Ask The Waiter


Over the past year, my girlfriend and I have forsaken going to church in favor of the other American Sunday morning ritual—brunch. Most of the brunches in our part of the world, are buffet-style, which is generally okay with me since it allows me to eat at my own pace and not have to worry about a back-up in the kitchen. But at the same time, it means I have to get off my butt to go get my own food. Most buffets, however, still have wait staff to clear tables of finished plates, take drink orders, and bring any items not on the buffet line that you might want to order.

Do you have any suggestion as to how to tip these folks? I normally do 20% for lunch or dinner, but that seems excessive when it seems that they are doing significantly less work (e.g., not running food orders) and can (and normally do) therefore handle more tables. So for that reason, I will generally do 10% with the exception of our “regular” Tex-Mex brunch stop (Mattito’s should not be missed if you are ever in Dallas), where I tip 15% or so because the waiters recognize us and are tremendously attentive.

Am I doing this right, Waiter? If not, can you please set me straight?


Dallas Texas

Dear Godless Heathen,

You’re right on the money. The standard tip for brunch servers is 10%. I’m glad you tip the guys at the Tex-Mex 15% but, since you don’t go to church and are going to Hell, I don’t see the point.

Hmmmm, let me see if I understand you…….

Eggs Benedict over Jesus?

Huevos Rancheros over The Gospel?

A Spicy Bloody Mary over a Virgin Mary? (The Mother of God, not tomato juice sans vodka you ungrateful sinner!)

You go to brunch instead of church? Well, isn’t that special? Could it be you’re under the influence of………SATAN?

Oh, sorry man. My old self-righteous ex Church Lady seminarian self sometimes takes over. It’s all good. Rock on and tip the guys 15% but the standard tip for a buffet is 10%

Let me tell you something brother, I can’t tell you how many times people would come to my restaurant right after church (and we had full table service, no buffet) and leave religious tracts in lieu of a tip. Often the pamphlets were full of descriptions of eternal hellfire. Trust me. On Sunday morning, most waiters are hung over and wiped out from doing the things that are supposed to get you into Hell in the first place! Giving a waiter a religious tract is like giving Mephistopheles a parking ticket! We just rip it up and throw it in the street.

Buffet servers get tipped 10%. Don’t stiff them!

Dear Waiter:

What’s a good rule for tipping when you’re sitting at a sushi bar? The servers don’t really do much – bring drinks and refills. The sushi chefs are doing all the heavy lifting, and just handing you food over the bar. I’ve been getting into the habit of tipping 10% on the ticket, and then leaving another 20% in the tip jar for the sushi chefs. I’m normally a 20% guy, so a 30% tip is more than I would normally tip at a restaurant. But if I tip less than 10% on the ticket, then I’d be ripping off the waitstaff… So any thoughts would be appreciated.



Dear Roland:

Honestly I don’t know. Can we get some input from American sushi waiters?

When I sit down and eat at the sushi restaurant near my house, I tip 20%. When I pick up my to-order, I tip 20%. My Karma will permit nothing else.

I do know, however, from talking to my waiter, that the money goes into a pool the guys divvy up at the end of the night. However, I don’t know how it is at other places.

Some sushi restaurants in America have Western style service now. The tip expectation is 15 – 20% In Japan however, you do NOT tip. It’s considered insulting.

One reason why I’ll never work in the land of the Rising Sun.

Hi, Waiter-

I love your blog and have learned much about the business by reading about it from your perspective.

My family and I recently ate dinner at a local casual dining restaurant. Our waitress, while competent regarding taking and delivering our order, refreshing drinks, etc., made our meal uncomfortable because of the way she attempted to inject some “personality” into her role. Instead of smiling politely, taking our order and delivering our meal, she seemed to think that making odd, offhand comments every time she came to the table would enhance the amount we left for her tip. The result, instead, was that every time she walked away from the table, we all rolled our eyes, and everyone thought that her behavior was kind of creepy.

This restaurant is one of the few places that everyone in my family can agree on, it’s close to home, and the other wait staff and manager are very nice and know us. We don’t want to stop eating there, but we really don’t ever want to have her as our waitress again. She’s that bad. I always tip well, as a matter of principle, but on this occasion, I gave her less than 12%. I felt bad because there was nothing wrong with the order, and if she’d only shut up and left us to our meal, I would have happily given her 20%. But I’m sure her only thought was that we’re cheap, and that her performance was flawless, so using the tip amount to send a message seems flawed.

I suppose that I could talk to the manager to let her know that this wait person seems to be lacking in social skills, but that seems like a fairly trivial thing, and I’d end up feeling like a real bitch. Any ideas??

Thanks, Waiter, and good luck with the book. I love your writing.


Dear Ellen:

If I didn’t particularly like a customer I would do my subtle best to make them so uncomfortable that they never wanted to sit in my section again. Trust me, I have my ways. I’m a Shaolin Master of the Seventh Creepy Waiter Dan of Yuppie Table Combat. (Plus the old “rejected credit card maneuver,” the “out of everything the customer wanted” gambit, the “chuckling at the customer’s wine choice mind fuck” and of course, my patented 1000 Yard Waiter Stare.)

I’m going to assume, however that you and your family are normal and didn’t do anything to earn this waitress’ enmity. Yes, the waitress thinks she’s perfect. Your tip will be seen as an act of cheapness. If you complain to the management you will look and feel like a real bitch, yada, yada, yada. Here’s what you do.

