Restaurant Tipping, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

Life in the USA is a complete guide to American life for immigrants and Americans. All materials on this site Copyright © Elliot Essman 2014. All rights reserved.    Home    Back    next

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Life in the USA
Public Services II

Restaurant Tipping
Do not forget to tip your server at an American restaurant.

In America, when you are served by a waiter or waitress at a “sit-down” restaurant, you are expected to leave a tip or gratuity of 20 percent. In contrast to the practice in many other countries, service is almost never included in the price of the meal, nor is sales tax (which applies in many American communities). Many, if not most, American restaurant servers are paid very little on an hourly basis. They, and their employers, expect gratuities from diners to fill in their income.

In some restaurants, if you dine with a group of people over a certain number, the restaurant will add a service charge to your bill, which means you do not have to leave an additional tip. Look at the bill carefully. If no obvious service charge is included, you are expected to add a few dollars to thank the server. Some restaurants print bills that give suggested amounts, to save their customers the task of doing the math. Be careful not to confuse these notations for an actual service charge.

If you receive poor or rude service, by all means leave a smaller tip to reflect your displeasure. Remember, if you're dividing a restaurant check with several other people, to take both the sales tax and tip into consideration when figuring out how much each person owes.

In some circumstances, servers will be happy to give individual diners “separate checks,” but often they find this an unpleasant burden. If two couples dine together at an expensive restaurant, by all means, ask, in advance, for separate checks. If you are out at a busy bar having snacks with six other people, a request to a busy server for a separate check is not wise.

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