How to Tip


Most of us have worked a job serving tables, delivering food, or some sort of unglorified job where paying our bills relies almost completely on the generosity of others.

But then there are many who have been lucky enough to avoid such vocations. Thus, there are people who have no idea that their servers and delivery drivers only make about $2.15 an hour, depending on the state and restaurant.

So the tip you leave them is not additional money on top of a significant salary. It literally goes to paying their bills, maintaining their car, taking care of their children, getting their loved ones Christmas presents, etc.

So I’ve compiled a few steps that I follow when leaving a tip for someone at a restaurant. Yes, I really do keep all of these factors in mind every time I go out, and I think if you do the same, you’ll make your servers much happier.


1. NEVER discriminate – We all have a group of people we secretly look down on. And sometimes we make assumptions as to how they’ll spend their tip money. Folks, I don’t care if your server speaks little English, and wears rainbow feathers in his hair, worships golden calfs, and has a “Carter for President” sticker on his car, you still treat him/her like a human being who has served you your meal.

2. Be the most memorable customer – You can be the most memorable customer by bringing a smile or a scowl on your server’s face when they cash out at the end of the night. Strive to be the customer that was worth your server’s time. Remember: You very well could have taken the place of someone who might have tipped much, much more. Out-tip that guy. 

3. ALWAYS take tipping into account BEFORE you go out – If you’re considering going out to eat or ordering food to be delivered, always count your money to make sure you have enough for a tip. Never think, Our bill will be about $20. I’ve got about 21 bucks, so I’m good to go. No. You have enough to run to the grocery store and grab some stuff to make your own meal. Don’t ever fail to consider leaving a tip for your server.

SO… What Do I Tip? 

Let’s face it. I’m a writer, so the other side of my brain is practically dead. I can’t add 10% or 20% for beans. So for my math-dead friends, I’ve created a very simple guideline to follow.

Let’s take a bill of $45.

Look at the first digit: 4.

Double it: That makes 8

Look at the next digit: 5.

When the second digit is 5 or greater, you add $2, because it’s a 2-digit number. When it’s 4 or lower, just add $1.

So a tip for a $45 bill would be $10.

BUT $10 is just a guideline. Now you take into consideration how the service was. Did the server make sure your glasses were full? Did they take care of you? If they messed up, were they apologetic? Did they do their job well?

Feel free to add a few dollars in relation to their service. But if the restaurant was practically empty and you hardly ever saw your server, or they were hanging out in the server’s station on their cell phone, then feel free to deduct a couple of dollars. Since you’re deducting from a $10 tip rather than a $4 tip, you’re still being more than fair by leaving more than they deserve. NEVER leave $0. That’s just being a complete jerk.

Let’s try another one.

A bill of $23. Double the first digit: 4. The second digit is below 5, so add a dollar. Adjust the $5 or keep it the same according to the service you received.

A bill of $149. Double the first two digits: 28. Since there are three digits total, and the last number is 5 or greater, add three dollars (since there’s three digits total). There’s a $31 tip for your server to adjust accordingly.

Remember: If you can’t afford a tip, you can’t afford the bill. Sarabeth and I go out to eat very sparingly because we’d like to be able to leave a generous tip.

Oh, and to my Christian brothers and sisters, let’s not forget that we are to be the most generous people in the world. So we should always be out-tipping the last guy, no matter how small our bill is.

Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

46 thoughts on “How to Tip

  1. I am a server…
    I work for my Master and He came to serve and not be served…
    I keep this mindset when serving flawed humanity. However, there are people who are downright nasty and there are those who are quite lovely…
    You seem to be a lovely one 🙂
    TIPS is an acronym for, To Ensure Proper Service…they were historically given before service.
    I just wish people would remember your words and tip accordingly…
    I am always blessed but I just wish people would remember their servers and tip generously 😀


  2. Right now I live in Tokyo, Japan. You never tip here. If you try they will think you forgot your change and will try to catch up with you and give you your money back.

    I agree with you, but I think that we should also know where to tip and where not to.


