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Tipping Bartenders in the UK


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I've read that in the UK you tip your barkeep by offering to buy him or her a drink. Is that how it's done? And how does it actually happen? Is it a wink wink and they pocket the cost? How often should it be offered?

And then, how about someplace that has a bar and serves drink as an adjunct to a larger purpose, such as a restaurant. Same deal?

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When I worked as a bartender/server in London we never expected a tip on the bar. If you have a few offer to buy the bartender a round and he/she will most likely keep the cash or in some establishments it will be added to a tip pool and split up amongst the staff.

Stephen Bonner

Vancouver

Edited by SBonner (log)

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

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Passport to the Pub

I've read that in the UK you tip your barkeep by offering to buy him or her a drink.  Is that how it's done?  And how does it actually happen?  Is it a wink wink and they pocket the cost?  How often should it be offered?

And then, how about someplace that has a bar and serves drink as an adjunct to a larger purpose, such as a restaurant.  Same deal?

I found it very strange when visiting NYC to find it expected to tip the bartender with cash - not something we'd do here. Offering a drink is not expected or routine, it's just something done occasionally as a gesture, rather than to secure or to reward good service. The way it goes is to order your drinks and follow up with something such as "and one for your self?". To which the reply might be "thank you, I'll have a half of lager." Whether they actually have the drink or add the value to a tip fund may depend on the venue - either way it's bad form to check that they actually pour one.

The above all applies to regular pubs and bars - it may all be different at the Savoy, I wouldn't know. There's a first rate guide to pub etiquette produced by Kate Fox of the Social Issues Research Centre, available to read online here:

Passport to the pub

I can't imagine going through this routine in a restaurant - in most cases the bar tab is going to be added to your restaurant bill, so may end up in you tipping calculations anyway.

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There are regional variations too,

In Manchester, at least in traditional pubs there is a tradition of tipping (even more so in working mens and social clubs). As a rule the tip taken is small - used to be 5p, but now more likely to be 10/20p - not a lot but when everyone tips it mounts up. Saying 'And your own' when handing the money over is the accepted practise. If you say 'and one for yourself' you are offering them a drink that they may actually take, or take the cash equivalent. Some places pool tips but mostly it's individual. When I worked behind the bar of my Parent's pub it always seemed unfair, as the girls alway made about 10 times as much as me!

In the south the practise is a lot less widespread - when i first moved down here I got bemused stares whenever I tried to tip - so I don't bother any more, occasionally buy them a drink, especially if I'm stood at the bar though. Whenether I'm back in Manchester I always tip.

Anywhere in the country chain pubs are likely to have policies which forbid the staff from taking tips or drinks, although sometimes there is a collection box around christmas for the staff party (Which is quite cheeky as traditionally the landlord or the brewery always pays for it...)

Anywhere 'Fancy' (and even not so fancy in london) in a city centre may return your change on a tray with the intention that you leave a tip on it - these is closer to the American practise.

Confusing isn't it!

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It should also be pointed out that, unlike in the US, it's not at all necessary to tip, and nobody will be surprised or think ill of you if you don't. In fact, in normal pubs, where you walk up to the bar, order your drink and take it back to your seat with you, I feel strongly about encouraging American tourists not to tip. While that perhaps feels weird to those accustomed to it, I think it's no different to observing local customs anywhere else. I would hate to see it get to the stage where we're expected to tip barstaff a la the US model. If you decide to go with the "whatever you're having yourself" option, it is certainly not expected every round or anything of the sort!

Of course, if lounge staff come over to your table, take your order, go to the bar for you, and bring your drinks back to you, it is more appropriate to tip. That very much depends on the kind of pub you're in.

Si

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Thanks for the replies. I haven't yet but I intend to peruse the etiquette link, so thanks for including that. I knew it was unlike the practice here in the US, which also can get complicated when it morphs into a symbiotic relationship between staff and customer. We've had several threads discussing those issues, such as this current one. The practice calls for tipping here, and I believe that you tip well, as most of the time the consideration is returned in some fashion. In a general sense, every time money is exchanged with a bartender or cocktail waitress, a tip should certainly be considered.

I live in a resort town which welcomes hordes of tourists from all over the world so we see all variations of tipping practices, and I've witnessed all variations of reactions from the service corps. So your info as to what is proper is me forewarned, 'cause mainly I don't want to look like a rube.

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Generally better to give any tips in cash rather than adding to your CC/DC bar tab final payment.

At least that way you have half a chance of the staff seeing most of it (through the Tronc), rather than it all going into the wages/PAYE system with its inherent deductions :angry:

In more upmarket bars you might get washroom attendants. I only tip (£1 seems to be standard) if I avail myself of their aftershave, not for turning the tap on.... :raz:

I

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Normally you never tip at a bar, or just leave the spare change (but say keep the change) don't leave it on the bar. If you are being served then usual tipping rules apply (but check your bill or ask as they may have added service 12.5% average) and if you tip you may end up paying double. Look for this in restaurants as well as often even though they have added 12.5% they will leave the tip space blank on the credit slip and many people end up paying twice. Not all do this so it is important to know when you get the bill if service is included (add an extra 5 - 10% is it was very good), if it was totally rubbish you can take it off the bill (but expect a fight unless you can justify it).

