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Approaching Someone Who Leaves A Small Tip


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I am relatively new to this forum, but am impressed with the wide variety of opinions that you can find on any given subject. I have an issue that I wanted to through out there to see how others handle a situation....

At times, servers who work for me will come to me to inform me that a table had left a small tip (5%, 10%, etc) on a table, and they believe that they provided proper service. This is a rare occurance, but happens.

Whether your own personal standards for tipping is above this or not, servers make their living off of tips, and are due an acceptable amount.

Personally, I make it a point to touch base with every customer who sits during their meal to ensure that they are enjoying their time as well as to put a face with management, if they choose to speak to me later. I also want to ensure that if there is an issue, I am giving them every opportunity to voice either their pleasure or, unfortunately, discontent.

How do you approach a table to see if there was an issue with service, food, atmosphere, etc, which caused them to leave a small tip? How do you do so without coming across rude and abnoxious, as well as not embarass a customer who you want to see back in next weekend?

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I am relatively new to this forum, but am impressed with the wide variety of opinions that you can find on any given subject.  I have an issue that I wanted to through out there to see how others handle a situation....

At times, servers who work for me will come to me to inform me that a table had left a small tip (5%, 10%, etc) on a table, and they believe that they provided proper service.  This is a rare occurance, but happens.

Whether your own personal standards for tipping is above this or not, servers make their living off of tips, and are due an acceptable amount.

Personally, I make it a point to touch base with every customer who sits during their meal to ensure that they are enjoying their time as well as to put a face with management, if they choose to speak to me later.  I also want to ensure that if there is an issue, I am giving them every opportunity to voice either their pleasure or, unfortunately, discontent.

How do you approach a table to see if there was an issue with service, food, atmosphere, etc, which caused them to leave a small tip?  How do you do so without coming across rude and abnoxious, as well as not embarass a customer who you want to see back in next weekend?

First off, carefully.

I've accedentally left poor tips before, and really appreciated it when the server said something along the lines of:

"I realise your expectations may have not been met this evening, is there something I could have done to provide better service?" (spoken while holding the bill in it's case)

I said no every thing was wonderful, you were great!

-and then it dawned on me I may have done some drunk math...

luckily the waiter just happened to have my bill in his hands, ready for me to fix :wink:

This only works when there has clearly been a mistake on the part of the diner.

Not when somebody is being cheap.

For foreigners who don't know American tipping practices, I think a little less subtlety is okay.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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There have been several discussions regarding tipping, gratuity, etc.

In my opinion, which is probably divergent from most people, I feel that the gratuity should be calculated and added to the total and a notice of this should be prominently displayed at the entrance and on every page of the menu.

Because of the enormous increase in travel, many restaurants are seeing tourists from all over the world. In some of these countries, tipping is simply not done.

Last year I had a visitor from the other side of the world. I took him to dinner and after we left the restaurant he handed me the cash I had left on the table and said "here, you forgot to pick up your change."

I explained that I had left it for the server for her gratuity or tip and went back into the restaurant, had the hostess call our server up to the front desk and explained what had happened and gave her the cash.

She thanked me and said she knew that it had to have been an oversight, as I go there often and I always tip generously.

I also do not like to add a tip on to a charge for the meal. I make a point of having enough cash to cover the tip.

The hostess said they have had a few tourists from that country and noticed that few ever left a tip.

While driving home I explained why that was the custom here and he said he felt the restaurants, hotels, taxicabs, etc., ought to pay regular wages and not have people dependent on the good will of others. He also said that he didn't think it was fair for tourists who don't have a lot of money and have to carefully plan their trip expenses and then to have extra expenses that weren't in their budget. He said that it doesn't sound like a lot but when you keep adding the 15% here and 10% there and 20% somewhere else, it can mean people end up having to curtail some other activities that would have made their trip more enjoyable.

By the way, there ARE some rude, nasty people who take a perverted delight in having a server jump through hoops and then leave a ridiculous tip. I watched this happen one evening at a busy "chain" steakhouse. The entire group was loud and obnoxious and I just happened to be looking when I saw the server deliver the check and hand it to the loudest and most obnoxious man and saw him slide a quarter under the edge of his plate. He stood and said that he would take care of the check while the others got themselves organized. I excused myself and walked back to the set up station and told the server and he walked over to the table, picked up the guys plate and held the quarter up and said something like, "Wow, some high-roller here, a twenty-five cent tip for two hours of hauling cargo for a bunch of pigs."

