Ask It Results: How Much Do You Tip Your Servers?

Tipping is one of those topics where everyone has an opinion, and in almost every case, it is an opinion that can be justified. Historically, tipping has always been about providing a little something extra for someone who goes above and beyond. In restaurants, it’s harder to define what is above and beyond and what is expected of a server to provide for good service. Where it gets tricky is that servers depend on tips to make up for below “normal” minimum wage rates. I don’t think anyone could argue that you can have a comfortable living working 40 hours/week at the standard minimum wage. According to the Department of Labor, for servers in tipped positions in Florida, the minimum wage is $5.08/hour, which is considerably less than the still-unlivable $8.10/hour standard minimum wage. In short, servers depend on tips to be able to try and make a livable wage.

In the past, 15% was often seen as a standard tip amount for restaurants. According to Emily Post, the suggested tipping amounts are 15-20% pre-tax for sit-down restaurants and 10% pre-tax for buffets. Recently, TouringPlans’ own Len Testa was at a restaurant in New York where the suggested tipping amounts began at 20% and went up to 30%. And so, with all of these thoughts in mind, we asked you:

On average, how much do you tip your servers at a Disney table service restaurant?

Here are your results with 2,158 votes cast.

Flat Amount (36 votes, 2%)

I knew of an older gentleman who was very particular about his service back in the day. When he was seated at a restaurant, he’d put a stack of dollar bills at the edge of the table where the server could see them. If he felt he waited too long, he would remove a dollar. Drink went below half full, another dollar gone. Any criticism he had would see another dollar removed. At the end of the meal, whatever was left was the tip for the server. Thus, a good server would get a better tip than a poor server, regardless of the amount on the bill. I’ve also known individuals who have a flat amount in mind for how much they tip per person per meal. In their views, whether you’re ordering the $5 breakfast special at Denny’s or a $40 steak, the server still has to complete the same tasks, and so the value of the meal doesn’t matter–it’s the service that counts.

10-18% (568 votes, 26%)

By the Emily Post standard, 10-15% is acceptable for tipping depending on the type of meal you’re having. For Walt Disney World, if you’re using any sort of dining discount or have a party size of six or more, an automatic 18% gratuity is included. And so, for this range, it is the tried and true standard tipping that most people in the U.S. have been raised to give. Times, they say, are a’changing, and the results here show that either our readers are more generous than average, people tip more at Disney restaurants than they do at “normal” eateries, or the “standard” tip rate is going up. For some people who have the standard 18% tip included, some people responded that they toss in a few extra dollars to nudge it up closer to the 20% mark.

┬ęDisney

20% (1,466 votes, 68%)

Overwhelmingly, this is where most people voted. Is it because we recognize how hard servers work and feel they should be better compensated than they are? Is it because servers at Disney restaurants are far better on average than in non-Disney restaurants? Or is it because 20% is easier to calculate than 15% for most people? Whatever the reason, as one person pointed out, a couple extra dollars on a tip doesn’t really affect the person giving the tip all that much–you don’t go out to eat at a table service restaurant, especially at Disney, if you’re strapped for cash. But those couple extra dollars can make a world of difference for a server. And it is much easier to feel generous when you are in a good mood and relaxed on vacation.

25%+ (88 votes, 4%)

If we took this survey again in another 10 years or so, would 25% begin to become the new norm, or will we eventually see a time where, like in some European countries, tipping isn’t the norm? Some people noted that although they don’t tip above 20% often, for a favorite server or for someone who really goes above and beyond the call of duty, it is a kind gesture to provide a large tip. In the holiday season, I’ve been known to slip a few 50% or 100% tips to servers who I know really can use it or who provide such great service throughout the year that they almost feel like good friends. At least for now, however, a 25% tip or beyond is seen as a benchmark for exemplary service. (Or for extenuating circumstances–we would often tip more with a young child because there would be more mess than normal at the table. When researching for this article, I found a lovely article to the etiquette gurus asking how much you should tip when one vomits all over the table. I’ll spare you the link on that one, but Miss Manners essentially said it’s part of the job, and so while an extra 10% is gracious, it isn’t necessary. Sorry Miss Manners–I’m going to have to disagree on that point!)

So there you have it–this week’s results. Have you ever had a server that went so far above and beyond that you thought you couldn’t tip them enough for the experience they provided? Let us know in the comments. Meanwhile, next week’s much more light-hearted Ask It is live on Twitter and on the blog here. See you next week!

 

Julia Mascardo

Freelance writer and editor, living the dream in Central Florida with my husband, cats, and spirited eight-year-old daughter.

7 thoughts on “Ask It Results: How Much Do You Tip Your Servers?

  • November 1, 2017 at 11:23 am
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    I’ve seen the story about the vanishing stack of dollar bills before. I still don’t understand why any server would even bother to return to the table.

    • November 1, 2017 at 6:20 pm
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      I’ve always assumed that it was one of those urban legend-type things that only ever happens on TV shows.

  • November 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm
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    Question from someone from Europe, where tipping is not that common compared to US: are the tips all shared between all the waiters? Or is your tip 100% dedicated to the waiter who has served you?

    • November 1, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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      (In order to avoid any confusion: I do not have any problems with the concept of tipping in USA. I do belong to the 20% group, by the way)

      • November 1, 2017 at 1:40 pm
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        It depends on the restaurant. It’s an internal thing that the general public doesn’t often know. I think in most chain restaurants the server keeps their own tips; it seems like locally owned places tend more towards pooling.

    • November 1, 2017 at 6:18 pm
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      Typically the tips are server-specific, but they are shared with any food runners and bussers that were helping in that server’s section.

  • November 2, 2017 at 11:29 am
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    Having read the little write ups that go with the percentages, I’m leaning a bit toward flat rate. I would say that the person who serves me a cheap meal works just as hard as the one who brings me steak. Never thought about it that way. This is how I tipped room service on our Disney Cruise. I gave a per item tip ($5 min.). I actually voted 20% because that’s what I usually leave now everywhere. My family is in food service and I feel that is what is expected. I personally think restaurants should just pay their staff better and not make them rely on the generosity of customers for a decent salary.

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