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Take-Out & Fancy Restaurant Tip Etiquette

  1. Jun 28, 2017 #1
    How many of you guys tip when you order take-out? And does it depend on the type of restaurant?

    Likewise, do you tip the recommended 15-20% at a nice restaurant with a very high bill? We debated this over dinner the other night. Hypothetically, suppose you had a meal at a nice place that cost $400.00 for two people. 20% would be $80.00.

    Does anyone think that's right if the service was essentially the same as it would have been for your two person meal at, say, Applebee's or Outback Steakhouse, where it may have cost $50 or $60 for the two of you?

    Your server would still be doing the same work: take your order, bring your drinks, bring your appetizer, bring your entree, bring your dessert, bring your alcohol, and clean up your table.

    The main difference would be cost and possibly quality of the food you're eating, but that doesn't have anything to do with the waiter/waitress. The server's job is simply to bring you stuff you order. Should the Outback Steakhouse server get on $10 and the Nice Hotel Restaurant server get $80 for the same work?

    What do ya think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2017 #2


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    You misunderstand the level of professionalism and knowledge expected of servers at high end restaurants. Your normal standard restaurant server wouldn't last 5 minutes.
  4. Jun 28, 2017 #3
    I might be, you're right. But just playing Devil's Advocate, how much harder can it be?

    I doubt a high-end restaurant would have more than double the menu items that an Applebee's or Outback Steakhouse has. But let's say it has double the menu items. The servers at both the low-end and high-end places still need to know what's in the meals and drinks, how they are prepared, and what they taste like. The food may be different. But the types of things they need to know are still the same. It's like memorizing facts about 12th Century French history vs. 21st Century French history. Different facts, but same process?
  5. Jun 28, 2017 #4


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    No, I don't think so. A great server knows every detail about every possible wine (beer, liquor,...) and food combination that could be made from the menu, can make solid recommendations based on the guest's preferences, knows how to deal graciously with unpleasant situations or disappointments, has an excellent memory (to the point where he knows which coat belongs to which guest) and is all-round pleasant company without being overly amicable. I think it is a real trade that is hard to master.

    With that being said, I usually stick with fish and chips and hamburgers, also (but not only) because of budget considerations.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  6. Jun 28, 2017 #5


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    A small amount, but yes.
    Normally a sit-down place.
    Yep, that's how it works.
  7. Jun 28, 2017 #6


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    Enormously, as kyrlov has explained
  8. Jun 28, 2017 #7
    I've met some really amazing servers in typical diners where I've given a hefty tip. For me, it's all about attitude and recognizing when I need something.
  9. Jun 29, 2017 #8
    Some good points above, Krylov.

    I'll push my luck and analysis a bit with some more DA here :-p:

    I think it's certainly possible and factual that some restaurants require more out of servers than other establishments and you give some good examples above (albeit, many of those traits that are needed would apply to lower-end restaurants too). In those cases, I can grasp the justified tipping difference (still based on 15-20%).

    On the other hand, I think we can all imagine a hypothetical situation in which merely the food cost difference (and possibly the restaurant's aesthetics - say, a place with a great view or an especially beautifully designed interior - that drives up the cost of the food vs. the inherent value of that food prepared the same elsewhere) between restaurants is what is driving the higher tip and not really a difference in service/expertise of the server. And, in those cases, does it seem the 15-20% rule is a bit arbitrary?


    You might have a restaurant that specializes in fish with a decent chef trained at a reputable cooking academy/culinary institute, which has most of the same items that another fish house down the street has, but has a super star TV personality chef. They still have salmon, halibut, flounder, tuna, etc. But the difference is in the preparation and skills of the chef and/or the aesthetics of the location - not necessarily in the expertise/skill of the server - which drives up the cost of the bill and in turn the tip.

    I guess my question is isn't there an arbitrariness in these situations? That's where a one-size fits all recommendation of 15-20% feels a bit weird.

    re: Attitude and Attentiveness

    That really boils it down for me most of the time. Am I missing stuff or waiting a long time for things that the server should have brought out to me? Is the server unpleasant in any way?

    To some degree, "pleasantness" can be tied to the aesthetics of social class too. A server's tone, choice of words, body language, etc. at a high-end seafood house vs. that of the grandma working at a waffle house may be different, but it's probably more just arbitrary and based on social class aesthetics. Some people might even find it pretentious to speak a certain way and find the higher-end server's mannerisms "fake."

