How to Tip for Food Service

It is common knowledge that you should leave something over and above the cost of the bill for the waiter/waitress who takes care of you at a restaurant or diner. What doesn’t seem to be common knowledge is exactly how much to leave and the waters seem to get even murkier once you are in a food or drink situation that isn’t a typical restaurant.


If you have had a good time and you feel as though your server took care of you adequately (they refilled your drink, asked if you wanted grated cheese and were pleasant throughout) the customary tip is at least 15% of your entire bill. If you feel as though your server was outstanding in their efforts (if the restaurant was exceptionally busy but you still feel they went above and beyond to handle your every request with a smile, etc.) then you should shell out at least 20% on the total bill (maybe even a bit more). If parts of your order were forgotten, you didn’t get check on by your waiter or an expediter, didn’t see a refill or your water or soft drink or you just didn’t feel as though any effort was there to take care of you – you could drop down in the 10% range.


If you are saddled up to the bar for just beers or cocktails you want to give the bartender a buck per drink ordered. Not only is this a decent tip but it will likely help them to keep their eye on you when your drink is getting low even after business starts to pick up. If you are running a tab at the bar you should apply the same rules that you would for wait staff service and leave 15% for good service, 20% for excellent service.

Coffee Shop

The baristas at a coffee shop can get just as busy as the bartenders at a crowded bar during the morning rush, but for some reason these folks don’t usually tend to get the same love when it comes to tips. If you hit up your local coffee shop (especially during prime time) you should put a dollar per drink in the tip jar. If you are partaking in a pastry, muffin, homemade doughnut or cookie tip 15% of the entire bill just like you would at a restaurant.

Food at Home

Some people don’t feel the need to tip delivery drivers because they aren’t taking care of you the same way a waiter or waitress would inside of a restaurant, but think for a minute about what these people do for you. Delivery drivers brave the elements, sometime driving in conditions you wouldn’t even consider driving in, to bring you a hot, delicious meal in the comfort of your own home. While they might not invest the time that a traditional wait staff would with you, their services certainly make your life easier. When a friendly delivery driver shows up to your door with a hot meal and a smile despite the four inches of snow on the road, you should tip them similarly to what you would a traditional wait staff at about 15% of the total bill (more if the conditions outside are far less than favorable).

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Jeff Wilson

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