Should You Tip at a Coffee Shop? Experts Weigh in on Tipping Etiquette for Different Dining Experiences

Professional etiquette coach Maryanne Parker gives guidance for gratuity at cafés, bars, restaurants and more

<p>Getty</p> Experts talked to PEOPLE about tipping etiquette


Experts talked to PEOPLE about tipping etiquette

If you feel confused about how much to tip — or whether to tip at all — when going out to eat, grabbing a coffee or ordering food delivery, you’re not alone.

“Only about a third of people said it was either extremely easy or very easy to know whether to tip,” Drew DeSilver, the author of a 2023 Pew Research Center report on tipping, tells PEOPLE.  “That alone indicates to me that there's a lot of uncertainty about tipping.”

It's even become a meme. Viral videos on TikTok and Instagram show content creators flipping a phone or tablet around with a suggested tip on the screen. Though the videos are parodies (some people are simply unloading their own dishwashers), the concept isn't that far from reality.

“People are feeling like more places are asking for tips, or at least inviting them to tip, than in years past,” DeSilver says.

To help clear up the confusion, PEOPLE also spoke with professional etiquette coach, Maryanne Parker, for guidance. In general, she recommends not overthinking the gratuity process and prioritizing having a good time while eating out or purchasing food.

Related: Experts Weigh in on Restaurant Etiquette — from Tipping to Stacking Dirty Plates

“Use your common sense,” she says. “Don't feel obligated to tip more than you can afford because then this beautiful experience will leave you with this feeling of dissatisfaction.”

But she recognizes the anxiety many customers feel when deciding how to approach tipping.

“Tipping has a lot of emotional connotations,” says Parker. “On some occasions you’re shamed about tipping. When you go to certain establishments, they show you this screen, and you're kind of forced to tip — that doesn't really sit well.”

Many people tend to agree with Parker; according to DeSilver’s report, more Americans were against suggested tips than in favor of them.

“What we teach as etiquette professionals is that we want to make people feel very comfortable around us,” she explains. “When I'm forced with those tipping screens, I feel uncomfortable. Some people feel annoyed. Other people feel ashamed because they cannot [afford to] leave a tip.”

Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images At restaurants with full table service, tipping is recommended
Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images At restaurants with full table service, tipping is recommended

In situations where an employee is going out of the way to improve your experience, Parker says that tipping should be expected — and for good reason. “Going out, part of the experience is having good service. Otherwise, we'd stay at home and cook,” she says.

When you sit down at a full-service restaurant, you should consistently leave a tip, Parker recommends.

“You do need to tip, especially for good service," she says. "The standard for the last several years has been 20%,” she adds, though research shows many guests tip slightly lower than that.

When it comes to restaurants with a built-in gratuity charge, she says “it’s a personal choice if you want to tip more," but it isn't necessary.

Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images Maryanne Parker explains proper tipping etiquette in different situations to PEOPLE
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images Maryanne Parker explains proper tipping etiquette in different situations to PEOPLE

You should also be prepared to tip when visiting a bar. Although some tipping guides indicate that leaving $1 per drink for a bartender is enough, Parker advises tipping a bit more than that.

“I think that $1 is actually a little offensive these days,” Parker says. “At least $2 per drink. That’s the minimum.”

In recent years, gratuity at cafés has become cloudy, but Parker simplifies the equation. If you’re grabbing a coffee to go, you should feel no obligation to tip, she explains. However, she does recommend leaving something if you sit down in a café with excellent service.

“I would tip. A little coffee can change your entire mood for the day. You don't need to tip 20%, but 15% would be ideal for coffee and pastries,” she says.

Related: What Is Proper Movie Theater Etiquette? An Expert's Advice for Parents and Other Moviegoers

Of course, tipping etiquette is nuanced. If you're a regular at a coffee shop, tipping is a nice gesture, she adds.

“A place that I go to every couple of days and they know me personally — maybe I want a cappuccino with a sprinkle of sea salt and caramel, and they make it exactly the way I want — of course I'm going to tip them, even if I don't sit there," she says.

While Parker says it’s unnecessary to tip employees when picking up take-out or grabbing food at a fast-casual restaurant with counter service, you should plan on tipping at least $5 or more when ordering delivery food. Increasing the rate is necessary especially if it’s a larger order with more people involved.

Bottom line: Parkers says it's important to keep in mind the delivery worker's efforts.

“They drive, wait in a queue and spend their gas — you want to be mindful of that," she says.

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