How Tipping Works

Tipping Guidelines: Restaurants, Buffets, Bars, Cafes and Coffeehouses

Tip a food delivery person $2 to $5, depending on distance and weather conditions
Tip a food delivery person $2 to $5, depending on distance and weather conditions
Courtesy Lisa F. Young/

For many people, tipping is a way of ensuring continued good service. For example, if you go to the same hairdresser every month, you probably want to keep him or her happy by tipping well, usually 15 to 20 percent; but what about all of those other services you receive? Do you know how much you should really tip the skycap, the bellman, the concierge, the maid and all of those other helpful folks out there who depend on tips to make a living?

It's extremely confusing, and it varies not only from country to country but from city to city as well. No wonder pocket tipping charts and cell phone tipping calculators come in so handy. Below are some general guidelines for tipping the more common (and a few of the less common) services we receive.


Most of us know that we should tip waitpersons at restaurants 15 to 20 percent of the bill. But what if you bought a $100 bottle of wine? Although there is some debate here, it is often acceptable to tip less than 15 to 20 percent on an expensive bottle (or bottles) of wine that is s­erved with dinner.

At upscale restaurants, you may also need to tip the sommelier or wine steward 10 to 15 percent, taking into consideration that he is sharing his expertise with you, often taking the time to learn about your preferences so that he's able to make appropriate recommendations.

If the maitre d' found an exceptional table for you, then tip up to $20 for that effort, in advance or after you are seated.

It's also important to remember that your waitperson tips all of the other servers who assisted him throughout your meal, such as the busboy, the bartender and others. However, this does not include the coatroom attendant, who typically receives a $1 tip [Source:].

Other types of eating or drinking establishments:

  • Buffets - rembember that someone has to clear your table, refill your drink and bring you more plates. Ten percent is the usual amount to tip in these restaurants.
  • Bars -Ten to 15 percent is considered average, but you should also take into consideration the complexity of your drink orders. In other words, opening a few bottles of beer doesn't necessarily warrant the same tip as making six rounds of frozen daiquiris.
  • Cafes and coffeehouses -Typically, it's appropriate at cafés and coffeehouses to contribute 10 to 15 percent to the countertop tip jar.

The next section covers common tipping customs for hotels, airports, parking and auto-related services.­­