The Only Tipping Guide You Will Ever Need

Here's how much to tip at restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and for takeout and delivery.

A cash and coins tip on a restaurant table

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Tipping these days has become a source of frazzled nerves for many of us. Where there used to be a fairly standard "15% for decent service, 20% for exceptional" metric, it now seems that how much you are expected to tip varies wildly. With the advent of some venues eliminating tipping-subsidized wage levels and others not, the pandemic goodwill habits of being extra generous with servers, and all of the various ways we are now receiving our goods, how do we know what is right to tip? 

Tipping for service, and the expectations thereof, is one of those gray areas that can change from venue to venue. So how do you know what to do when presented with the bill? Here are some tips for how much to tip.

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Tip in cash if you can.

It's always easy to add that tip to the credit card receipt, but then there is a 3% charge or more on that money, which often impacts how much actually gets in the hands of your servers. Bringing cash is a classy move. 

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Restaurants with Sit-Down Service

First and foremost, check to see if they are including a service fee to support decent wages and benefits for employees. If so, while you will still find a tip line on your bill, know that it is there to acknowledge exceptional service, not to provide basic salary. In those instances, a small token is appropriate, think $5-10 per guest depending on the scope of the meal and overall cost per person of the food and drink. If the staff goes above and beyond, assisting with making an occasion special, accommodating complicated requests, being especially kind to your grandmother or patient with your three-year-old, err on the high side, or even do a bonus 10% on top of the bill. 

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If your restaurant does not include a service fee, you must assume that servers are receiving lower wages hourly and tipping needs to make up the difference. These days 18% is a bare minimum, 20-22% is standard, and a great experience should be around 24-25% or even more if you are in a generous mood. 

If you go fancy and require the assistance of a sommelier, especially if they are guiding you on wine pairings for the meal or you need wine decanted, be sure to up the tip accordingly, adding $5-10 per bottle, $15-25 if there was decanting. The older or pricier the wine, or the more input from the sommelier, the higher this extra tip should be.

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It used to be that there were not expectations of tipping for food you picked up yourself, since tipping was reserved for servers. Things have shifted, and with tip-sharing (in some states where it is legal) between front and back of house, there is now more of an expectation that you should tip even when you are coming to grab your own food. This does not need to be a percentage of the bill, but rather can be more of an acknowledgement of the labor to put it together. Just one burrito, side of guacamole and a Topo Chico to go for you? $4-5 is plenty to nod to the staff. Picking up a three course feast for 12 for your Superbowl party? Might want to slip them a $20. 

RELATED: 4 Rules for Ordering Takeout


Delivery is complex, but assume that the driver is likely getting the short end of the stick, whether you are ordering directly from the restaurant or through a delivery app. Follow the same guidance as you would for takeout, but take into consideration the complexity of getting you your food in a timely manner. One pizza delivered to the first floor from the Original Ray’s half a block down? $5 for the trouble is more than enough. Thirty pounds of Chinese and a case of beer delivered from four miles across town to your fifth-floor walkup? Hand that person a $20 and an expression of your deepest thanks.

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Drinks at a Bar

Effort is what is rewarded here, and your tip should depend on how and what you are ordering. If you have a tab open for an evening, tip a minimum of 15% on the final bill, 20% if the bartender was fantastic. If you are tipping per drink as you go, $1 per drink for beer or shots or simple spirit+mixer drinks. Go up to $2-3 per if your drink has more than three ingredients, requires extra effort like muddling or needs more than a good five shakes or stirs to bring it together. 

If you are asking a bartender to concoct your secret special recipe for your favorite drink, or asking them to make you something off-menu, or if you ask them to advise you on your beverages and they do a good job, an extra $5-20 before you leave on top of the per-drink tip, depending on how many drinks they made for you, will always be a gesture that will help them remember you next time.

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Follow the same principle as with drinks above. If you are a "large, black coffee" person, $1 per cup is plenty. If you are a "half-caf pour-over extra-hot oat foam latte with two pumps hazelnut one pump vanilla three dashes cinnamon and can you make a portrait of my cat on the top" person,  examine your life choices, and then tip your barista between $2-3 per cup.

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