How much would you tip for great service at a sit-down restaurant?

Office - Royalty Free - restaurant 2

The term for tipping comes from an acronym: “To Insure Proper Service,” or simply TIPS. Yet, tipping in the United States has become something much more than just an affirmation of good service. For many, the majority of their compensation comes from tips that they assume they will get, almost regardless of the quality of their service.

Depending on what part of the world you are in and what the customs might be, the variable in tipping amounts and customs vary greatly. During some of my travels abroad, overtipping is construed as rude or pretentious, or may even set us apart as those gullible tourists who will be easy to manipulate. In other places, undertipping is the ultimate insult and may have a profoundly adverse impact not only on the quality of service we receive but also as an embarrassment to those with us.

Last year, I ran a random, anonymous poll with friends and acquaintances from around the country in several different socioeconomic brackets.  I wanted to see how much people tipped at restaurants. The results kind of shocked me! I thought I had fairly generous tipping practices but it looks like I’m fairly average:

Tip at Restaurant

Based on several blogs and articles I have read on the subject, this poll is in fact showing some fairly generous tipping practices. According to the guidelines set out by Trip Advisor for tourists to the United States, “10% usually means you aren’t totally happy, 15% usually means all was acceptable, 20% for excellent, over 20% for outstanding.”  These guidelines may certainly vary based on geographical location and type of restaurant, but the general guideline around 20% seems to be a safe bet for great service.

For more guidelines on tipping a myriad of services from barbers to baristas, check our our Tipping Basics.

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