One of the most common questions my students on Fluentify ask me is, “How much do I tip servers in the United States?” The answer is not as simple as it might seem. I started serving in restaurants over two years ago to make extra cash while attending university. I decided to work as a server because I could study and attend classes during the day, while working part-time a couple of nights a week.
Tipping in the United States can be a bit difficult for foreigners to understand because the reasons and rules for tipping are unclear. Every state in the United States has a different minimum wage, the amount of money a worker makes per hour. I live in Indiana and the minimum wage for a server is only $2.13, while $7.25 is the minimum wage for other workers. Every state in the United States has different minimum wages for servers and workers depending on the cost of living in that state.
Without tips, a server living in Indiana would actually make less than $2.13 per hour once taxes are subtracted from the paycheck. Servers rely on tips in order to make a living.
How much and when you tip depends on the type of restaurant you are dining in. At a restaurant where the server comes to your table, takes your order, and delivers your food and drinks to you, tipping is expected.
At more formal restaurants a higher tip, 15-20%, is the standard because formal restaurants should provide superior service. At formal restaurants, tables tend to dine for longer periods and the servers attend to only a handful of tables at a time in order to provide the best service.
At casual restaurants a 10-20% is the standard, since servers tend to have more tables and cannot provide the same quality of service as formal restaurants. At a self-serve café or restaurant—where you order food at the counter—tipping is optional. At these restaurants there is usually a tip jar next to the register where customers may leave a tip if they want to. To sum up:
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[th_column]Type of restaurant[/th_column]
[row_column]15% – 20%[/row_column]
[row_column]10% – 20%[/row_column]
[row_column]Tipping is optional[/row_column]
Ultimately, tipping is optional. Customers are only required to pay the amount of the meal. If the service was absolutely terrible, it is acceptable not to leave a tip. The amount customers decide to tip often depends on their experience and satisfaction with the server’s attitude and quality of service.
Reservoir dogs – I don’t believe in tipping
However, there are a few things to remember while dining: mistakes and tardiness with the food orders are usually not the server’s fault—the server’s job is to give the order to the kitchen and deliver the orders to the table; groups of six or more people usually have the tip automatically added to the cost of the bill because bigger tables require more time; and tips are always appreciated!