Here’s a holiday conversation starter guaranteed to heat up the room.
- Americans are generous tippers.
- The average American spends $50/month on restaurant tips.
- You can stay generous and reduce your tipping expenses by eating out at the right time and picking the right credit card.
Diners wend their way to reserved tables. The server approaches yours and delivers your food. As you settle in for a hot meal, you notice something offensive on your plate. A closer look reveals the object to be a long human hair.
Gross. It’s certainly not yours. The food is probably fine, but eating the dish just feels wrong.
You flag the server down, and they offer to replace the meal. You accept, but you’re forced to wait for round two. Your family chows down without you. Question is, do you tip the server? If so, how much?
Tips for best service
We took a look at the average American’s monthly expenses. Of the nearly $700 spent monthly on food, we spend $253 on eating out at restaurants and takeout. I probably spend at least double that — yummy food is a weakness of mine.
Americans tip big. The average American tips 20% for flawless service, according to data from Discover Credit. That number can dip to as low as 6% if the tipper discovers a hair in their food or — heaven forbid — the server is rude.
The average American spends around $50 per month, or $600 per year, on restaurant tips for excellent service. The number shrinks to $30 for those who mostly order food for delivery.
But there’s a fair amount of situations where service isn’t perfect. Everything from slow drink refills to failing to replace a meal can trigger irritation amongst diners, which leads to lower tips.
Tips for the worst service
Messed-up drinks. A clueless server. Slow service at an empty restaurant. A bad experience makes for lower tips. It’s a game of money limbo — how low can you go without feeling bad?
Here are some of the worst things a server can do to diners, according to Discover:
- Be rude (average 7% tip)
- Don’t replace food after a hair is found in the meal (average 11% tip)
- Don’t speed up service after being asked (average 11% tip)
A server who commits any of these sins should expect to find themselves grimacing at the business end of a lower tip. Women and current/former servers tend to be more forgiving of mistakes than men and non-service workers.
Hard-working servers deserve to earn income for their service — that’s why folks tip. Thankfully, it’s possible to be a generous tipper and save on monthly tipping expenses.
Stay generous, save money
Tips cost money. No amount of money magic will turn your generosity into pure income. That sacrifice is part of what makes tipping such a gratifying experience. But you can lighten the load in small ways.
Here are a few ways to stay generous and save:
- Try visiting a restaurant during happy hour. Food is cheaper, and your usual tip will look huge.
- Be courteous. A happy server will replace your messed-up food, no charge.
- Pay with a card that gives 5% cash back on dining out. The best dining and restaurant credit cards can refund you a quarter of your tip, or more.
From the hair salon to the mechanic, folks tip. How much should you tip remains a contentious question, especially among restaurant-goers. Nobody likes to find hair in their salami sandwich. It’s still a good idea to stay generous and save where you can.
Oh, and pat yourself on the back — you now have a nifty conversational firework up your sleeve. Deploy with caution.
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