Do You Tip at Denny’s (USA) - and How Much?

Written by Jim Belt in How Much To Tip

Denny’s is regarded as an American staple of casual dining for family dinners, road trip stops, and late-night munchies. While it is not a fine dining establishment, most customers will experience a hot meal and attentive service during their visit. In addition, Denny’s is an attractive take-out option for people who want something hot and fast but also a notch above fast food. So it begs the question of whether the service and food are worth tipping and, if so, how much.

It is good practice to tip at Denny’s. If a patron is dining in, a tip comparable to what servers at any reputable restaurant would receive is expected, 15-20% of the total bill. Tips can be adjusted up or down for the quality of the service.

So, what is the right amount to tip? It all depends on the quality of service but also understanding what a tip is and how its importance to the server may differ depending on where the Denny’s is located.

Tipping Customs

Tippping is customary

Should You Tip at Denny’s?

Anyone who dines in at Denny’s should offer a tip when possible. Additionally, while tips are less common for Denny’s to-go meals, these tips often are split between the servers and kitchen staff and, as such, are still appreciated.

For many restaurant servers, tips are an essential portion of their income. The majority of states provide an exemption to the federal minimum wage laws for restaurant servers because it is expected that tips will supplement their income. In these states, not tipping a server may actually be depriving them of their regular wage.

While Denny’s does not make its salary scales public, most Denny’s servers in these minimum wage-exempt states would likely make a salary as low as $2.13/hour. According to, Denny’s servers (along with Waffle House and other comparable food chains) make over $10/hour. BUT this does not factor in location, and some of this reporting includes tips.

How Much Do You Tip at Denny’s?

It is recommended that a 20% tip is a suitable standard for showing your Denny’s server both appreciation and acknowledgment that your tip is important to them.

An old axiom is that the baseline tipping rate is 20% of the final bill, adjusted up or down based on the quality of service. Some people do not believe that this rule applies to “lower-end” establishments like Denny’s. You can find arguments, particularly on chat boards, that you only need to give a couple of bucks to your server. For one diner who eats a less expensive meal, this may work out to 20% or more.

But these threads also reveal a fairly widespread belief that the food and service at Denny’s are not worth the few extra bucks of gratuity. If you are eating at an economical restaurant, so the line of thinking goes, you only tip if your server went above and beyond in helping you. This usually translates to a server who seemingly is standing over you the entire time filling your drink the moment it is half-full and taking your plate away immediately after the last bite.

This mindset is not only foolish but mean-spirited toward the servers who are often covering multiple tables while mindful that they have to keep their customers completely satisfied to receive a tip that will provide them a living wage.

How Do You Adjust Your Tip for Quality of Service at Denny’s?

Offering the standard tip is essential for rewarding good service—or criticizing bad service. Unless a server is purposefully ignoring, rude, or abusive to a customer, a tip should always be included in any order—even if it is a coffee to go.

There are often days where the server is slow bringing refills, seems flustered when they are at the table, or seemingly forgets about you. Keep in mind that these are people trying to make a living. They are doing the best they can, and everyone has bad days. Tipping is not an act of power by which you need to withhold something essential but rather is the best way you can critique the service. In those cases, you can reduce the tip to 15% or even 10%. It will certainly get their attention if you do that.

On the other end of the spectrum, your server at Denny’s could be highly attentive to you, friendly, and a great contribution to the experience of eating at the restaurant. You should absolutely increase their tip to 25% or even 30%. Think about the fact that all of us like to express appreciation for the good effort and good work that comes from it. Your server will not only be grateful for the extra money, but it will give them a boost of morale to know that they are actually helping people have a good experience at Denny’s.

How Much Do You Tip at Denny’s for Take-Out?

Offering a 10-15% tip for to-go orders from Denny’s is very much an acceptable practice. However, there is no standard for an amount to tip for take-out. As take-out food has increased dramatically over the last year due to COVID, some of the emerging standards are based on tips that were the ONLY tips many servers were getting.

Since tipping is more common if you plan to dine-in at any restaurant, some may be hesitant to leave a tip if they are only picking up food. However, there are two primary reasons you should still tip for take-out:

  1. Servers are Still Working – A server is likely the one who is bagging your food, putting utensils and napkins in, and ensuring that the order was prepared accurately. While there is less time involved in this than if you were dining in, this still takes time away from tables that the server would have.

  2. Tips Can Be Split Between Servers and Kitchen Staff – A recent law change in 2018 allows for sharing of tips between tip and non-tip earning employees. This is important because an (erroneous) argument against tipping for to-go orders is that the kitchen staff do all the work. Now, the law is structured to where management cannot withhold tips from certain staff members. As such, your to-go tips become especially important for rewarding good service across the board at Denny’s and other restaurants.

Final Thoughts

Like any restaurant, Denny’s consists of hard-working people who strive to provide you good food and good service. They may not have the training of servers at a Michelin-starred restaurant, but their hard work and determination to earn a living like everyone else should be considered.

Published: 04-09-2021