The other people at the table pulled out their wallets and tossed several bills on the table and slunk out of the place.

Later the server came over to our table and told me I was right, the guy who paid the bill did not add anything for the tip when he paid.

Adding the gratiuity would make sure servers would not be stiffed for the tip.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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He said that it doesn't sound like a lot but when you keep adding the 15% here and 10% there and 20% somewhere else, it can mean people end up having to curtail some other activities that would have made their trip more enjoyable.

Travelling ignorant of local customs is no excuse to complain after the fact that one did not budget an appropriate amount of money for food. Just add (at least) 15% into your travel expenses alloted to food. OR, don't eat at places that require tips. Surprisingly enough, such places exist.

Having said that, I have no appropriate response for PLangfordJr. The only time I've been approached is when I've forgotten to sign the credit card bill. :-P

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In our town we have a restaurant owner who has been known to chase people down the street to ask them why they tipped low or failed to tip.

My thought is that you let it go. I know the intent is to find out why so you can improve your service, but if someone is going to leave a small or no tip, they already have put themselves in that frame of mind and I feel its better to let it go and focus on improving. I believe that people who want to tell you why, will. If they don't, then they have built up a fight in their mind and probably aren't open to an honest dialogue anyway.

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In our town we have a restaurant owner who has been known to chase people down the street to ask them why they tipped low or failed to tip. 

My thought is that you let it go.  I know the intent is to find out why so you can improve your service, but if someone is going to leave a small or no tip, they already have put themselves in that frame of mind and I feel its better to let it go and focus on improving.  I believe that people who want to tell you why, will.  If they don't, then they have built up a fight in their mind and probably aren't open to an honest dialogue anyway.

My past experiences have me agreeing w/gfron1. The way I look at it is that you chalk it up to experience. As long as the customer did not deliberately let you know that he was unpleased, and you and your staff feel that you have given good service, then there is not much you can do.

I too have seen servers/bartenders chase patrons out into the parking lot to hand them back the 'tip' and tell them to keep it.

The way I look at it, it all evens out in the end...for those that stiff the servers on the tip, there will always be those who give the generous tips for outstanding service

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And there will always be those who give generous tips for lousy service. So yes, the hope is that it will even out.

You can also force averaging by using a tip pool. That way the only number that really matters is the whole staff's total for the shift, and no one table can blow out a single server's evening. Likewise, included service charges for parties of six or more help minimize risk.

Personally, I have no problem with printing tip computations on the check either. A lot of POS systems will do this and compute 15%, 20%, etc. This helps preempt customer error.

I think confrontation is unacceptable, though. That's the point at which you risk having a customer call the cops, or start a shouting match in view of other customers -- the restaurant can't win in that situation no matter who was wrong. And as long as tipping is voluntary, no, nobody has a "right" to a tip. A person can eat at a restaurant and tip nothing. It's totally legal and that's that, and some people take advantage of it -- I can assure you that nearly 100% of international tourists who don't tip know full well that they're supposed to; they've read the guidebooks, and they're simply pretending to be ignorant in order to save a few bucks. If restaurants don't like that, they can switch to a mandatory service charge and the problem goes away.

PLangfordJr, seriously, though, how often does this really happen to your staff? Is it often enough to matter? If it's just happening once in awhile, it's not worth changing your approach.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have always found this to be a most horrendous situation, the reliance of Joe public to ensure that somebody else’s employee is being paid a reasonable wage.

I do understand that the American policy is to tip for service or put another way, ask the customer to pay somebody extra for performing their job description.

There are only two options to solve this issue,

1. Pay a realistic wage that does not require the customer to make up the shortfall and include service in the cost of the food / drink.

2. Include a mandatory service charge to be shared equally by staff.

As there is no legal requirement to tip after a meal there will always be the potential for waiting staff to be short paid. Furthermore the 15% & 20% norms always seem a little odd. I buy a bottle of wine for £100 the waiter brings the bottle opens and pours, is that really worth £20 in tip? If it is the norm to pay 15 – 20% in tips where is the incentive?

