Tipping Conundrums: Should You Tip More at an Upscale Restaurant?

Tipping is a troubling issue. Does the percentage of tip you leave depend on the type of establishment? Or is it really all about the level of service? Modern Manners Guy looks into some tipping troubles.

Richie Frieman
3-minute read

Tipping is a troubling issue when it comes to manners and etiquette. In fact, I get questions all the time about how much to tip, tipping on bad service, and tipping differently for alcohol. I've even done an article on tipping for takeout.

Tipping is a major bone of contention mainly because both sides of the table (see what I did there?) have different preconceived ideas of what is expected.

Some people are of the opinion, “I’m paying for service, and I’ll only tip if it’s up to my standards,” while others think, “Well…even if it’s not the best service, I’ll still give something because it's the social norm.” In a way, they are both correct.

Deciding how much to tip (on any occasion), comes down to two key factors; the price of the purchase and the quality of service. This is the only thing (I repeat, the only thing) you need to take into consideration. Do not be fooled by the silk napkins or the $85 steak. Do not allow yourself to be bullied by a pompous waiter in an establishment that views itself highly simply because their prices are astronomical. They still have to prove themselves to you, the consumer.

I used the word bully because that’s just what a high-end restaurant does when they push you into a higher tip by charging huge sums for meals. Obviously, you've asked for it by simply sitting down and ordering (no one forced you), but even the best restaurant has to win you over on service. I mean, how can an upscale restaurant have a bigger tip policy than a sandwich shop that makes me feel just as welcomed? In my eyes, both have to prove themselves worthy with their service, and I should not have to impress them with my tipping.

The same philosophy goes for drinks. Drinks are the easiest thing to mark up in bars and restaurants. I have a friend who works for one of the hottest nightclubs in Las Vegas and he told me that the bar's policy is to mark up each bottle by at least ten times its cost -- and even more for their VIP bottle service. By the way, this service consists of an attractive young woman bringing the bottle to your table, along with some glasses. That’s it.

Oddly, I get the same exact thing at TGIFridays, for the exact same bottle of beer, wine, or vodka. So why should the Vegas club get a bigger tip? Well, for one, you’re trapped. Based on the two key factors I mentioned before, the initial cost of the bottle already puts you at a higher tip bracket, and you can’t change that. But after that, it’s up to you to decide on the quality of service (and not base it on how the waitress looks!).

Whether the place is upscale or casual, remember: you do not owe the establishment anything beyond the customary tip. If they don't like it, they should strive to do better next time.

If you have a manners question, I always look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

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Tipping image courtesy of Shutterstock.