How Much Should You Really Tip At Restaurants? An Etiquette Expert Says It’s Not 18%

It's also not 0%, so keep your wallet open.

Staff Writer
A barista prepares coffee in a Montreal café.

A barista prepares coffee in a Montreal café.

For regular, everyday practice, there is plenty of drama and debate around the proper ways to tip your servers. When you're sitting at the table, pay terminal in hand, it can be daunting to quickly determine how much to tip, without being rude or overstretching your wallet.

But you definitely do have to leave a tip, so there must be some kind of advice to follow, especially as inflation leads people to cut costs where possible. Is tipping something you can skimp on, or must you splurge selflessly so your servers can survive?

Our friends over at Narcity spoke with etiquette expert, seminar host and keynote presenter Lydia Ramsey, who said a generous minimum of 18% doesn't have to be the norm. "You should be allowed to tip according to how much you want to tip and how much you can," Ramsey told Narcity, emphasizing that 15% is still the minimum acceptable tip, no matter the economic pressure.

The important thing is that you tip in the first place, Ramsey says. "Servers have a hard job, and we know that many of them just operate off of their tips."

Cost of living increases affect all of us, servers and customers alike. Still, Ramsey added, "There has to be some sort of ceiling or some sort of limit" to tipping expectations despite the economic situations we all find ourselves in.

Ramsey advises that customers go up to 20% for particularly good service, but she doesn't think you should feel bad for shooting lower.

"If you're feeling extremely generous, you can bump it up some," she told Narcity, "but I don't think people need to feel like they're being stingy if they stick to the 15% rule, especially if you're going out a lot or if you're on the road [...] and have to really watch those expenses."

She also suggested an uncommon strategy for making sure your tip fits your budget and the service you received: entering a custom amount.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with going with the 'custom tip' or 'other' option so that you can give what works for you," Ramsey told Narcity.

So next time you're stuck in that moment of confusion, remember that you are in full control of your tip, and as long as you leave one (preferably 15% or above), you're on the right track.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Willa Holt
Staff Writer
Willa Holt is a Staff Writer for MTL Blog focused on apartments for rent and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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