Many years ago, 15 in fact, I was approached by a member of the waiting staff in a restaurant in London after I had paid the bill, I had not left a tip certainly not expected in the UK. He asked me if I had enjoyed the meal etc and I confirmed I had. He then asked why I had not left a tip, the wages in London are poor and he needed the money he informed me. As he had succeeded in embarrassing me in the middle of a large (full) restaurant and knowing that the owner was seated only five or six tables away with his guests I escorted the waiter over to his employers table and proceeded to inform the owner the problems this particular employee was having and how I came to know his problems.

Nobody should have to rely on a paying customer to make up their wage.

I write this as someone who has spent over ten years in the hotel / restaurant trade albeit ten years ago.

David

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David's comment helped me force a parallel with car dealers - especially Saturn. Their whole pricing game is that "we're going to remove that element of the deal. Your car costs us this much to make, and adding this much on is going to be a fair payment to the dealer for their time/service." No negotiations.

And to tangent into another parallel - I recently heard of a restaurant out east that only takes plastic, - no cash or checks. At the time of the report, they were doing very well with that model. So, here I wonder if any restaurant would be willing to change their model to pay a fair wage to their staff, and have customers pay a clearly stated rate - and no more. (I'm acknowledging that this former parallel is not truly parallel because for most there is no stress related to tipping unlike car purchase negotiations.)

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Fat guy...I totally agree with you that no one wins in this situation. Does it happen often? no. I just posted this question after a long night, when this situation did happen to come up...I just wanted to benchmark my response off of some others.

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I always leave a reasonable tip, not wanting to risk a potential confrontation and having to explain how the service was unsatisfactory, but if I get bad service, I don't go back to the restaurant, and I let their dwindling customer base take its toll. There are too many dining options to subject myself to an unpleasant dining experience.

And yes, call me cheap, but I really don't believe that a tip should be based on the price of what you order. A plate with a cheeseburger and fries is just as difficult to carry as a plate with some goose's liver splayed out on it. And don't get me started on restaurants that have a tip jar on the counter for carry-out orders. I'm walking in, picking up a sack of food, and carrying it out to go home and eat it -- why am I expected to tip for being handed a bag?

Er...what was the question? Oh, yeah. Every tip won't be 15%-20%, some people are cheap bastards, it all evens out in the end, don't lose sleep over it. If EVERYONE'S leaving a server a small tip, it might be something wrong with the server, not the customers. :wink:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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I was in this situation last year. The parents of one of my boyfriend's friends were in town and took us out to dinner. Every thing was very nice, until dessert. The father asked for the wine list, but what he really wanted was to know what brandies they had, which were not on the wine list. He got all perturbed at the waitress. He paid the bill and we were getting ready to leave when the waitress comes out and says that the owner told her to come and ask why he left a 10% tip. I was appalled for two reasons - first there was no reason to stiff her and second, I felt the owner should have come out and asked if there was a problem. Especially since he knew two of us. We held back on the pretense of needing to use the bathroom and made up the tip to what it should have been.

How do you approach a table to see if there was an issue with service, food, atmosphere, etc, which caused them to leave a small tip?  How do you do so without coming across rude and abnoxious, as well as not embarass a customer who you want to see back in next weekend?

Johanna

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I think that approaching someone specifically about a tip is bad form. It is, however completely acceptable for someone who gets a small tip to ask about the customer's satisfaction with the experience. Note I did not say ask about the tip itself.

I have at least once taken a tip back when asked about a purposely small tip. I think that my tip speaks for itself.

I may be in the minority here. But I am pretty forgiving, especially when the restaurant is busy, or shorthanded staff, or any number of other reasons. I think 25-30% is minimum, and have tipped as much as 40% when things have gone exceedingly well. I've gone as far as not tipping and asking for a manager when things have gone really bad.

All that to say, use this situation as an opportunity to find out if the customer is upset by something. Hopefully, that is enough of a hint to the customer that they may have made a misstep. Mentioning it directly is crass.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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Here is a situation that happens sometimes that I find rather frustrating. Four or five people will be dining and when it comes time to pay the check most will pay cash and one or two will pay by card. The customers will say here is seventy bucks put the rest on this card. Then due to drunken math, money flying this way and that, and a need to rush off to the next place, the bill is paid but no tip, or a tip only on 1/4th or 1/5th of the check. I have tried fanning out the bills underneath the receipt, taking the cash away, everything I can think of, and it still happens. Not all the time but more than it should.

