Popular Tip Basics September 28, 2023 6 min read

Decoding Tipping Etiquette: A Comprehensive Guide

Decoding Tipping Etiquette: A Comprehensive Guide

Tipping, a practice as old as time, varies widely across cultures and scenarios, often leaving travelers and patrons puzzled about the appropriate amount to give. In today’s world, where technology prompts tip requests at every turn, understanding when and how much to tip can be a perplexing task. To provide clarity on this intricate aspect of social etiquette, we’ve compiled insights from various sources and experts in the field.

Tipping Guidelines: How Much to Tip in Different Scenarios

The landscape of tipping has evolved, prompting a shift in habits due to factors like the elimination of tipping-subsidized wages. As a result, clear guidance on tipping becomes increasingly important.

When it comes to tipping, etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts provides a simple guideline: “Any time a service is performed, a gratuity is required.” Let’s explore some common scenarios where tipping is customary:

Tipping Restaurant Servers

Tipping restaurant servers is a way to acknowledge their efforts and ensure they can make a decent living in a field where income can be variable. 20% of the bill has become the standard tip for sit-down restaurants, while 10% is the norm for quick-service establishments. This shift in norms has seen 15% become relatively paltry compared to the expected 20%. 

It’s worth noting that upscale restaurants may include a service fee, so always check your bill.

Tipping for Takeout

The practice of tipping has shifted for takeout orders. We suggest appropriate tip amounts based on the complexity and size of the order. According to The Emily Post Institute, there is no obligation, but they recommend 10% for extra service (curb delivery) or a large, complicated order.

Tipping for Delivery

When it comes to food delivery, tipping 10-15% of the bill, and $2-5 for pizza delivery depending on the size of the order and difficulty of delivery is customary according to the Emily Post Institute. Delivery drivers face unique challenges, and tipping them appropriately is crucial.

Tipping at Bars

Tipping bartenders is essential, but the amount varies based on effort and complexity. Tips should be provided on open tabs and per-drink orders. Bartenders generally receive tips amounting to about $1 to $2 per drink or 15% to 20% of the tab. If you’re running a tab, it’s customary to leave a single tip when closing out your bill. Additionally, we highlight the significance of additional tips for personalized or off-menu drink requests.

Tipping for Coffee

Tipping for coffee follows similar principles as tipping at bars. We suggest appropriate tip amounts based on the simplicity or complexity of coffee orders. While there’s no obligation to tip, it’s appreciated, especially if you’re a regular customer or have a special order. Professionals at Food & Wine recommend that if you order a simple coffee, $1 per cup is sufficient. However, if your coffee order resembles a novel, it’s recommended to tip your barista between $2-3 per cup.

Hotel Valet Staff

Tipping valet staff is proper, especially if they provide services like retrieving your vehicle or hailing a cab. An initial tip of about $2 to $3, followed by $1 to $2 for subsequent services, aligns with tipping norms.

Hotel Concierge

Tipping hotel concierge staff typically involves offering about $5 to $15, depending on the service rendered. It’s essential to tip for additional services beyond standard assistance.

Hotel Housekeeping

Tipping housekeeping staff generally starts at $2 to $5 for the initial service, with an additional $1 to $3 per night. The tip amount varies depending on the hotel and the level of cleaning provided.

Salon/Spa Workers

Salon and spa workers, like massage therapists or hair and nail care professionals, generally receive tips in the range of 15% to 20% of the service cost. Ensure that a gratuity isn’t already added to your bill.

Taxi Drivers, Lyft Drivers, or Uber Drivers

When using ride-sharing services, consider tipping about 15% to 20% of the fare, with a minimum of $1. Additional tips for baggage handling are also customary.

Tour Guide and Instructor

Chris Andrews, owner of Bienville Bites Food Tour, suggests that the standard gratuity in the tour industry is typically 15-20% of the tour cost. While not required, leaving a gratuity is a way for guests to show appreciation for the tour guides knowledge, enthusiasm, and effort.

Tipping While Traveling

Traveling internationally introduces another layer of complexity to tipping. Tipping customs vary widely across cultures and countries. In some places, a service charge is automatically included in the bill, eliminating the need for additional tipping. In contrast, attempting to tip in countries where it’s not expected can lead to awkward or uncomfortable situations.

Researching the tipping customs of your destination before traveling is advisable. In some countries, like Israel, tipping is not only customary but expected, with rates ranging from 10% to 20%. However, tourists are usually forgiven for not adhering to precise local norms.

Different Ways to Tip Service Professionals

Here are various ways to leave tips for service industry workers, whether you prefer traditional cash or digital options.

Tipping in Cash

This is the traditional and most direct method. You can leave cash as a tip on the table at restaurants, in a tip jar at cafes, or hand it directly to the service provider. Tipping in cash offers several benefits, including avoiding credit card fees, and ensuring the providers receive the full amount.

Credit/Debit Card 

Many establishments offer the option to add a tip when paying by card. You can choose a percentage or specify a custom tip amount. Credit card and digital wallet payments have increasingly replaced cash transactions. When patrons use credit cards, the process of leaving a tip has become simpler. Payment software often calculates tips automatically, providing patrons with recommended tip percentages and specific dollar/cent amounts. 

Digital Tipping

Apps like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or various mobile banking apps often have features to add tips when making digital payments.

When ordering food delivery or rideshare services through apps like Uber Eats or DoorDash, you can add a tip through the app.

For situations where you want to tip someone digitally but don’t have cash, you can use peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo or PayPal to send a tip.

Services like Zelle allow you to send money to someone using just their email address or phone number, making it convenient for digital tipping.

There are apps specifically designed for tipping service professionals. You can find apps that use QR codes that allow you to tip baristas, waitstaff, and more with just a few taps.


In conclusion, tipping etiquette can be a perplexing aspect of social interaction, but with insights from service professionals, we hope to demystify this practice. As customs and expectations continue to evolve, being mindful of tipping practices and offering gratuities when appropriate can contribute to a positive and mutually beneficial experience for both service providers and patrons.

Tipping isn’t just a financial transaction; it’s a gesture of appreciation for the hardworking individuals who make our experiences memorable. So, whether you’re sipping a latte at a café, embarking on a food tour, or enjoying a spa day, let your tip reflect the gratitude you feel for the exceptional service you receive.

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