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6 Tipping Mistakes You're Making When You Go Out to Eat, Experts Say

You should always keep these pointers in mind when calculating gratuity.

It's common knowledge that whenever you go out to eat, you're expected to tip your server. In fact, it's so ingrained in the hospitality industry that it's the one place where most people don't forget to leave a little something extra. But even as a steadfast rule of the dining experience, there are still a few faux pas you can make when you go to pay the bill. Read on for the worst tipping mistakes you're making when you go out to eat, according to etiquette experts.

READ THIS NEXT: 6 Surprising New Rules for Tipping, According to Etiquette Experts.

You're forgetting to consider discounts or coupons.

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

There's nothing better than getting a free or heavily discounted meal thanks to a gift certificate or coupon. But while this will reduce how much money goes toward the restaurant, it should never cut into the server's expected share.

"Diners make the mistake of forgetting to tip for the full amount of the bill if they are dining using a Groupon dining deal or a restaurant gift certificate," says Jules Hirst, an etiquette and lifestyle coach and founder of Etiquette Consulting. "It is important to tip based on the total amount of the bill. Your server performed the same service whether you paid full price or a discounted amount and should not be dinged because of it."

You're letting the money do all the talking.


Don't be mistaken: Servers are thrilled when you leave the appropriate gratuity after a pleasant meal. However, adding a bit extra in the way of politeness can go a long way toward ensuring staff knows how much you appreciate them—especially when it's with people you regularly see at your favorite spots.

"Tipping isn't just about the money: It's also about expressing gratitude," Kristi Spencer, etiquette expert and founder of The Polite Company, tells Best Life. "Don't forget to accompany your monetary tip with a genuine and sincere thank you."

READ THIS NEXT: 6 Places You Should Never Tip, According to Etiquette Experts.

You're not tipping on gifted items.

slow yourself down at dinner is Things You Should do at a fancy restaurant

Nothing beats a little gift from the kitchen or bar during a meal. However, this is one situation where it should remain clear why "gratuity" sounds so much like "gratitude."

"If you receive complimentary items such as a free drink or dessert, you should add the estimated value of those items to your total bill and include them in your tip calculation," says Hirst. "Sure, they were free, but the bartender or server went out of their way to make your experience special, so increasing the tip accordingly is good practice."

You're generally not tipping enough.

server picking up tip
Sean Locke Photography / Shutterstock

While everyone knows you should be leaving something as a tip, some diners still get anxious about just how much that should be. Fortunately, experts have finally weighed in on what's considered appropriate.

"Tipping on the pre-tax amount of your bill is acceptable, but tipping on the total amount is always appreciated," says Spencer. "And if you're still tipping 15 percent at full-service sit-down restaurants, it's time to increase it to 20 percent."

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You're punishing them for something that wasn't their fault.

Poor customer service from restaurant waiter.

Restaurants are fast-paced environments where honest mistakes can happen before anyone realizes them. However, this doesn't mean you should be taking out your frustration when you go to pay the bill.

"Don't deduct or lower the tip amount to punish your server for circumstances during your meal that were beyond their control," says Spencer.

Other experts agree, pointing out that waitstaff aren't the only ones working on getting you a meal. "Often, this is not the server's mistake, but the kitchen's," says etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts.

You're undertipping delivery workers.


Even when you're dining at home, there are still plenty of rules to consider when it comes to tipping. This is especially true in the post-pandemic world, where apps and services have made the process of who's getting paid what more confusing.

"It is customary to see a delivery fee on the bill breakdown, but most times, this delivery fee is not the tip but a fee charged by the restaurant that does not go to the delivery person, so you would need to add a few buck tip for the delivery driver," says Hirst.

And if you've opted to stick on your couch instead of holding your reservation due to bad weather, you should show appreciation when your delivery makes it to your door. "Your driver is braving the conditions you chose to avoid, so they should be rewarded accordingly," she explains.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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