If you think you are getting good service or wish to tip then you can leave one (but unless in a high end bar that is odd) but normally say 'have one for yourself' and the bar person will generally take something appropriate to what you have been drinking (lager, martini, crystal....) or a standard E.g. "gin and tonic" BUT they will not take the drink but take the price of it and put it in the tip jar.

Many bars forbid drinking alcohol on duty so that's the way it works. However if you are chatting up a barmaid/man and they accept a 'drink' and time the drink (even if a soft) so it looks like you bought it and continue to chat to you, they could be interested........ <grin>

All that said, In general bar staff are on low wages in the UK compared to the USA and we should reward good service. "Buying a drink for the bar person" would go a good way to sort this and we should (in the UK) do it more as at present you have no incentive to give good service, but do not want to see it go to the extent of the USA.

(From an ex London barman from a late night club)

Edited by ermintrude (log)

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

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Thanks, Timothy, for the link. I enjoyed reading that. Much of what was described is how things are done in the US as well (when done properly -- there are a lot of amateurs wandering the earth), particulary the interaction between regulars and one another and the House. But places that are conducive to developing that sort of atmosphere are much less common. The idea of the local is not as much a part of the social fabric in the US. To many people, going to a bar frequently enough that everyone knows your name and your favorite drink is poured without you asking for it means you probably go to the bar too frequently. "Cheers" was a favorite show on these shores, but those guys and gals were a dysfunctionally lovable bunch of misfits.

The article ascribes the pub tipping customs to an egalitarian sensibility. The publican is an equal, and offering money would be gauche, but he or she can be included in a round with everyone else as a gesture of appreciation. Does that ring true to everyone? Or is it perhaps more because the custom of tipping in general never had a firm beachhead?

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In my own pub, if a customer says "keep the change" , the money goes into the charity bottle (and to whatever local charity we are collecting for at the time).

If customers offer bar staff a drink, they either "leave it in the pipe" (that is, the drink gets rung through the till, but not dispensed until later, either after we have closed up or at some other point when they are off duty) , or they stick the cost of the drink in a glass and pocket whatever they have collected at the end of the shift.

When I'm offered a drink, I try to politely refuse, but if pressed I'll take for half a Guiness and be seen to drink a few mouthfulls before discretely losing it. If its close to closing time and things are relaxed, I might have a whisky- I'll always take for a house whisky but pour myself something better.

gethin

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In london i think pretty much everyone tips in bars/pubs etc, especially in coctail bars - just check that a service charge hasn't been added to your bill first (common in high end tail/hotel bars)

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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I don't understand the confusion.

the UK does not have a tipping culture. no ifs, no buts.

where tipping/service is appropriate it is usually levied as a service charge. So no need to worry about whether you should or should not.

everything else is discretionary.

By all means leave a little if you want, buy a drink, whatever... it's up to you. it however is not as complicated as is being made out, there is no obligation and little expectation.

don't think about it too much, and if it seems right go ahead!

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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In london i think pretty much everyone tips in bars/pubs etc, especially in coctail bars - just check that a service charge hasn't been added to your bill first (common in high end    tail/hotel bars)

Surely not! I've lived in London for 25 years and have never seen tipping in pubs. If you're talking about "bars", where you get your change slid to you on a saucer in the forlorn hope you'll leave some of it or forget it, then maybe, but never pubs. In agree with an earlier comment. If you walk to the bar, buy a drink and walk back to your seat with it, what are you tipping for?

On the other hand one of my local pubs does table service. Anything that saves me scrummaging with the nutters at the bar is worth a quid to the waiter(ess).

Cheers.

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Agreed. I don't think I have ever left a tip when buying drinks in a pub/bar/winebar/club in London or anywhere else in the UK and I don't think it is expected at all.

Chin chin!

Philip

PS

Edinburgh

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Agreed. I don't think I have ever left a tip when buying drinks in a pub/bar/winebar/club in London or anywhere else in the UK and I don't think it is expected at all.

Chin chin!

Philip

Has your wallet got a padlock on it?.. :raz::smile::wink:

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What? Really? Even in your local you have never said "and one for yourself..." ? When i worked behind bars/in pubs 10 years ago i was tipped very well, and whilst i didn't expect to be tipped for every drink (nor was i) I used to take home tips from every service in london and elsewhere in the country. I tip in atil gbars and if i have more than one drink in a bar/pub would usually tip as well, even if it is just the change from my round.

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Yup. That's just how it's always been - I've not been aware of any friends tipping at the bar either. Maybe it's cultural, or maybe the service just isn't given with a smile :raz: ... Hey, it's grim up north.

