T Nation

The rules of dining


Well, I approach my 1 year anniversary of:

  1. college graduation
  2. part time bus boy work at a "famous" restaurant to help pay back loans

Over the past year, I have learned many lessons, the biggest one being that people are really godamn annoying to wait staff (and restaurant staff in general)

A few rules I wish everyone would follow:

  1. A tip should start at 20%. This percentage should go down if the service sucks, and possibly up a little if it is exceptional. 20% should be the baseline though. Plan on this 20% when deciding if you can eat at a restaurant or not. If you can only afford to tip 5%, you are wasting space in a busy place that survives on tips (from dishwashers to cooks to bartenders, tips pay a lot of people, not just your server)

  2. When a busboy approaches (such as myself), at least have the courtesy of acknowledging his presence. He or she is busy, and gets really annoyed when you completely ignore him, trying to clear your plate away.

  3. If you get drunk, please do not proposition the wait staff. That hunky little busboy might be great for your "slummin it" fantasies, but really, he isn't interested in your 50 year old ass.

  4. Never utter the words "I coulda licked the plate!" or, when your plate is completely clean "I really hated that!" The busboy hears these jokes at least 450 times per night, night in, night out, and they aren't funny.

  5. Accept and understand that meat is served rare in a restaurant, yes, even pork. Don't get in a huff when your steak is bloody. This is the way that meat tastes best, and chefs understand this. Don't order it well done, you're wasting 30 bucks.

  6. Just because someone is bussing tables, waiting tables, or bartending does not mean they are unintelligent or shiftless. In fact, many might be recent college graduates with degrees in philosophy. Don't try to dumb down your language, as if they are cattle.

  7. Finally, please don't breastfeed in the middle of a crowded restaurant.



Generally I agree, but:

A 20% tip huh? Baseline? Cultural difference is a strange thing.

In NZ tipping is virtually non-existent.

As for the 5% tip wasting your time. Gee, what if a poor couple has scrimped and saved for a very special meal to celebrate something and they can't afford the tip you want - guess they're a waste of space?

I agree with you that people are wasting their money wanting a steak well done, but if they're paying for it then shut up and give them what they want, you aren't being paid to approve or disapprove of their ill-educated eatng habits.


got all those down bro. my mom is doing a bit of waitressing and I always try to tip the older women more. kinda reminds me of mom, ya know?

breastfeeding in the middle of a busy restaurant? man, kinda like to see that.


Hey Iscariot, you're really rude, seriously, check yourself before speaking. Yeah, some poor couple blah blah. Probably not more poor than the server making minimum wage. In fact, many states have a SEPARATE minimum for servers, which is significantly lower.

In Indiana, I made 2.17 an hour, plus tips. In Oregon, it is 6.90.

Yes, a 5% tip couple is a waste of space, especially in busy restaurant. They should save a little longer for tip money, then go.

Okay, the 20% thing is mostly for finer dining, especially places that tip "on down the line". For example, our servers tip out 7% of their total sales to the other waitstaff, so if they make 15% tips, they really only clear 8%.

That means, Iscariot, that if they were tipped 5% by tightwads like you, they lose 3% of their sales. Funny, huh?

15%, in many places (like bars, less expensive restaurants) might be the norm, but every server I've ever known is striving for 20% as a measure of success.

By the way, these are the rules I see as important, things that will make you well liked and favored in the restaurant world. There will always be assholes who think we should "shut-up and serve" though, and they will always be despised.



BTW, having a shitty week bussing, if you haven't already noticed. Sorry for any bitterness that comes out in this thread.


The range for tipping is 10-20% in Canada, 15-20% in the US, nothing in Oz or NZ. So starting at 20% is a bit on the steep side.

It's funny about expectations. I've left a 20%+ tip on more than a few occaisions, some of them on a $150 two person dinner but I've never seen more appreciation for a tip than the .35 Euros I gave a barkeep in a little place in Germany. The whole bill was like 5.65 and I told him to keep the rest and his face lit up like it was Christmas and when he said "Danke" you knew he meant it. I've never really seen anything like that in the US. The waitstaffs here have more of a feeling of entitlement I think.

Breastfeeding. Well, the kid isn't going to tip you for the free meal from mommy but it's part of life, grow up and deal. I'd rather see that than some rude bastard chewing with his mouth open...even if he tips you a ton.

If I had a four year degree I'd certainly hope it would get me a better job than bussing tables. If the degree was in philosophy I'd hope I could be more philosophic about a poor tip. Maybe the guy could afford it but I interupted his chance at seducing his date...who knows?


Rare pork? No thank you.


I'm not the only rude one, Rumbach.

I actually tip for good service - so I'm not sure where you get off calling me a tightwad, but hey, fuck you too.

As for the "shut up and serve". I agreed with you in principle - if you bothered to read before your knee hit you in the head on the way up - but the thing is if someone is paying to have things their way then it's not your place as the server to tell them they're wrong [even if they are].

Service goes both ways, I dine out a lot, I've done industry service courses and the thing that's as bad as rude, ignorant patrons is uppity, self-satisfied service staff who believe they're more important than the people they're providing service for. [General statement, not necessarily you; you've never served me so I can't comment]


Why don't the restaurants just pay well so we don't have to tip? It just sounds like the restaurant being cheap, not us. Am I missing something obvious here?



A few comments:

  • Yes, tipping overseas tends to be practically nonexistant when compared to tipping in the US.

  • You think your server freaked out with a .35 Euro tip, Steely... I gave several servers the standard 15% when over there last time--they nearly had a heart attack.