  3. While your calculations are sensible, I’d suppose it’s also worth mentioning to what number you are applying the methodology to, pre- or post tax. I simply use 20% of the post tax amount as the baseline and adjust accordingly. Double the number, and move the decimal point over, it’s much easier that way, at least for me.


  4. Very good advice! I agree that servers should be tipped well! My routine is to figure out 10% of the bill and then automatically double it, I also take into consideration the type of service i have received and will add a little more, As an example, I often go to a local family restaurant in my town. I doubt anyone there knows what my name is however they know my face–even if I don’t get there for a couple of months or more, the owner recognizes me as he does every customer he has ever met. The welcome alone is worth tipping well, but also his servers go out of their way to be personable, to give excellent service and he as well, will come by and chat with all of his customers no matter how busy he is. Needless to say, I tip very well in that restaurant! Probably one of the most shocking things I have ever heard from a person regarding tipping was the comment made that “If they need my tip in order to survive, then they should just go get a different job that pays better!” Obviously that person was on the receiving end of my opinion on their stingy attitude!


  5. In my area, the tax on a restaurant bill is 7%, so I double that, then adjust accordingly for the level of service I received.
    And, if I got exemplary service, I ALWAYS overtip. I’ve never walked away from a table without leaving something, because I know, servers remember the jerks- and treat them accordingly when they come back.


  6. Excellent guidelines. Working as a server I would also like to point out that generally we share a percentage of the tips we make each night with the bus staff, kitchen, bar/host staff. So a bit of what is left on the table is divided amongst the staff. :). Great post!!!!


  7. Kelp is most pleased by this. Kelp’s followers taught Kelp to tip $1 for every $5 of the bill and round up from there. This is much easier and more accurate, which is good because Kelp hates math. Thank you, my child.


  8. I live in Australia and tipping is something we do by choice. Most times if I am eating with family or a group of friends, we divide the bill evenly and round up the amount. Whatever is then left over we will leave for staff. In saying that, waiting staff in Australia are well paid and do not actually rely on tips… but every little extra helps.


  9. My base is 20% before tax, and potentially more depending on the service. But when I go out for drinks, I usually give a dollar for every drink.Once again, more depending on how nice/awesome the bartender was/ or if it was a really complicated order.


  10. I can tip very well when service is exemplary. But I am absolutely against the mindset that a server deserves 20% (or some similar substitute) just because that is part of their pay structure. Want a great tip, do your job well. Make me feel like you enjoy working with your customers. After all, you *are* in a service industry.

    If you make me ask for refills of drink, or if I can’t get your attention in a reasonable time because you are either too preoccupied with talking with other waitstaff or have simply disappeared, nowhere to be found, or if you act like there are 20 other places you’d rather be….then don’t expect a very good tip. It’s your choice. Life is full of them. It’s up to you to make them count.


    1. As someone who’s worked in a restaurant for the better part of a decade, I just want to point out that while it may appear the server is nowhere to be found, it’s easy to forget that refilling your drink is just part of our job. We also have silverware to roll and food to expedite, ice machines to refill and phones to answer. Some of the highest-tipped employees in a restaurant are also the worst employees simply because of this mindset. The team players often get the shaft because they have to carry everyone else’s weight. Just something to think about.


      1. Well, I think that it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between splitting job duties and goofing off, and the goofing off part happens more than many would like to admit. As far as wrapping silverware and filling ice machines…I’m sorry but paying customers come first and it’s not like there are other staff members including management who are quite capable of stepping in if it’s that busy.

        Again, I don’t mind tipping and tipping well when service is great, but I simply draw the line like it’s some god-given right to get 20% or higher for less than great service **. Working as a waitstaff person is a choice a person makes. Some make great money….GREAT money. Others, not so much. Many times it’s because of where you work, but in order to maximize that opportunity; exemplary service to your customers is paramount. Many times, a person just isn’t cut out for that line of work. There are other jobs out there that will give you a guaranteed paycheck.

        If one has a problem with other members getting paid better for not carrying their weight; that’s an internal issue that needs to be addressed and dealt with. All that I know is that when I go out to dinner with my wife for our special occasion; I expect to be treated like you want a great tip and want me to be a regular customer.

