Tipping: Because otherwise your server would make $2 an hour. While other countries pay their service employees enough to live on without tips, in this country, if you're a server, a bartender, a delivery person, or a barista, they're your lifeblood. But often we're put into situations where it's not clear how much to tip.
To remedy this, we've rounded up a number of experienced service industry workers and asked them to anonymously tell us what they expect to be tipped in a number of different situations. The answers may surprise you. If you want to be educated, read way more than 20% of this.
How much to tip... bartenders
Bartenders put up with people who maybe should've stopped at two buttery nipples, frustrated dudes who have struck out with 95% of the girls at the bar, and impatient people who don't understand it takes a few minutes to make a craft cocktail. Here's what to tip your saintly bartender, along with commentary from a bartender who's young, but already grizzled.
Average Service: $1 p/drink (at a volume bar) or 20% of the total (at a craft cocktail bar)
"When I worked at a nightclub, it was $1 a drink, though if you get a Coke and a draft beer, the tip can still be $1. At a craft bar, we're all about the total."
If you order a water/soda: Anything other than change is appreciated
"We hate when people give us quarters. If someone's gonna put 50 cents at the bar, I smirk and won't even take it. Don't waste my time with change. if you're gonna make an effort, give me a dollar."
If you order a draft beer/bottle/bomber: $1
"Think about the effort the bartender has to make. To open a bottle of beer or opening a bomber is the same amount of effort."
"If I did all this legwork and had to deal with stupid people for an hour or two and you tip me 10%, I'm gonna stab somebody."
If you order a craft cocktail: 20%
"If I'm making someone a Ramos Gin Fizz -- a drink that's gonna take me two to three minutes to make, I expect at least 20% on that. These drinks take so long to make, some customers get mad they'd take long, and then they'd give less than 20% because they think we're giving bad service. Chipping an ice ball with your bare hands takes time."
If you order multiple drinks at happy hour: 20% on the drink's original price
"You're supposed to tip on the drink's normal price. Say a drink is normally $10 and you get it for $5, you still tip $2 for 20% even though it's discounted. It's cheaper for you, but the bartender isn't getting paid more hourly. They're still working for the same, right? People should still tip like it's the normal price. No one says, 'Can I have the menu with the real prices? I need to make sure I need to tip right.' No one even thinks about it. I just tip really well on happy hour, usually around 50%."
If you order multiple drinks and the bar's packed: 20%+
"Depends on how much they order throughout the night. If it's four people deep at the bar and they come up and order three to five drinks for their friends every so often, then that's time I could be serving other people. And by that time, they ask me my name and shout my name across the bar and expect special treatment. If I'm holding a tab for them and keeping track of all that, then a bigger tip helps. At a busy nightclub, even if it's super busy, $1 a drink. At the craft cocktail bar where I used to work, we'd get super busy and I'd have two six-tops to myself and a whole bunch of people at the bar, and sometimes I'd get swamped, and 20% would be great."
If you're with a huge group: Auto-gratuity and another 10% on top
"The place I used to bartend, we'd take six to eight tops on our own. I'd have to make eight drinks that took me two to three minutes each, and take care of people at the bar. After a while, some people drink faster, so you get stuck with a single drink order. I'll ask 'Does anyone want anything?' Everyone stares at you. When you go back to the one person who ordered and drop the drink off, then everyone asks. Every time you go back to the table, people order another drink. If I do all this legwork and have to deal with stupid people for an hour or two and you tip me 10%, I'm gonna stab somebody. Some auto-gratuities are 18%, so even with that, it's not up to standard. Some people see auto-gratuity on their bill and say, 'They didn't ask me.' A lot of times you gauge out a table. If people are cool and appreciative, then there's no point. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it backfires."
If you want to be a regular the staff likes: 50% on the total
"I think most regulars, most people who are liked at a bar have established themselves as being good tippers. A lot of bars have regulars that take up a barstool all goddamn day and barely tip. The ones you like are conscious of that. Instead of them sitting there for four hours, we could've had six to eight people sit at that barstool and make money on the collective checks. A lot of times people become regulars because they're nice to talk to, and they also establish themselves from tipping well. We had a regular [at the craft cocktail bar] who'd be there for three to four hours, and he'd read in the corner or he'd want to have an existential conversation. No matter what he had, he'd tip a $100. We'd usually hook him up with a drink or two, or buy him and his date a drink. No matter what, he'd tip well."
