Mike Parker

You’re going out for a special night on the town with that special someone in your life. Everything is going to be perfect; from the right table at the right restaurant, to the before-dinner drinks, to appetizers, to the perfectly paired wine, to the oh-so-decadent dessert. Yes, it’s going to worth it, just to see that smile, but all that perfection comes at a price. And when it comes time to pay the piper, don’t forget the tip.

Whether you’re going out for a fancy feast, or just for drinks at your favorite watering hole, the people who serve you depend on tips for their living. But let’s be honest—knowing who to tip and how much is appropriate can be more than a bit perplexing. This simple guide can help eliminate some of the guess work from gratuities.

Hostess/Maitre D’: No tip necessary, but if they go out of their way to secure a table on a busy night, or if you come in with a large party, without a reservation, and they make it happen, tipping $10-$20 wouldn’t be unwelcome.

Wait Staff: 15-20 percent is customary, but there are exceptions. For example, if you linger over your dessert and after dinner drinks and gaze lovingly into your companion’s eyes making romantic small talk for way past the normal time, you should tip your server extra. Keep in mind that you are, in effect, ‘renting’ the space where your server makes her living. If your server provides exceptional service, tip more. If the food was sub-par, don’t take it out on the server by leaving a sub-par tip. The server has no control over how the food tastes. If the service is exceptional, leaving a bigger tip. If the service is lousy, you should still leave the minimum 15 percent, although you might want to have a word with the manager about it.

Bartender: If you’re at the bar while waiting for a table, tip the bartender $1-$2 per drink. If you’re at the bar with your buddies watching the game and whooping it up, tip the standard 15-20 percent.

Chef/Kitchen Staff: This one is completely discretionary. Executive chefs at high dollar restaurants are well compensated, and tipping is completely unnecessary. But in most other establishments, the kitchen staff works hard preparing the food you eat. If the meal is exceptional, adding an extra 5 percent to the tip and designating that it goes to the kitchen staff would be a welcome surprise. And you might be surprised at how much better your meal is next time you dine there.

Base your tips on the pre-tax cost of the meal before any discounts are included. Some establishments automatically add the gratuity. In these establishments there is no need to tip additionally except for exceptional service.

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