I agree that tourists know that they should tip, as someone said they’ve read the guidebooks, they just don’t. I don’t “forget” to take off my shoes when I should in other countries, or offer my left hand to people, or other things that are offensive to the people who are being my hosts.

Could we publicly cane people who don’t tip? Like that kid in Singapore???

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wouldn't recommend it, but here's one approach:

Jeremy Piven not on tip-top behavior? Say it ain't so!

The "Entourage" arriviste has reportedly been warned to keep away from Nobu Matsuhisa 's restaurant empire after boorish behavior in Aspen during the recent U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

"He was asked never to return to Matsuhisa in Aspen by a manager," alleges a snitch.

"He came in with a large group of 12 or more without reservations and asked for a table. It was a very busy night, but a table, although cramped, was provided. On his way out, he made a nasty comment to the manager: 'Thanks for nothing.'"

Piven was at the HBO-sponsored festival to appear on a panel with fellow "Entourage" stars. Allegedly his tip also left something to be desired.

"He left a DVD of the first year of 'Entourage' to one of the waiters. [An employee] ran up the stairs and hurled it at him as he was leaving."

The actor was tartly advised to steer clear of Nobu outposts in New York and Los Angeles as well (although they are managed separately).

Piven said through his rep: "I'm such a fan of Nobu and all of his restaurants. I had a great dinner at the Nobu in Aspen. As always, the meal was excellent and the service was great."

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I prefer the system that many restaurants in the UK use, where 12.5% is added to the bill as service charge. Where this is not done the bill is generally clear marked service not included.

The advantage is this if the service is really good you can leave some more, if it's really bad you don't have to pay it and can deduct some or all of the 12.5%. In generally this barely ever happens (although I did do it once, under some appalling circumstances).

The advantage is even the cheapskates pay the 12.5% so at least the staff get a reasonable wage, for good/excellent service many will leave an additional tip so the good servers/restaurants get rewarded.

Finally with regard to tourists, sometimes they don't know. I've been in places where I've not known and generally ended up leaving a tip when none was required and I'd had bellow average service. Also when I knew a tip was required I've often got the amount wrong plus or minus. When I lived in the USA for a while the brits that came to visit me would often leave the UK standard of 10 - 12.5% not knowing the norm was higher in the USA but changed when they knew. Also after a few bottles of wine tourists can often revert to home behavior by mistake when calculating the bill.

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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I've accedentally left poor tips before, and really appreciated it when the server said something along the lines of:

"I realise your expectations may have not been met this evening, is there something I could have done to provide better service?" (spoken while holding the bill in it's case)

I said no every thing was wonderful, you were great!

-and then it dawned on me I may have done some drunk math...

luckily the waiter just happened to have my bill in his hands, ready for me to fix :wink:

This only works when there has clearly been a mistake on the part of the diner.

Not when somebody is being cheap.

There are also times when some members of the party are unaware of the poor tip, like in the siutation someone described above with one person leaving a quarter. The two times I can remember being in a party that was approached, it was (once) because of some guy who insisted on paying the entire bill and then stiffed the waiter and (another time) because a woman I was dining with stole the tip money the rest of us had left on the table. Both times I felt the server was doing the rest of us a huge favor by letting us know. In the case of the theft, I think it was observed and the women wound up making a lame-ass excuse about thinking it was change that was due to her. Totally implausible; she knew we knew; we knew never to dine with her again.

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I was in this situation last year.  The parents of one of my boyfriend's friends were in town and took us out to dinner.  Every thing was very nice, until dessert.  The father asked for the wine list, but what he really wanted was to know what brandies they had, which were not on the wine list.  He got all perturbed at the waitress.  He paid the bill and we were getting ready to leave when the waitress comes out and says that the owner told her to come and ask why he left a 10% tip.  I was appalled for two reasons - first there was no reason to stiff her and second, I felt the owner should have come out and asked if there was a problem.  Especially since he knew two of us.  We held back on the pretense of needing to use the bathroom and made up the tip to what it should have been.