1. Turn the tables. Twitch. Act kooky. When I get a crazy waitress I usually like to do the Herbert Lom thing with my right eye. Clouseau! That usually freaks them right out.

2. Hand her a breath mint after she tells you the specials.

3. Tell her she looks like she lost weight when she really hasn’t (Meow! C’mon girls! You all know that maneuver!)

4. In a voice loud enough for her to hear, say how nice it is that restaurant gives people from the group home jobs.

5. Leave a Prozac or Valium with the tip. (Saw that done once, swear to God.)

6. Tell her you’re a casting director for a snuff film and you’re looking for extras. Would she be interested?

7. Tell her you’re a talent scout for a modeling agency. Then ask her if she’ll introduce you to the pretty waitress working in the back.

8. Point next to the waitress’s foot and screech, “Is that a tampon?” (Actually, I did this to distract a waitress so I could cut in front of her on the line to use the POS computer Hey, it was busy.)

9. Speak in tongues. (Works especially well at Sunday Brunch.)

10. If the above options fail, tell the manager you don’t want that waitress as your server. Yeah, you’ll look like a bitch, but life’s to short to put up with creepy psycho waiters!

8 thoughts on “Ask The Waiter”

  1. Sara says:

    I know this is an old entry, but I felt compelled to comment. People that think it’s cool to tip less on a buffet brunch really grind my gears. In the restaurant where I cheerfully brunch every Sunday, we have nearly twice the support staff–bussers and buffet runners. Instead of tipping out 3% of total sales at the end of the day, the brunch tip out is 6% easily. Sure, the work is easier and tables are turned faster, but after having been brunch server, busser and buffet runner, oh god. “No, sir, that three dollars you left on your eighty dollar bill is NOT sufficient!” I wish diners realized what goes into their mid-day pig out. And, seriously, if I’m coming up behind you with a hot tray of eggs and it looks like my hands are starting to burn, get out of my way or feel free to eat old, rubbery eggs.

    Not to mention the four hours of opening and closing side work. Maybe brunch just sucks. All those heathens should be at church and I should still be in bed. I haven’t had a Saturday night out on the town in ages! I think it’s worth it, though, for that one really beautiful spring day when people are actually nice and your tables are college-aged grandchildren taking their darling grandparents out, all dressed up in shirts and ties. Just sometimes, though! 🙂

    Love your blog!

  2. fox says:

    okay this post is kind of old, but i felt the need to comment.

    i’ve worked at 2 sushi restaurants with both a bar and tables. yes when you sit at the sushi bar the chefs are handing you your food, but your server is the one taking your order, putting it in, running to the kitchen if you need something from there, making and filling your drinks, and making sure everything goes smoothly.

    at the place i work now, 5% of what i sell is tipped out to the sushi bar and dishwashers. there is a tip jar on the sushi bar for “extra tips” which personally i dont think should be there if i have to tip out to them myself. most people dont know our tip out practices so i have been stiffed on tips from sushi bar customers who just put money in the jar, which then just leads to the sushi chefs getting not only that tip, but a percentage of my sales.

    if you have any questions about how the tip out system at a sushi restaurant works, dont be afraid to ask your server.

  3. becca says:

    i dont know if you will see this or not.. but the blog is messed up. quite majorly. with html in the list.. its an old post so im not sure youd really care. but i guess im emailing you about it!

  4. Trackback: Singulair side effects.
  5. Anon says:

    I work at a Teppan (Hibachi) and sushi bar restaurant. The servers tips are pooled, and 45% if the tips are distributed among the sushi chefs and Teppan chefs, plus they get to keep their own tips from the customers and do not have to share it with the wait staff.

    Just because it doesn’t look like the waiters are doing a lot of work, doesn’t mean they aren’t doing work for you behind the scenes and don’t deserve a 15 – 20% tip.

  6. E-Ex Yuppie Brunch Server says:

    I recently started reading your blog archives after purchasing your book (another server has since stolen it from me!) and I absolutely agree with you on everything BUT your brunch tip out suggestions. 10%???? I work at a beachside high end restaurant where our Sunday brunch is like church for locals. At brunch, my sales triple what they are at a regular lunch: $400-$500 to $1500-$2000: YES you are a glorified plate cleaner for most of the shift, however, you DO get ALL drinks (customer: “what drinks are free?” me “juice and coffee” customer: “okay I want one half OJ half cran, then one tomato, one just OJ, and a coffee that is 3/4’s decaf 1/4 regular, and I need FAT FREE STEAMED milk for my coffee and Equal. Matter fact, just bring that for everyone at the table”) deal with all your entitled Orange County made up allergy bullshit etc etc etc. So on a $200 bill after I’ve been run ragged and I barely get 10%???? Not cool. Not to mention the formula for tipping out at my restaurant is still based on the assumption I am getting 15% gratuity on each check eventhough my sales are double and I barely clear an average of 10% tips all day. So in essence I do ALL the work but out of everyone getting tipped out, I the server make LESS than the bus staff when people tip 10%. Don’t even get me started about the taxes I’m paying on those high sales! PLUS I have to tip out a service expo on brunch shifts. So, you know what? tip 15% if I put up with all your crap and get you everything you need in a TIMELY and POLITE manner…don’t cheap out. Waiter, we still cool-E

  7. Will says:

    ^^^ He said Buffet servers, not brunch servers. Don’t worry, you’re tips didn’t get hacked by Waiter.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Dear Waiter,
    Do you get a nice table that say’s how they are going to leave you a nice tip, but when you come back to bus the table there is no tip?
    This happened to me last night. What would you do?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *