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  • Writer's pictureSam Salerno

Tips on Tipping: A Server's Perspective

If this is how it's normally done in the Lan' Down Under, so help me...

It was an abnormally busy Wednesday at the restaurant. Lots of people, lots of funky orders, lots of food, and a slight tinge of chaos behind it all.

Until I got to table #24.

I'm sure there's a more commonly accepted term in the food service world, but I've taken to calling them "angel tables."

Oh, what would servers do without them...

Here's a quick profile:

  • pleasantly optimistic

  • understand your busy

  • don't ask a billion questions about the menu

  • aren't in a rush to get their food

  • ...and I could go on and on

Table #24 was one such table.

They reminded me to breathe, and though the rest of my tables were lighting the restaurant on fire and I had to keep playing human pinball, I was excited for the reprieve that this table brought. And their accents...

Australians on holiday.


Not only that, but this table radiated the tip vibe.

...or so I thought.

Two glasses of red wine? Check.

Fresh, warm bread and butter? Naturally.

Bajastyle calamari with the fixings on the side? My pleasure.

Full antipasto plate? Easy squeezy.

Coffee? No problem.

Bill, please? Of course.

Begin autopilot sequence.

Bring up the order.

Hit the "close" button.

Swipe the card.

Say a quick prayer to the tip gods.

Drop the card, receipts, and pen.

Tell them they were a wonderful table and it was a pleasure to serve them.

Give some recommendations.

Walk away.

Petition the tip gods (again).

Smile and bid farewell as they walk out the door.

Collect the receipts book.

Put receipts in poc – what the heck?

**Critical error**

Receipts don't jingle.

Loose change doesn't even jingle like that.

I opened the book and, lo and behold, found a bright green, kangaroo-shaped bottle opener and some Australian coins of different denominations.

No tip was to be seen.

To be honest, I didn't know what to think. I was grateful for the gift, but Australian change won't put food on my American table, and the last thing I need is to have a portable means of opening alcoholic beverages.

Then was a pleasant surprise and it was something (which is significantly better than nothing).

I looked it up online (because the internet is truth), and ran it by a friend of mine in Australia, only to discover that tipping in Australia isn't a super normal thing. In fact, it's usually only reserved for high-end restaurants with dedicated service people who treat you like royalty. (Plus, the food there is apparently insanely expensive).

At the end of the day, I'm not upset about it. They were a lovely table and it was a pleasure to serve them and hear a bit about their trip.

But tipping is sometimes one of those things that leave people bewildered.

So here's a quick guide I put together for those who find tipping to be a chore.

The Tipper's Guide:

The first thing to know is that, with rare exception, tipping is never mandatory. It is an act of kindness, though, as many service jobs make minimum wage and rely on tips to get ahead of the bills each month. So be kind and part with that extra $3 or $4 dollars!

The second thing to know is that you are not tipping on the quality of the food; you're tipping on the service. The price of the food has already been jacked up to account for the restaurant's overhead. Giving your server a poor tip because the food wasn't good is poor form if they served you well. If they got your order wrong or didn't serve you well, though, that's a different story.

The third thing to know is that if you have five people in your party, your minimum tip should be 15%. Many restaurants will add an 18% gratuity to the tab with a party of six or more. Why? Because serving that many people takes a lot of work. They're not just bringing you food; they've got to get your drinks, the pre-meal bread, the appetizers, the entrees, the desserts, and they have to do that for other tables at the same time. Tipping at the 15% and above level for a party of five is common courtesy. Don't skimp by. It's a lot of work.

The fourth thing to know is that if you're tab is over $100, whether from having a lot of people in your party or just buying more food for yourself, tip at 15%. Unless you bought two fifty dollar dishes, your server has probably had to make more trips and stops at your table to make sure everything is okay. Reward them if they did this well!

The fifth thing to know is that cash tips are almost always preferred over tips on debit/credit cards. Depending on the restaurant and tax rules, reporting cash tips is easier on the server and usually lets them walk away with more in their own pocket instead of Uncle Sam's.

Now, on to some numbers!

10% tips: this percentile is for average service. The server said hello, took your order, brought you your food, cleaned your table, and brought you the bill. You may have had to ask for a few things in between that he or she may have forgotten, but there wasn't anything necessarily wrong. Leaving a 10% tip is like saying, "Hey, thanks for bringing me my food, but you didn't really do anything else, so...".

I'd say that you should at least leave a 10% tip unless your server was terrible.

$100 tab: $10 tip

$75 tab: $7.50 tip

$50 tab: $5 tip

$25 tab: $2.50 tip

15% tips: this percentile goes to servers who did all of the above, but who also answered questions about the menu, took the time to check in on your table, asked if you would like refills, and brought you your food faster than usual. You may start thinking they're mind-readers, and they're also just generally pleasant to be around.

I'd say you should be tipping around 15% most of the time.

$100 tab: $15 tip

$75 tab: $11.25 tip

$50 tab: $7.50 tip

$25 tab: $3.75

20% tips: this percentile goes to servers who go above and beyond the call of duty. They're friendly from the start, patient with you as you drool over the menu, read your mind and bring you things before you even ask for it, and serve you with a smile the whole time. They're as talkative as you want them to be (some people don't want to talk at all and they're okay with that!), they don't hover but they've got a eye on your table at all times, and they make great recommendations.

If you have a great server and/or you really want to make someone's day, then leave them a 20% tip. They'll remember you for it.

$100 tab: $20 tip

$75 tab: $15 tip

$50 tab: $10 tip

$25 tab: $5 tip

Again, if your tab is higher than $100, even if it's just you eating, err on the side of 15-20% for your tip (see reason three and four up above for why).


So there you have it, friend.

Show some kindness and tip well.

And if you're not going to tip at all, then at least leave a cool a kangaroo bottle opener or something.

Leaving something is always better that leaving nothing.

Stay classy.


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