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Sip Service

Whether you’re dining, out for a drink, or spending the entire night at the bar, don’t forget the gratuity. But figuring out how much and when to tip can make your head spin more than the booze.

Rachel Wright
January 1, 2017

The New Year is in full swing, and with 12 months ahead, expect your calendar to fill while your bank account does the opposite. In addition to gifts, eating, medical, travel expenses and clothes, it’s important to budget for nights out — and that includes budgeting for service gratuity.

But with so many variations of settings and tipping methods, how much and who to tip can get confusing. Do you tip the bartender and the server? Is it acceptable to tip solely based on the percentage of your tab?

Do you need to tip more if there are multiple bartenders working? To help you out, we’ve addressed some myths around today’s tipping norms, tip-sharing scenarios and more, so you’re well-informed when making those decisions. And who knows, with the right tip, you could end up with drinks on the house.

Tips are Always Split Between Workers
This one’s difficult to address because there are so many tip-sharing arrangements. Generally, you can let your venue be your guide.

In most restaurant settings, you are taking care of the team by taking care of your primary server during a drinking or dining experience. The busser, bartender and sometimes kitchen crew receive a percentage of each server’s total shift sales. At the end of the shift, the server “tips out” these departments based on their amount of sales, not tips (again, usually) they received. This means if you stiff your server, you’re actually costing them money because they’re still required to tip those who “serve” them. If you’re sitting at the bar of a restaurant, the bartender may tip out the kitchen, but not the servers.

In most bar settings with multiple bartenders, the team splits tips evenly, giving a slightly lower percentage of the earnings to the bar back (who is usually working his or her way up to bartending and focuses on washing glasses, keeping the bar clean and stocking the bar throughout the night).

Door guys and bouncers are usually paid hourly and do not receive tips. If yours was especially helpful or friendly and you’re feeling generous, handing them $5-$10 and telling them it’s for them will make their night.

In most concert and event venue settings in town, bartenders share tips. If you tip one bartender at Cain’s or the Brady Theater, each bartender working that night will get an equal piece of the pie. Bartenders at private parties are usually paid a base rate by the event organizer. This base rate acts as a guarantee to make some money that night, but it’s not as much as a bartender would make in another tip-centric venue, so tips are appreciated.

Twenty Percent is a Good Tip
Ask any successful service industry member you know, and they’ll tell you that 20 percent is a normal tip these days. Twenty-five percent is a great tip. Ten percent means you were unhappy with the service. A big fat zero is straight up insulting, and actually costs that person money out of his or her pocket by way of tip-outs and taxes.

Always Tip Based on the Percentage of Your Total Tab
It’s a good place to start, but there are other influencers to consider. How long were you there? Think of your seat, booth or table as a piece of real estate for your server. The more people he can turn over during his shift, the more tips he gets. So while he’s not trying to rush you away, you’re hurting his income by sitting in your spot without continuing to make purchases. This is all good, if you take into consideration the time you spent and compensate adequately in your tip. To put it bluntly, if you’re staying more than 10 minutes without ordering something (whether you arrived early and wait 30 minutes for your friends before ordering, or stay and chat long after you tab out), it’s considerate to compensate in the amount they could have made from another guest in your seat.

What were you drinking? A simple shot, straight from the bottle? A beer? A dollar or two per round is great. Was it a nine-ingredient craft cocktail, muddled and delivered post haste? Add another $1 per round. If you’re drinking water — which is highly encouraged, especially if you’re also drinking alcohol — you’re likely not being charged for it. However that doesn’t mean your server isn’t working for it. If they refilled your glass multiple times, that’s time they could have been serving drinks that upped their tabs elsewhere, earning them more. You’ll save a few dollars on your overall tab, so throw a couple your server’s way.

‍If you want your bartender to remember you, tip well. If you want your bartender to remember and love you, tip well and bring them food. 

Cash is King
Yes. Period.

You Should Tip More During the Holidays
It’s definitely not expected, but isn’t unheard of for people to tip more at the holidays for various reasons. Some people consider that the server is there spending time away from his or her family, and want to make it worth their while, which is often true. Don’t assume, however, that your server doesn’t want to be there. The holidays are busy; they’re the service industry’s prime earning season, so many of those shifts are coveted. Don’t over tip out of guilt.

It's Weird to Bring Food to Your Favorite Bartender or Server
Myth! Myth! If you want your bartender to remember you, tip well. If you want your bartender to remember and love you, tip well and bring them food. Homemade leftovers, coffee, sweet treats, an extra entrée or appetizer from your night out, or a snack are all widely welcomed by members of the service industry. Many work double shifts and are unable to leave the establishment for a lunch or dinner break, so they survive on delivered goods, which gets old quickly. Sure, they could plan ahead, but that probably isn’t going to happen. Want to really make his or her day? Bring plastic ware. This is a fantastic gesture and is much appreciated, but doesn’t replace a monetary tip.

If the Service was Slow, It's OK to Tip Less or Even Tip Nothing
Be aware of your surroundings. Is service slow because the venue is slammed and the bartenders are doing their best to keep up, but just can’t? Or is it that the bartender/server just isn’t being attentive? How much you tip is always up to you, and they know that. Most just ask that you notice if they’re trying to get to you as fast as possible. They also know there are some people who just don’t care about their jobs or if you enjoy your night out. Tip as you see fit.

Rude Servers Don't Deserve a Good Tip
Again, be aware of your surroundings and let your intuition weigh in on your tip decision. People in the service industry are still people. They do their best to leave whatever may be stressing them at the door, but everyone has a bad day from time to time. Is your service industry professional actually being rude, or is he or she really busy and is prioritizing speedy service over small talk? Being aware of what’s going on outside of your table will help you understand your server’s behavior 99 percent of the time and will guide you to making a balanced gratuity conclusion.