I almost always tip 20% of the alcohol and food bill, before tax. Sometimes the restaurant adds hints on the check for 15, 20, 25%, but they always calculate based on the total check, including tax.
Tips seem to be an incentive for good service and an understanding that the wait service’s salary is partially paid by the patron.
There’s a bunch of things that confuse me about tipping:
- Why would I tip the tax? Or is that a shorthand way of tipping more than 20% of the bill? If the latter I would rather choose the % I want to tip.
- Is the tip only for table service? There are often tip jars at counter service fast food places. They didn’t serve me, but they prepared the food to order. Are tips a component of their salary too? I never tip at counter service places.
- What if you are served by the owner? Their incentives and salary is completely different from hired wait staff. Do they expect a tip? I almost never tip ownership.
- Why is the tip based on the cost of the meal? Five patrons at a diner will generate the same work for wait staff as a four-star restaurant. Why are patrons expected to pay 4x the tip in a fancy restaurant because the food costs more? The price and quality of the food has nothing to do with the wait staff. It makes more sense to tip based on the number of plates served, not the check amount.
- If my tip is part of the credit card charge does the restaurant deduct the card fee from the $ they give the wait staff?
- What if service is ok but the meal was terrible because the food was poor or the kitchen was slow? Should that effect the tip? I usually tip 20% anyway if I think the issue was out of the wait staff’s control.
In the UK they think tips are insulting. I guess they are paid a reasonable salary and don’t need or want tips. That’s a better system. It shouldn’t be left up to the patron to determine what someone’s job is worth. Just add 15% or so to the price of each order. No one needs to do math after consuming alcohol, and wait staff won’t be stiffed by cheapskates and jerks.
The same theory applies to cash-only restaurants. I hate them. If the restaurant can’t afford the credit card fee they should just add 3% to the price of the food on the menu. At worst accept credit cards and offer a discount for cash payment. These days there shouldn’t be a need for patrons to be inconvenienced by a restaurant’s desire to skim from the register or inability to get a credit card machine.