Best Practices for Leaving Tips at Restaurants

Written by Jim Belt in Restaurant

When you're dining out, figuring out where to leave your tip at a restaurant is an important part of the meal experience. This guide explains where to leave gratuity at eateries. It covers the proper location to put cash tips and other tipping etiquette.

At a restaurant, a cash tip can be left on the table within the bill folder provided by the server. If paying by card, you can add the tip on the receipt in the designated area before signing it.

Tipping Customs

Tipping not customary


  • The appropriate place to leave a tip varies with the type of service received at a restaurant.
  • Proper tipping etiquette is part of the dining experience and reflects on your appreciation for the service.
  • Gratuities are a crucial part of a restaurant service staff's income, manifesting your support for their service.

Where To Leave Tips at Restaurants

When you're dining out, knowing where to place your tip ensures that your server or bartender receives your expression of gratitude properly.

Tip Placement Description
At the Table Leave cash under an item or add tip on the receipt for card payments
With the Bill Write tip amount on the space provided when paying by card
At the Bar Hand tip to bartender or leave on the bar; add to card slip for tabs
Tip Jar Drop tip into the jar at counter-service or casual restaurants

At the Table

After enjoying your meal, leaving a tip directly at the table is customary. You might place cash under a saltshaker or a plate to make sure it doesn’t blow away or get overlooked. If you’re paying by card, you’ll usually add your tip on the receipt where there are designated lines before you sign your name.

With the Bill

When your bill arrives, it’s a clear invitation to complete your payment. If you're adding a tip to your credit card charge, make sure to write the amount in the space provided on the bill and then total up the final amount, so your server knows how much you're tipping.

At the Bar

If you're ordering drinks at the bar, you can leave a tip directly with the bartender after you pay for your drink, either by handing it to them or leaving it on the bar. It is also acceptable to add the tip to your card slip if you're running a tab.

Tip Jar

For casual or counter-service restaurants, a tip jar might be placed near the register. Dropping your tip into the jar after you receive your food is a good way to show appreciation, especially when full table service isn't provided.

In scenarios where you might encounter valet service, it's also important to gauge how much to tip when handed back your keys.

Understanding Tipping

When dining out, you may wonder about the protocol for leaving tips. This section sheds light on that tradition, the right way to tip, and how service charges fit into the mix.

Tipping Etiquette

When it comes to tipping etiquette, it is typical to tip 15-20% of your total bill pre-tax. For service that goes above and beyond, you might consider tipping more. While etiquette suggests these percentages, remember to tip within your means and consider the quality of service you received.

Service Quality Suggested Tipping Percentage
Good Service Close to 20%
Average Service 15%
Poor Service About 10%

Service Charges vs. Tips

A service charge is an amount added to your bill by the establishment and is not the same as a gratuity. This charge is usually mandatory, whereas a tip is at your discretion. Always check your bill for service charges to avoid accidentally tipping extra on top of an already included amount. Remember, service charges often go to the restaurant, not directly to your server, so an additional tip is typically appreciated by your server for especially commendable service.

Tipping for Different Services

When dining out or using hospitality services, the amount you tip should reflect the level of service and the nature of the job. Here’s a snapshot of how to handle tipping for a variety of services.

Service Type Suggested Tipping Amount
Takeout Orders $2 to $5, or up to 10% of the bill
Delivery Drivers 15-20% of the bill, more for special circumstances
Bartenders $1 to $2 per drink, or 15-20% of the tab
Baristas Spare change up to $1 per coffee
Hotel Bellhop $1 to $5 per bag
Hotel Housekeeping $2 to $5 per day
Hotel Room Service Around 15% of the service

Takeout Orders

For takeout orders, a small gesture of appreciation is always welcome even though full service isn't provided. A tip of about $2 to $5, or up to 10% of your bill, is typically appropriate, given the effort to prepare your order.

Delivery Drivers

Delivery drivers work hard to bring your meal right to your doorstep. It's common to tip these workers between 15-20% of your bill for their convenience and service, and possibly more for large orders or during bad weather.


A good rule of thumb when tipping bartenders is $1 to $2 per drink, or if you're running a tab, aim for tipping 15-20% of the total bill. This recognizes their effort in creating your beverages and managing a busy bar.


At your favorite coffee shop, consider tipping your barista some spare change or up to a dollar for your coffee. They often rely on tips, and your generosity shows appreciation for their craft in making that perfect cup.

Hotel Staff

In a hotel setting, tipping can vary. A recommended amount is $1 to $5 for the bellhop per bag they handle, $2 to $5 per day for housekeeping, and around 15% for room service delivery, depending on the level of service you receive.

How Much To Tip

When dining out, it's customary to leave a tip as a way to thank your server for their service. The amount can vary, but here are some guidelines to help you calculate the right tip at a restaurant.

Dining Experience Suggested Tipping Amount
General Restaurant 15-20% of the pre-tax bill
Quick Sit-Down Meal Fixed amount of $1-$2 per person
High-End Restaurant At least 20% or more for exceptional service
Casual Dining 15-20% of the total bill before tax

Percentage of the Bill

Typically, you should aim to leave a 15-20% tip of the pre-tax bill amount. For example, Bankrate suggests that a fair tip for standard service hovers around this range. If the service was exceptional, you might consider tipping on the higher end of this spectrum. To calculate, simply multiply the total food and drink cost by the percentage you wish to tip.

Fixed Amounts

In some instances, such as a quick sit-down meal where you order at the counter, a fixed tip amount, like $1-$2 per person, may be appropriate. Remember, this is not usually the norm for full-service dining, but rather for more casual, counter-service type establishments.

High-End Restaurants

At a luxury restaurant, it's standard to tip at the higher end of the 15-20% range, if not more, due to the elevated level of service and dining experience. There's an expectation of meticulous attention to detail and a personalized touch, which warrants a more generous tip.

Casual Dining

For your typical casual dining experience, sticking between 15% and 20% is a safe bet. It perfectly balances acknowledgement of the service quality with the informality of the setting.

Always remember to tip based on the total bill before tax, and adjust your tip amount based on the level of service you received and the type of restaurant you're visiting.

Tipping During Special Circumstances

When dining out, certain scenarios call for a bit more consideration on your end, especially when it comes to tipping. These are moments where the usual tipping rules may not fully apply, and understanding them ensures that your generosity matches the effort put in by the service staff.

Large Groups

For large groups, restaurants often add a gratuity to the bill automatically, usually around 18% to 20%. It's your responsibility to check the bill for this charge and decide if you'd like to add anything extra for exceptional service.

Events and Parties

When you're celebrating events and parties at a restaurant, tipping may go beyond just the meal. If the staff has arranged decorations, cakes, or special menus, consider tipping above the standard 20% to acknowledge their additional effort.

Holiday Tipping

Holiday tipping is a chance to be extra generous, recognizing the hard work restaurant servers put in during the busiest times. They might be working for minimum wage, and a larger tip can be a meaningful token of appreciation for their service during the festive season.

Factors Influencing Tip Amounts

When dining out, the tip you leave reflects various elements beyond just the bill's total. Let's explore the key factors that play a role.

Quality of Service

When you receive excellent service from your server, you're likely to tip more. This includes timely table visits, accurate order handling, and a pleasant demeanor. Conversely, if the service is slow or inattentive, you might tip less. It's important to consider how servers interact with you during your meal as this directly affects your dining experience.

Type of Meal

The type of meal you're enjoying can also influence your tip. A more expensive dinner service usually warrants a higher tip compared to a casual lunch at a café, reflecting the level of service and sophistication involved. If your meal involves complex preparations or a higher degree of service, you are expected to tip accordingly.

Customer Satisfaction

Lastly, your customer satisfaction level is crucial. If the whole dining experience – from the food quality to the server's assistance – meets or exceeds your expectations, it drives a higher tip. Should any aspect fall short, such as underwhelming food or a feeling of neglect, your tip is likely to decrease as a reflection of your overall satisfaction.

Published: 20-01-2024

The History of Tipping at Restaurants

Tipping at restaurants is a practice that has a rich but complex history. Often seen as a reward for good service, tips may also be viewed as essential wage …

Jim Belt in Restaurant
How Much to Tip at a Restaurant: A General Guide