt you have to sign. I don’t really feel like a tip is necessary there, but you’re also right across from the person about to hand them your receipt. That’s always an awkward feeling for me.

  19. I’m usually a pretty good tipper (20 to 25 percent) except when the service is truly horrible. Only once in my life did I not leave a tip. That was at a diner we went to for breakfast and it was blatantly obvious the waiter had no interest in serving us. I actually had to go to the hostess to ask for our check because the waited was nowhere to be found.

  20. Always 18-20%. If I know the person serving me, or if I happen to be a frequent patron at a certain restaurant, most likely 40-50%. I tend to be very generous since I’ve spent lots of time bartending/serving (and still do), I almost consider it as “paying it forward” when I can.

  21. I usually tipped between 15-20%, even for service that wasn’t great. It wasn’t really because I wanted to tip that much, but because I felt obligated to. My friend who I go out with all the time never tips that much (maybe 10%) and I think that is more in line with what the service deserves (usually).

  22. Spencer S. says:

    No one ever takes into account what servers have to do before and after you dine at a restaurant. They have to:
    ♦ pay out other members of the staff.
    ♦ clean up your dishes/glasses (and often are part of the washing process)
    ♦ clean up your mess – including table, floor, chairs etc.
    ♦ often go through training and research to know and understand the menu
    ♦ clean/prep the machines that make your soda, coffee, tea etc.
    ♦ continually monitor health concerns and cleanliness throughout the restaurant (example: ice buckets/machines)
    ♦ they often do the lionshare of the cleaning – window sills, banquet backs, dusting, sweeping etc.
    ♦ they polish your silverware and glasses before and after you use them
    ♦ roll/fold your napkins

    This list could keep going, but I think you get the point. The idea that you’d leave NOTHING is quite actually offensive. Yes, servers should have a responsibility to take care of their guests and be attentive, but even if they do a bad job, they still have to do work caused by your sitting and eating at that table. Your lack of tipping will, in fact, increase their tax burden – meaning, I have to pay taxes as if I was getting paid minimum wage (or more), but the restaurant only pays me $2.13 per hour, which will never cover what is owed to state/local/federal government. I’m counting on your tip to cover that tax burden.

    20% should be your standard. Not 19%, not 18% – 20%. That covers basic service: I take your order, I get your food, your drinks are delivered, I treat you with as much respect as you show me. Food is wrong (and it’s really the server’s fault)? Take off a percentage point. You never get a water refill? Take off another. 15% should be your minimum. The server makes the “experience” one to remember? 30-100%. Are you high maintenance (you probably are)? Add 5%.

    Serving is an extremely taxing job. You might assume bringing food to someone is “easy,” but being on your feet, multitasking constantly, and being the punching bag for your customers is not only physically exhausting, but also mentally and very often an emotionally abusive experience. You will never receive perfect service. Ever. Never, ever, ever. These people often do not have health insurance. They don’t have 401ks. They’re trying to juggle all the things in life, just like you, while also trying to maintain a smile so you can feel like your money is worth giving them. If you can’t afford to tip properly, go to a cheaper place, or don’t go at all!

    Its not my job to brighten your day or make you feel like royalty, it’s my job to bring you your food. The more expensive the food, the harder the job is to get, the better you’ve got to be, the better trained you are, the more the service is worth. Know what you want to spend and add 20% to the prices you see.

    20% folks. 20%.

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