PS

Edinburgh

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  • 3 weeks later...

Speaking as an ex barman...

the barman remembers who tips and who does not

If you are in the bar for the night, buy the barman a pint at some point. It's a friendly gesture that improves your service a little.

If you are a regular, buy the barman a pint every now and again. It keeps the barman sweet and helps to make sure that you get looked after. (Who do you look after? the regular that looks after you or the one that does not bother?)

If you are buying a huge round, buy the barman a drink. It's a nice gesture - If you are spending £50 on a round, what's an extra £2-3?

As a barman, I was told never to refuse the offer of a drink - If a customer offers, it's because they want to.

I've not worked behind a bar for a long time, but as a customer, I stick to the above rules. I always insist on buying a full pint or equivalent, or I offer the same value in cash.

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As a barman, I was told never to refuse the offer of a drink - If a customer offers, it's because they want to.

Absolutely - it's not expected or routine in London, but is a nice thing to do. And I'm sure it does get better service if you're around enough (and around one particular bartender enough - often not the case in very busy pubs).

I'll do it in places I go regularly, or if the bartender has been particularly helpful, but it's certainly not routine or expected. I'd be unlikely to buy the bartender a drink if I've just popped in for a quick pint and am not a regular. Most people I know (some ex-bar staff, and none of them mean tippers) wouldn't expect to tip in a bar but might buy the bartender the odd drink.

Caroline

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Pubs

I go with fatmat

Not expected but if a regular or they've been good throw a drink their way. (A drink even if not taken is easier than a tip in many pubs). Bar staff in the UK are in general low paid and when you find a good one you should reward them. Not every round of drinks but fair reward for good service, And trust me, these things are noted, and (from when I was a a barman) it's more the sign of recognition tthat will get you better service than the cash.

Cocktail/Hotel Bars -

If you get service then you need to check the bill. If service is included only tip if you got above average service and the amount you tip depends on how much better it was. generally from spare coind to say up to 10%.

If service is not included tip starting at 10% for average service and increase if better.

If you go direct to the bar, once again check your bill (service will probably not be there) if it is then a tip is not expected but will be appreciated. I'd say leave your odd change up to £1, or if the barman has been helpful/interesting/done you a favor/whatever then leave a 10%+ tip what you think they deserve.

Edited by ermintrude (log)

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

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I wish people would stop pretending this imaginary protocol exists.

tip if you want. tip if you feel moved to do so.

that's all there is.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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I only tip in a bar or pub where I know the person as a personal friend and expect to sit down and have a conversation. I expect I would tip if I was expecting the anonymous bar person to have a drink with me and for them to listen to me tell my troubles, but I've never needed to confess or seek comfort like that.

Otherwise it blurs the distinction between staff and customer. They are staff for heavens sake, there to do a service for which they are paid wages, not your long lost drinking companion....

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I wish people would stop pretending this imaginary protocol exists.

tip if you want.  tip if you feel moved to do so.

Not a protocol, just the way it's normally done.

I.e. "Have one for yourself" in a pub or a club and leave the change in a

Cocktail/Hotel bars. But tipping is not the norm in the UK unless you get table service (and then it's often included)

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

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There are regional variations too,

In Manchester, at least in traditional pubs there is a tradition of tipping (even more so in working mens and social clubs). As a rule the tip taken is small - used to be 5p, but now more likely to be 10/20p - not a lot but when everyone tips it mounts up. Saying 'And your own' when handing the money over is the accepted practise. If you say 'and one for yourself' you are offering them a drink that they may actually take, or take the cash equivalent. Some places pool tips but mostly it's individual. When I worked behind the bar of my Parent's pub it always seemed unfair, as the girls alway made about 10 times as much as me!

In the south the practise is a lot less widespread - when i first moved down here I got bemused stares whenever I tried to tip - so I don't bother any more, occasionally buy them a drink, especially if I'm stood at the bar though. Whenether I'm back in Manchester I always tip.

Anywhere in the country chain pubs are likely to have policies which forbid the staff from taking tips or drinks, although sometimes there is a collection box around christmas for the staff party (Which is quite cheeky as traditionally the landlord or the brewery always pays for it...)

Anywhere 'Fancy' (and even not so fancy in london) in a city centre may return your change on a tray with the intention that you leave a tip on it - these is closer to the American practise.

Confusing isn't it!

Quick update,

My Mum was down to visit earlier this week and got confused looks whenever she tried to tip in pubs, she on the other hand had paid for the trip down, and spending money out of her tips from the club (10p a time).

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I wish people would stop pretending this imaginary protocol exists.

tip if you want.  tip if you feel moved to do so.

Not a protocol, just the way it's normally done.

and that's the myth that's the problem.

it isn't "normally" done.

which was the question, and the only truthful answer is that it isn't "normally done". It is "sometimes done", as a gesture, when deemed appropriate by the customer.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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