Over a year ago, I wrote quick post while out for dinner and drinks. It went like this:

While at a restaurant tonight, the bartender made the PERFECT Gibson. 

I asked the waitress for a Gin Martini, shaken.  She offered onions; I said yes.  The Bartender filled in the blanks.

So, I got up from our table, walked to the bar, complimented the Bartender, and tipped him cash directly.

I’ve since been at multiple other establishments, spoken to many bartenders and waitresses, and I’ve now come to some conclusions.

First up, here in the U.S. of A., tipping is standard.  Even if you HATE the food/drink, you still tip, because a 5 cent tip is a bigger insult than no tip.

What I do while out in a restaurant setting is the following:

I start off assuming a 20% tip. The longer you make we wait for standard fare (like, oh, coming to the table, offering water… or MENUS) the more I start taking off of that tip. Make me wait 15 minutes before offering me water or a drink? That’s a 2% penalty. Forget menus? 1% penalty. Screw up my order: 5%. Screw up my wife’s order: 8% penalty and I complain to your manager.

Of course, if the drinks and food are excellent, the tip will go back up again. [Don’t forget, most restaurants put ALL of the tips into the same till and share it out to the waitstaff, cooks, and bartenders.]

Now, if you start off strong with great service, and things just get better with great food & drinks and plenty of chat and attention, I’ll not only leave a hefty tip, but I’ll ask for the Manager on Duty and compliment everyone involved in making my visit awesome. Even the bus boy. (Yes, the wife and I have complimented attentive bus boys to the Manager.)

The other scenario is while at the Bar.

I usually tip per drink. Beer: $2 tip. Cocktail: $3.

That will go up or down for the epicness or suckiness of the beverage, and for the service. Good beverage, tip goes up! Bad service, tip goes down. Vise-versa and various combinations/permutations abound.  I once tipped $10 on a $5 martini because it was excellent and the bartender was friendly and helpful.

If you start at the bar, then go to your table: close out your tab with the bartender and tip right there. It’s better for the staff if your happiness is traceable.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret: tip with cash at the bar.  Even if you can’t pay for the whole tab with cash, at least throw some cash down on the bar for your bartender.  You should do this as early as you can in the evening so that your bartender knows that you appreciate her/him.  This usually results in excellent attention to your needs.  Do it right, you might find that some of your drinks aren’t on the tab at the end of the night.  If this happens, tip even more.  Trust me.  If you ever come back, you’ll be remembered.