How much to tip... servers
They remember to put your dressing on the side, get you an iced tea with lemon, and bring more napkins to the table because you're a slob. And because of that, they deserve to be compensated. Here's what to tip your kindly waiter or waitress, along with commentary from a veteran server.
Average Service: 20%
"When I've refilled your Diet Coke 10 times and have run my ass off for a table for an hour, I deserve 20%. I have to deal with people being idiots, and answer their stupid questions. There's also a ton of physical labor. On the plus side, I'm also getting my workout when I'm working."
Horrible Service: 5-10%
"If someone doesn't deserve it, they don't deserve it. It shouldn't automatically be assumed that you get 20%. For people who work in the service industry, when we go out, we'll tip more than 20% if the service is awesome."
Exceptional Service: 30-50%
"If someone goes out of their way to give you a great experience, then they deserve to be compensated. I don't experience it that often."
If you're drinking at a table, but not ordering food: $1 per drink
"You don't need to leave 20% for just drinking. If we're really busy and there's a wait at the bar, and people are just drinking at a table, it sucks, but it's inevitable. I wouldn't be a dick to someone just because they're drinking and not ordering food."
"It doesn't matter whether you got a friend discount or if the kitchen screwed up, you should still tip on the original amount."
If you just get takeout: A few bucks
"I never expect 20% because I'm not giving them full-on service. I used to work in a place that had curbside pickup, so I had to make sure the order was together (along with napkins, utensils), and I'd run out to the car. Yeah, it was easy, but it's nice when people throw you a few extra bucks."
If it's BYOB: 20%
"I've never worked at a restaurant that did this, but the servers there are doing the same things as they are anywhere else: They're hospitable, they bring out food, clear plates, etc. When I've visited places like that, the bill comes out to a lower amount, but I still tip 20%."
If you're eating with eight or more people: Another 10% on top of the auto-gratuity (even if it's 20%)
"A lot of times when you go out with that many people, there are people at your table you can't control. Your co-worker's husband joins you or something. If I go out with a big group and someone is being difficult, then I'll always leave extra. Definitely more than 20%."
If you get food/drink comped: 20% of the entire bill, including the free stuff
"You should tip on the full amount because you still received the full service. It doesn't matter whether you got a friend discount or if the kitchen screwed up, you should still tip on the original amount. I get screwed over when that doesn't happen. It makes me regret doing them a favor if I took stuff off the bill in the first place. Sometimes the table assumes a screw-up is my fault, so I get punished when the bartender took too long or the kitchen f**ked up. It all reflects on me."
How much to tip... a delivery guy/girl
Like The Postal Service, deliverymen will see you waving from such great heights. Wait, that's not right. Like the Postal Service, deliverymen will not be stopped by snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night. By golly, they will bring you that Chinese food or pizza. Here's what a delivery guy we talked to said about tipping.
Average Service: $4 or 15-20%, whichever is higher
"Every restaurant has a different delivery time. Usually they say it'll be 45 minutes, when under ideal conditions it's more like 25. By ideal conditions, I mean the cooks aren't busy and all the delivery drivers are immediately available. I have a recurring customer who regularly tips $2 (5% of his usual order), and if there are other deliveries to do, he gets his food last. You get what you pay for, really. I expect the standard, ideal deliveries' tips to make up for the inevitable stiffs that come along when the restaurant gets busy."
If it's raining: Same as Average Service
"I really don't expect a higher tip unless it's really dangerous rain. What I do expect is more people to order, since the kind of people that order delivery frequently are probably afraid of any weather, and apparently there are a lot of these kinds of people."
"We tend to get a bunch of new customers when the weather is terrible, and the general rationale seems to be, 'We won't order from them for a while so it's okay if we tip below average'."
If it's snowing: 20%
"There are a lot more obstacles on the road when it's snowing. Gas mileage is also a lot worse when you have to cruise around in second gear. Snow and icy roads can be pretty dangerous, which is why when it's snowing, I'll have a really busy day. Some people tip really well in the snow, especially regular customers. However, we tend to get a bunch of new customers when the weather is terrible, and the general rationale seems to be, 'We won't order from them for a while so it's okay if we tip below average'."
If the delivery comes an hour after the food is ordered: Same as Average Service
"Usually it's not the driver's fault if the food is late. There are many other factors, especially when you order from a place with a small kitchen. If you order in the middle of the lunch rush, your order may not even be noticed until someone has time to check. Don't take it out on the driver. If they are really late, whoever took the order should have given a more accurate estimated delivery time. This is why when you order on the phone, they tell you the estimated delivery time last: They want to bring in business and hopefully exceed your expectations. No matter how late the food is, the driver still needs to cover gas, insurance, maintenance, meter parking, etc. I've even gotten towed once and had to give the guy $60 on the spot to get my truck unhooked. (The person I was delivering to didn't tip)."