  • In the kind of restaurant Rumbach works at, breastfeediing should not be going on. Hell, the friggin' kid shouldn't be there in the first place.

  • Don't give Rumbach any shit about employment. He (and I) live in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the Union, and it isn't exactly a entry-level job market right now.


Neil, the reality is that restaurants have outsourced part of their labor cost to you directly. That is now the standard practice in the U.S. If you have a problem with that, it's not fair to take it out on your server.

That said, do you really believe prices would stay the same if there were no tipping and labor costs were fully paid by the restaurant? No, because they would still be fully paid by you, the patron, in the form of higher overall costs. It would make the server's income curve a bit smoother, though.

My parents were in the restaurant business all their lives, and I am an excellent tipper. That's one awful industry.


NeilG, some places (not the US) pay their employees so you don't have to. Here, apparently cheap restauranteurs have determined the culture. :slightly_smiling:

But Rumbach, I completely agree with most of your points. There are some insanely rude assholes in this world. Anyone who's worked for tips knows this. I feel your pain.


Oh, yeah, the breast-feeding thing in the middle of the restaurant is atrocious (in our culture, anyway). There are better places to do that, and like Ike said, the child probably shouldn't be there in most cases/restaurants.


I agree, tipping should be understood to be 20%. for average service. The entire universe should be made aware of the fact that servers earn $2.13 an hour. People entering this country should be handed a pamphlet ordering them to tip more than $5 on a $200 bill, or they will be immediately deported. Especially when they walk into a restaraunt 10 minutes before closing and order a feast.

Secondly, Telling a joke about licking a plate may be corny, but when they actually slap the plate out of your hand snatch up the plate and start lapping up the extra sauce on the plate. Not cool.
I dont mind getting hit on, unless you take revenge on my tip when I dont succumb to your request to head back to the Ritz Carlton. Although the prospect of the threesome, with two milfy 45 year olds was tempting. resume experience, you know.

DO NOT ask your waiter for your phone number, with the premise that he will be getting some ass out of the deal, only to entrap him at starbucks with an Amway sales pitch with your husband and his impish mentor bosslady.

About you being talked to like an idiot. . . .to ensure that they knew I wasnt a complete moron, I always made sure to let them know that I was starting grad school in the fall and had just finished a design project with Boeing/NASA for the next generation launch vehicle. Being a waiter is the BEST contact for jobs in a new area (ten job offers in one summer).


iscarot, by the way, the tip should be incorperated into their meal before ordering. If you dont have enough to tip properly, dont go out. If they had scrimped to go to a special dinner, they could have scrimped a little more and properly tip the server. I udnerstand that tipping may not be standard where you are from. these rules apply here in the US.

Steelyeyes, big tips are not only always appreciated, but typically if you come in more than once, you will be remembered and get hooked up BIG time.
The next time a nice tipper would come in, or maybe the third time, non alcoholic drinks would usually be free. Birthday cheescake would come around after dinner, and I would usually try to hook them up with free apps.
you might not notice the appreciation because the server doesnt want to chase you down and say thank you. I always found it to be rude to look at the tip before they left the table anyway.


I've worked as a waiter for too damn long in my opinion and I think Rum is spot on on all of them except for #5. Anyone can order it how they want, just don't bitch when it comes like you ordered it and say "But that's not what medium looks like at my house."

I totally agree with #1. When I wait tables, I'm a pretty damn good waiter and I show concern for the customers and make sure they enjoy their experience. I'm not doing this for minimum wage and my love of people. I'm doing it to pay the bills. So, if you do save up for a night out, why not wait another week and make sure you have enough money to tip the person who made sure your evening went well? Cheap tippers are my biggest annoyance.

8)If you are a bad tipper, don't plan on going back to the same place to eat. You will be remembered and not fondly.


A tip should not be expected, it should be earned. And yes, I have been a waitress and I made way more money waiting tables, in spite of my $5.25/hour salary, than much more "prestigious" jobs I have had. I averaged closer to $50-$60/hour after tipping out the kitchen. However, I never approached a table thinking I was owed anything or assuming that I would be collecting anything other than the amount on the check. I detest sloppy service, and I tip accordingly if I get it. On the other hand, I am very generous when it is warranted.


I absolutely agree with tipping beginning at 20%. I've never tipped less than 20%, but I've also had 2 jobs where tips were basically my entire takehome so I know what it's like. I think everyone should work a job that requires tips at least once in their life, whehter it be waiter, busboy, delivery driver. The more a person tips the classier that person is. People that stiff waitstaff might as well be taking the money from their pocket.


BTW, the same rule applies to delivery boys. Just because your pizza has "free delivery" doesn't mean its ok to stiff the driver. Driver's deserve just as much as waiters, their the ones using their cars and their gas through gridlocked traffic so you can sit on your ass and watch Oprah while you eat. If anything, tip for your own sake, if your a regular in a restauraunt don't you want people to want to help you? If you stiff regularly your more than likely to get lousy service. I'm a delivery driver for an italian restraunt and we remember who tips and who doesn't. The people that tip well will always get their food faster becuase everyone else keeps passing the order down the line until someone is stuck with it, by then its 30 minutes old.



"That said, do you really believe prices would stay the same if there were no tipping and labor costs were fully paid by the restaurant? No, because they would still be fully paid by you, the patron, in the form of higher overall costs. It would make the server's income curve a bit smoother, though."

Yeah, the prices would go up. That's fine by me, since it's less work for me and more stable pay for the worker.