        I’m not the bad guy here. I’m just the guy who thinks that if you want to get paid well, you need to do your job well and customer satisfaction is job #1. If your manager has different priorities; blame him, not me, if the tips aren’t so good.

        ** Great Service (from above)
        1. Acknowledge that I’ve been seated, promptly; even if you must come back to me.
        2. Don’t make me wait very long for you to come back to take my drink order.
        4. Don’t be so damn quick to rush off once I’ve told you what I want to drink that you don’t even know that I’m actually ready to order (if that’s the case).
        5. If my food order is running behind, simply come by to tell me. Don’t make me wonder if it’s even been given to the kitchen.
        6. Check on me once or twice; especially after my food has been served in case there is an issue.
        7. Please keep my glass filled. When I’m ready for a refill, I have my glass out to the edge of the table. When you pass by those 10 times, you’ve surely seen it.
        8. When you bring my check, actually stop walking. I might be ready to give you my CC at that moment.

        If you attend to my needs, and while not rushing me, but just keeping the delays at every step to a minimum, you’ll actually get a better tip from me, and you’ll be able to seat your next customer quicker; resulting in more money.

        If you cannot do the above with each customer, you cannot handle the number of seats you are responsible for. Ask for fewer seats. What I’m asking for isn’t much to ask for.

        Thanks for letting me share my side.


  11. Beautiful words about striving to be a memorable customer. I’d never worked as a waitress until five months ago, and it’s amazing to me how much a 10% tip feels like a slap in the face, especially when I’ve done my best to make customers feel welcome and taken care of.


    1. A slap in the face is an accurate description. Sadly our best may not live up to someone else’s perception of best. Which is why I think it’s necessary to have such a high baseline to start off with.


  12. My husband and I found out when we lived overseas that most people don’t tip over there. Of course, I don’t know how servers are paid over there either. Anyway, when we would go out to dinner, we always would tip, some low because the service was crummy and high when it service was great. When we’d return to a restaurant for a second meal, we always got the best of service because we did tip.


  13. I agree on the 10-20% gap. My start tip (and tips are given everytime) is 10%.

    Luckily for me- working out the percentage is not a huge issue-

    Tipping is the least we can do for our waiters /waitresses – similar to commission based service. These guys often get a real lousy salary.

    I always believe you receive blessings if you give them freely, and always make sure a tip is available for these guys (I’ve been there before and tips are ALWAYS appreciated (; ).


  14. Great tips for tipping! I know many servers struggle financially and need a little extra. We should be a blessing to others. Thanks for the post!


  15. Thank you very much for this post. I used to bartend and was always bummed (and surprised!) when customers just wouldn’t tip at all. These are wonderful guidelines. Because I once used to work for tips, I’ve become a very generous tipper myself.

    Also (on an unrelated note), earlier this year, I read the first two books of the “Unwound” series which you recommended on your blog some time ago. I thought they were really intriguing. I should be posting a review of them soon and I can’t wait to get my hands on the third installment. Thanks for that suggestion way earlier in the year 🙂


    1. I’m always glad when people read (and watch) my recommendations! I haven’t gotten to the second one yet, but very much look forward to it!


      1. Oh, the second one is great. I’d actually argue that I liked it better than the first. I’m hoping the same is true for the third book when I read it over winter break. And thanks for recommending!


  16. The tipping system is great. It is rightfully on the honor system, gives power to the consumer, and provides incentive for servers.

    It is a win-win.

    Servers, however, better serve themselves to look at the big picture and keep their eyes on the prize lest they become jaded.

    One customer does not make your night, your week or your month. Keep your chin up and be excellent and your income will increase along with job satisfaction. There is nothing more rewarding than a cuForstomer who requests you and you build clientele.

    For the people who see tipping as supplemental you are hurting yourself by your ingnorance. Serving is a skill and not easy. With tips, no one would do for minimum wage. Restaurants would have to charge more to get good help for higher fixed wage. Fixed wage begets minimalism.


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