If the food arrives in 10 minutes: Same as Average Service
"I think that would be more of an inconvenience for the customer. Some people take a quick shower or whatever while they wait for their food. It's definitely happened before, and I don't really expect to get more out of it."
If a hot meal arrives cold: 15%
"Some places reheat the food if it has been sitting for a while, but honestly I do my best to keep my car heat on full blast during cold days in order to ensure that the food stays warm. If it arrives cold, it seems unlikely that it was the driver's fault."
If the food was wrong the first time, and they're delivering replacement food: Anything is appreciated
"I've had people tip me for that, and that's really nice. We don't get paid usually to do a second run to the same place. Most places will have the drivers check the food to make sure it's all correct, but mistakes happen. In my case, I rely on the cooks to make sure the order is accurate."
How much to tip... a barista
Whether it's first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon, baristas work hard to give you that caffeine fix you require to be a functional human being. Here's what to tip a barista, according to a guy with 15 years experience in pulling shots.
Average Service: $1 p/drink (for a latte/cappuccino)
"I think $1 is generous. You have to take that job [a barista] with humility. I think it's fair. It's also important for the barista to try and acknowledge the tip and thank them [the customer]. It's important to acknowledge, even if they give you change."
If you order a cup of tea: Anything is appreciated
"It's less work, especially if you're in a nice coffee shop. There's so much work in an espresso program. I feel like a cup of tea is certainly less work. A lot of places where I've worked will actually prepare a whole pot, but a lot of people still tip $1. I think $1 is great for anything."
If you order a drip coffee: Anything is appreciated
"A lot of people still tip $1. Some people will give us whatever change is leftover, and that's pretty fair too. If you tip as much as $1, you're being generous."
If you want to become a regular: $5 straight into the tip jar
"$1 a drink, or if someone put $5 in the tip jar, you'd certainly try to be a lot friendlier to them – it's weird the way that works. You'll learn those people's drinks pretty quickly, and that'll turn into a situation where if they're standing in line, and you have a free moment, you make their cappuccino and you'll bump them ahead of other people. [Five dollars] is a really gracious tip for a barista. I've been a barista for 15 years. Tips are 35-50% of a barista's salary. It's a lot. If you're making $8 an hour, it's not unheard of to still pull $12-14 an hour in tips. It's a huge percent of your income. You have to be friendlier to people who are friendly to you.
I feel like just being a down to earth and friendly person and engaging them in conversation is important. Asking their name is a big deal. 'What's your name? I think I've seen you a couple times.' Generally people who want to be remembered and be a regular, they tip well. And they always are the people who're going above and beyond. Tip $1 every day you come in, or $1 a drink, or even more sometimes."
[Five dollars] is a really gracious tip for a barista. I've been a barista for 15 years. Tips are 35-50% of a barista's salary. It's a lot.
If you want to make up for a jerk who was in front of you in line: Anything is appreciated
"No one's expected something like that. My girlfriend is a barista, and she told me yesterday she had a real old cantankerous guy who was throwing a fit, and nothing would appease him. Everyone in line behind him said, "I'm so sorry you had to deal with it," and the next half-dozen people did tip. She didn't tell me what they ended up tipping, but it was probably more than $1 a drink."
If you order three or more drinks for you and others: $1 p/drink or a few bucks
"There are weird instances where people order three lattes – and they'll tip you 25 cents. Why actually bother? It doesn't matter. I split the quarter with three other people.
Those orders are good for the shop, but [if people order coffee for the office], companies have policies where their employees can't tip. Excessive gratuity is weird [for them to expense], so they won't do it at all. 'My company card won't let me tip.' They don't realize they can tip with $2 of their own."
If you get a drip coffee and something from the baked goods case: Anything is appreciated
"If someone got a coffee and a muffin and didn't tip, it wouldn't bother me. If you want to be remembered, however, you probably already want to know the barista's name and be casual and friendly, and you know tipping doesn't hurt."
If you get food the coffee shop makes in-house: 20%
"If the shop prepares sandwiches and salads and stuff like that, and they tip pool with the kitchen kids – a lot of people think, 'It's a grey area. It's counter service, so I don't have to tip'. There's kids back there, and they make the food. If you order coffee and food, I'd definitely tip. I'd never walk away without tipping."