    Krylov's suggestion that the high-end restaurant server needs to be able to make recommendations to guests based on individual tastes is possibly a genuine skill difference. Albeit, that's needed too to some degree at lower end restaurants, but perhaps it's more refined at the higher end places (although, if a server's palette and skill is that refined, why aren't they chefs!? :biggrin: ...I assume we're usually talking about "simple" recommendations and not mind-blowing culinary inventions that these types of servers are making :-p). Although, I suspect even here there are some social class elements to it. A poor person who has never had the opportunity to taste and familiarize him/herself with a lot of the foods at a more expensive restaurant may just be lacking in opportunity and not necessarily inherent skill.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  10. Jun 29, 2017 #9
    At the same time I don't want a waiter/tress asking me if everything is ok or how the food is every five minutes. I always get annoyed when the manager goes from table to table asking if everything is ok. 9/10 people just say good to get them to go away :D
  11. Jul 1, 2017 #10


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    I remember when Evo Child was in training for a month at a fine dining restaurant when she was in college, it was grueling. The clients were celebrities, millionaires. Pompous nouveau riche with money but no class. She had a 3 inch thick binder of rules and information she had to memorize. The tests she had to go through, even down to how and when to use the crumb scraper to remove crumbs from the table. To aiding the Somelier, knowing all of the ingredients in all dishes and how each was prepared that changed daily. Dealing with crazy high end chefs and crazier high end clientele. Sampling liquors that cost $450 a shot and having to memorize how to describe it to clients. She quit before she had a nervous breakdown even though she was guaranteed a minimum $500 a night in tips.
  12. Jul 1, 2017 #11
    Thanks for that, Evo.

    You've pretty much schooled me! I never knew it got that intense!!

    $500 a night? Was this Beverly Hills? Heck, I'd do that job!!!
  13. Jul 1, 2017 #12

    jim hardy

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    So many single moms work waiting tables..... I married one and know how hard she worked.

    At takeout joints I always put a couple bucks in the tip jar particluarly if it's a local owned place
    and at those lesser places , unless the service is really incompetent i overtip a bit.

    At tonier places i do the recommended tip and when service is exceptionally good i tell the manager about it.

    "Always be kind. Everybody is fighting a hard battle."

    old jim
  14. Jul 1, 2017 #13


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    No, not Beverly Hills, I'm sure the $500 was an average, and probably not actually *guaranteed* I just remember her being excited by the income. But when a dinner for two with a high end drink would cost over $700 for two people, she also had to learn about and sell (and cut and light) expensive cigars for after dinner in a designated area. You could really make quite a bit of money. But it was very stressful, she would be timed with stop watches by the managers, she just didn't care for the waste and attitude, I don't think she wanted to deal with it and school.
  15. Jul 2, 2017 #14
    There's a higher paying part-time job I could take right now as I"m finishing up school, but I also chose not to do it because it was a huge energy and time suck and I was worried I'd be too drained to concentrate on my studies afterwards. I think it can be very smart to pass on something like that to preserve energy and perform better in what your main focus is on life.

    That's pretty cool to know still that some server jobs are very sophisticated.
  16. Jul 2, 2017 #15
    eta: the one thing that crossed my mind with your daughter's specific situation was maybe there was some value to the networking possibilities if the clientele were millionaire types. I'm not saying I wouldn't have focused on school instead, but just an interesting consideration, because it's rare to have that chance to constantly be around those types of people
  17. Jul 2, 2017 #16


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    Likely irrelevant since really personal interaction w/ the patrons is frowned on at high end places. You are there to be invisible while being helpful.
  18. Jul 2, 2017 #17


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    You'll also find that a good number of high dining include tip in the price of the menu, especially if it's a fixed menu. For example, yesterday my wife and I went to Daniel's, where the meal was 300 dollars a plate. However that price included taxes and gratuities in the meal, with the exception that beverages where extra. So naturally, we left a separate for the drinks.

    There is a world of difference between servers at high class restaurant and the ones that you'll find at moderately expensive ones. Most servers at these places have years of experience prior to ever working there, with expert knowledge on pairing, history of the wines being served along with memorizing weekly or daily changes to the menu. In fact, a good waiter is often like a ninja, hardly noticed, bringing in and taking out plates without interfering with the conversation. So yes, if you're able to pay 400 dollars for a meal, you should easily be able to afford 80 for a tip.
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