Tipping in America: How much should you really give when dining out in the US?

Tipping is a requirement when eating out in America, but just how much is appropriate is often up for debate.

A recent report from theWall Street Journal showed that tipping practices in the United States have changed rapidly since the beginning of the pandemic, as customers are being prompted to leave tips in self-checkout lines at airports, grocery stores, stadiums, and cafes.

Some believe that tip screens in self-checkout lines feel like “emotional blackmail”, while companies argue that that tipping is completely optional and that tips at self-checkout stations are split between staff members.

As tipping practices in the US continue to rapidly change, many people are left wondering exactly how much to leave as a tip?

In New York, it’s customary to leave between 15 and 20 per cent of the total bill before tax is included. Others insist on tipping 20 per cent, but some say that 18 per cent is the bare minimum. Meanwhile, food site Eater confidently stated that a 20 per cent tip should always be left – no matter where you are dining.

The 20 per cent rule also extends to cocktail bars, delivery, and “fast-casual counter service,” according to Eater critics, who explained that it should be done even if you are simply ordering at a counter and having the food delivered to your table.

Many people argue that a generous gratuity should even be left at fast-casual establishments due to the amount of work servers actually do in these places – like bussing tables, bringing food to the customers, keeping the restaurant clean, and taking orders.

Still, beliefs on acceptable tipping ranges vary – with some diners feeling the symbol of gratitude should be earned, not expected.

Speaking to The Independent, experts were divided on the appropriate amount to tip. Diane Gottsman – a national etiquette expert, author, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas – told The Independent that “tipping 20 per cent is standard for restaurant servers” and “delivery drivers should also receive 15 to 20 per cent when there is inclement weather and large orders to be delivered.”

Yes, it is even common practice to tip taxi (and Uber) drivers in the US, as well as bellhops and food delivery workers. The New York Times says that taxi drivers should be tipped between 15 and 20 per cent, while bellhops tend to receive $2 per bag in luxury hotels.

But according to William Michael Lynn, a professor in food and beverage management in Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and tipping expert, a 20 per cent tip can be reserved for good service.

“I think 20 per cent is something you give for very good service, it is NOT a standard tip,” he told us.

As a general rule, one should tip “courteously and graciously,” according to Gottsman.