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How Much to Tip Your Server

January 3rd, 2013 Personal Finance

It's not always easy to figure out how much you should be leaving your waiter or waitress, but luckily there are guidelines to follow and conventions to keep in mind.

Standard tips
Typically, a restaurant tip should be 15 to 20 percent of the total bill. Leave 15 percent of the check if you felt that your server did his job but didn't really go out of his way to serve you. If your waitress answered questions about the menu, listened to your concerns and gave prompt, attentive service, go ahead and leave 20 percent. If you weren't at all satisfied, you could pay less than the standard amount or talk to the manager, but keep in mind that waitstaff depend on gratuity rather than an hourly wage to make a living.

Serving team
Generally, your server doesn't get to pocket the extra money you choose to provide. It's either put into a pool and divided up by a point system or spread out among the different people who helped get your food on the table, including bus boys, runners, back waiters and bartenders. Everyone shares the funds and has to pay taxes on them.

Hidden charges
Be aware that some restaurants may charge extra for late night meals or large parties. The restaurant may add a standard gratuity (which should be calculated based on the total bill before tax), in which case you don't have to pay an additional tip unless you want to.

Easy calculating
Instead of whipping out pen and paper or using your cell phone's tip calculator, it's not that hard to determine the amount in your head. It's easy to take 10 percent of a bill. Just move the decimal point over to the left one space. For example, 10 percent of a $32.50 bill would be $3.25. For 15 percent, just add on half of that, and double it for 20 percent. Not too bad!