Bar and Restaurant Tipping Guide

What is a tip?

A tip is a gratuity. A sum of money given to someone for a service rendered. The word "tips" stands for To Insure Proper Service.

What is a good tip?

Restaurant Server

A good tip is 15% of your pretax bill. If you receive an excellent service, then you should tip 20% or more.

Not good with percentages or there is no calculator present
If you can't calculate the percentage, look at how much is the tax and double it. If you double the amount of the tax and leave it as a tip, you will be OK. Doubling the tax is usually between 15 and 20 percent depending on where you are.


A good tip is about 20% of your bill or $1 per drink. Usually people will tip 1 through 5 dollars when they buy a couple of drinks. You are welcome to leave more money. Many people will leave bigger tips when they receive a great service. It's a way of saying,"Thank you!"

Note: If you order drinks that require more time to make, you should tip more. Example: Blended drinks, layered drinks, drinks that required muddling, etc.

Should I leave a tip if I got a bad service?

Restaurant Server

Yes, but don't leave 15%. If you got a horrible service, you should leave a quarter. When you leave a quarter, it means that you didn't forget to tip, but the server does not deserve it.


It is really unusual that you get a bad service from a bartender, but if it happens to you, don't leave a tip.

If I got an OK service, how much do I have to tip?

Restaurant Server

Here is the basic breakdown:

  • Horrible Service: Tip a quarter (It shows that you didn't forget to leave a tip, but the server doesn't deserve one.)
  • Poor Service: Leave a 5% tip
  • Fair Service: Leave a 10% tip
  • Good Service: Leave a 15% tip
  • Great Service: Leave a 20% tip
  • Excellent Service: Leave a 25% tip or more


If you got a bad service, don't leave a tip. Otherwise, leave 20% of your bill or $1 per drink.

Do I have to leave a tip when I buy a drink?

It's not that you have to; it's the right thing to do. Remember that you are getting a service and that a tip is the payment for that service. Bartenders work hard for their tips. Please be generous to them.

How much do bartenders make?

Bartenders make minimum wage or less. In addition, they get taxed on their tips. Their pay checks are very small after all the deductions. Their income comes from the tips received from the customers and not much from the pay checks that they get from the place they work at. All bartenders rely on tips for their living.

Note: A tip is not extra money; it's the bartender's income. Some bartenders don't even get a pay check.

Do bartenders get taxed on their tips?

Most people don't know this. Well, it is time for you to know it. Bartenders, severs and cocktail waitresses get taxed on their tips. Tips are income and are subject to federal income tax.

How can the government get the tax from your tips?

The government doesn't have access to the tips, but they have access to the pay check. The government will get the tax from tips out of the pay checks.

Note: Some bartenders don't get a pay check because all the money was taken out of their check.

How does the government know how much you made on tips?

When a customer leaves a tip with a credit card or debit card, it automatically gets recorded in the computer. In addition, when a bartender clocks out, he has to report how much he made in cash tips.

The amount of tips that servers and bartenders have to declare should be at least 8% of their sales. If they fail to do that, they will get Allocated Tips on their W-2.

What happens if you don't tell the government how much you made on tips?

All bartenders, servers and cocktail waitresses have to report their tips. The tip amount should be at least 8 percent of their sales. If an employee fails to report his tips, the employer will assign Allocated Tips on the employee's W-2.

What are Allocated Tips?

Allocated tips are tips that the employer assigned to a server or bartender in addition to the tips that the employee reported for the year. The employer will do this when the tips reported by the employee (server or bartender) where less than the 8% of food and drink sales.

Note: If a server or bartender has Allocated Tips on his W-2, he will have to pay taxes on that amount. If you would like to know more about Allocated Tips external link, please visit the IRS website.

Internal Tipping

Besides the customers tipping the wait staff, there is also internal tipping between fellow employees. Here is a general idea of how it works:

  • Bartenders tip barbacks and food runners.
  • Cocktail Waitresses tip bartenders and bus boys.
  • Food Servers tip the bartender, the bus boy and the expo/food runner.

Note: Every establishment is different and the tipping may vary from place to place. This is just a general idea of who tips who.

Do I have to tip?

Bartenders make minimum wage or less. All the bartenders rely on tips for their living. That's their major income. Bartenders work hard for their tips. Please be generous to them.

Tip Chart

Tip chart with a 20% tip calculation from the total
Bill TotalTip (20%)