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Need some tips on tipping, please!!  Trying to be fair!

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Need tips on tipping, please!  Trying to be fair!

Dear Diana,                                3/11/19

I am curious what your thoughts are regarding tipping waiters and waitresses.  We go out to eat at least two to three times a month and find that too often the service or the food is disappointing.  When we go out to eat, to us, it is a treat and a break from cooking and cleaning up the kitchen.  We expect good service and good food, but seem to receive either one or the other, and in some cases, neither. When the checks come, the restaurant expects payment in full, plus some level of gratuity.  We struggle with how to handle the gratuity piece, thinking that in many cases, especially when the service isn’t very good, that the tip should reflect that.  We have left sparse tips when the service has not merited it and bigger tips when it has.  Are we right or wrong?

Thank you, in advance!

Trying to be fair!

Are you a fair tipper to your waiter / waitress?
See Diana's Response Below

Dear Trying to be fair,

You raise a great question and some valid points!  I would bet many others reading this will agree.  Going out to eat is a treat, indeed, and a welcome break, as you so accurately stated, from cooking and cleaning up! Restaurants are businesses, so should understand that their customers need to feel satisfied if they expect repeat business from them.  Customer satisfaction should not be wildly difficult to achieve. It really comes down to the food and the service. If both of those rate high, in many cases, even a slightly higher bill of fare is easier to swallow!  No pun intended! It’s all about value.

Many restaurants pay their wait staff a smaller base and compensate them based on the tip income they receive.  In almost all cases, it takes the restaurant team to fulfill the total satisfaction piece for each of their customers, so not everything is controlled by your waiter or waitress.  The cook could be having an off day, the greeter may have taken too long to seat you, even other guests around you could be affecting your dining experience.

For me, when the waiter or waitress delivers my check, I try to reflect on the total experience of the meal. I actually use a mental formula when deciding how much tip I will leave. I definitely feel justified that some level of tip should be left because someone on the “team” is very likely doing their best to provide the right kind of experience.  On the other hand, I don’t feel that any restaurant is entitled to tips without trying to earn them.  Without knowledge of how my tip will actually be divided up by the team, I just tip as I see fit and let the restaurant pay their people the way they want.

I look at four things and how they measure up.  Food, service, speed, and would I go back to the restaurant? I use a 20% tip rate as my measurement stick.  I evaluate each according to these percentages of the 20% and pay accordingly.  I think it’s fair to look at a broader picture of the whole meal experience, versus leveling a waiter or waitress for one thing going bad.  I prefer to try and look at the experience with a glass half full.

Here is an example:

Food                        30% of tip comes to 6% of the 20%
Service                     30% of tip comes to 6% of the 20%
Speed                      20% of tip comes to 4% of the 20%
Would I come back    20% of tip comes to4% of the 20%

If your bill comes to $50.00 before sales tax, here’s how the calculations would go:

$50.00 x 20% = $10.00 – You can totally adjust higher or lower according to your experience.

Food                             $10.00 x 15% = $1.50 …. Maybe food wasn’t that good, only worth 15%
Service                          $10.00 x 30% = $3.00
Speed                           $10.00 x 20% = $2.00
Would I come back        $10.00 x 10% = $1.00 …Iffy, may or may not, only worth 10%

Happily, in some cases, there will be dining experiences that rate really high, and going above the 20% tip rate is perfectly okay, especially if the meal warrants it! A great tip will make the waiter or waitress’s day. Their jobs are not always easy, so if they really go above and beyond and deliver an extraordinary experience, being justly rewarded for it, feels great and is fair!

My final word on tipping is that whenever you are able, I always think it’s helpful to let the manager know of any areas of improvement you have identified, as well as any areas that really stood out for you.  A good manager wants to know this information.  A simple, “just thought I’d let you know….,” is usually well received.  It’s fair enough to say that a restaurant can only respond to issues they are aware of, right?

I hope this helps you.

Thanks for writing,


4 things help me decide the tip I leave!