How Much People Actually Tip At Restaurants

Today, tipping is a customary practice that's more or less expected when dining in the United States. Because the federal minimum wage for servers is only $2.13, tips are meant to supplement the remainder of their income until it reaches the main minimum wage of $7.25 (via Time). Though tipping in Europe isn't integral to workers' wages, it's not unheard of to leave a few euros (via AFAR). This is how tipping made its way into the United States in the first place — when wealthy Americans observed it in Europe and brought the idea back stateside.

The new custom was immediately contested in the United States and Europe alike. According to co-founder and president of ROC United Saru Jayaraman (per Time), the protests, which considered tipping "classist," are why servers in Europe don't rely on tips for compensation like American workers do. However, after Civil War times, America saw the benefits of keeping tipping around. Tipping allowed slavery to continue even after it was banned, Jayaraman explained, saying, "these industries demanded the right to basically continue slavery with a $0 wage and tip." Of course, many workers today still look for tips to make up a large percentage of their income.

The average has risen

So, how much should you tip when you dine out? If you're the type to look at others for guidance, the average is around 16.9% (via Nation's Restaurant News). This number is up 1.9% from the 15% reported in the last study from Dataessential. Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic had both a positive and negative impact on tipping. Those with higher incomes tipped more during the pandemic, while others struggled and opted to tip lower. The study revealed that 46% of diners dislike the "suggested gratuity" feature, and those making more than $100,000 per year typically tip 20% or higher.

According to Forbes, the best practice is to calculate 20% of the bill and round up while leaving a tip. Punishing your server for slow cook times in the kitchen or wait times at the host stand is unjust, as servers aren't responsible for each aspect of your experience and most are willing to go out of their way to fix problems if you simply ask. So once again, how much should you tip? Likely, you're safe enough around the 17% to 20% range, though being generous rarely goes unappreciated.