I just did this! I ate at The Bar Room at The Modern a few weeks ago - I was taken out by a vendor. I happened to glance at the bill when he signed it, and saw that he'd left a $5 tip on a $130 meal. I pretended to go the ladies' slipped back, and dropped another $20 bill on the table (I would have preferred to leave a couple more, but that was all I had in my wallet.). The maitre d' caught my eye and winked - our service was excellent, and I am so glad I caught it.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I wouldn't recommend it, but here's one  approach:
Jeremy Piven not on tip-top behavior? Say it ain't so!

The "Entourage" arriviste has reportedly been warned to keep away from Nobu Matsuhisa 's restaurant empire after boorish behavior in Aspen during the recent U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

"He was asked never to return to Matsuhisa in Aspen by a manager," alleges a snitch.

"He came in with a large group of 12 or more without reservations and asked for a table. It was a very busy night, but a table, although cramped, was provided. On his way out, he made a nasty comment to the manager: 'Thanks for nothing.'"

Piven was at the HBO-sponsored festival to appear on a panel with fellow "Entourage" stars. Allegedly his tip also left something to be desired.

"He left a DVD of the first year of 'Entourage' to one of the waiters. [An employee] ran up the stairs and hurled it at him as he was leaving."

The actor was tartly advised to steer clear of Nobu outposts in New York and Los Angeles as well (although they are managed separately).

Piven said through his rep: "I'm such a fan of Nobu and all of his restaurants. I had a great dinner at the Nobu in Aspen. As always, the meal was excellent and the service was great."

I'm not sure I'd throw the DVD at him. It retails for right around $30. And if he'd had the cast autograph it or something, it'd be worth even more. Tacky, sure, but I'm not sure he really stiffed the waitstaff. Although in the many tipping threads we've had around here I've never seen is recommended to leave an item valued at the amount you want to tip.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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I'm not sure I'd throw the DVD at him.  It retails for right around $30.  And if he'd had the cast autograph it or something, it'd be worth even more.  Tacky, sure, but I'm not sure he really stiffed the waitstaff.  Although in the many tipping threads we've had around here I've never seen is recommended to leave an item valued at the amount you want to tip.

So the server should have to go on eBay and sell the stupid DVD the arrogant ass left behind instead of a tip? Jackass makes more money in 5 minutes than a real working stiff does in a year and leaves a DVD?? Throwing it at him isn't a strong enough response. Shoving it down his throat so he chokes on it is far more appropriate. :angry:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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So, he likely tried to pass off some free schwag as a tip. Classy.

An even bigger asshole than I gave him credit for...

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I'm 16. Whenever me and my friends go out for food we always make sure we tip. It is never an exact percentage of the bill, each of us throws in $3-4 and that usually cover us(most of the time its 7-8 of us going to a diner or ihop). We make it a point to tip regardless of the service because they tried to get us our food promptly and we got the food at some point to that was accomplished. I don't see how you cant tip, it just doesn't make sense to me.

16 years old and in love with cooking, you'll hear about me in the future. ;)

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  • 2 weeks later...

. And don't get me started on restaurants that have a tip jar on the counter for carry-out orders. I'm walking in, picking up a sack of food, and carrying it out to go home and eat it -- why am I expected to tip for being handed a bag?

Sorry, but you're wrong not to tip on to-go orders..how do you think your food got into that carryout container and bag? My hubby bartended at a local Mexican restaurant, and it was usually him who took the phone-in orders, and got them ready to go... that took time away from bartending,serving all the folks sitting at the bar and getting drinks ready for the servers. Someone still has to cook your food and get it to you, does it really matter that much that you're not sitting in the restaurant? You should always tip at 10%, IMHO.

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. And don't get me started on restaurants that have a tip jar on the counter for carry-out orders. I'm walking in, picking up a sack of food, and carrying it out to go home and eat it -- why am I expected to tip for being handed a bag?

Sorry, but you're wrong not to tip on to-go orders..how do you think your food got into that carryout container and bag?  My hubby bartended at a local Mexican restaurant, and it was usually him who took the phone-in orders, and got them ready to go... that took time away from bartending,serving all the folks sitting at the bar and getting drinks ready for the servers.  Someone still has to cook your food and get it to you, does it really matter that much that you're not sitting in the restaurant?  You should always tip at 10%, IMHO.

Put it this way, we get enough food for a couple meals because we tip well on our take-outs. Great service too. I mean it all depends on what you wanna find in that bag, y'know?

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