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cabrales

Restaurant Tipping

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fresh_a: Do you find that your guests appreciate the appropriateness of providing additional tips at three-star restaurants? (I appreciate there is a commonly-held countervailing position.) Do you find that many adhere to the literal interpretation of service being included and not tip?

What range of tip percentage would you consider appropriate for a top restaurant? Do you receive feedback on your guests' tipping by such a restaurant?


Edited by cabrales (log)

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In an administrative context, the service is included, but even in three-stars, this doesn't necessarily mean the staff has any advantage from this.

I would tip 10%, but that's me.

I think tipping more in the top establishments is common practice..

As for restaurants informing us on their tips, never.. this is a very discreet topic


Edited by fresh_a (log)

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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I think tipping more in the top establishments is common practice..

fresh_a: I readily agree tipping *should* be more than 10%, but, from observation, am sad to report that tipping at the top restaurants rarely exceeds 10%. :sad: Some diners leave no tips.


Edited by cabrales (log)

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In an administrative context, the service is included, but even in three-stars, this doesn't necessarily mean the staff has any advantage from this.

Fresh_a, could you be more specific about this ? Are you saying that "service" in France is not allocated to the staff ? And is this true in all levels of restaurant, and in hotels ? In which case, what does it pay for ?

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French workers are very conscious of their rights, and it is inconceivable to me that a restaurant at any level that employed French workers, as opposed possibly to illegal immigrants, could get away with not distributing the service charge. I also believe that withholding the service charge would be illegal. I have also never heard anyone before make this suggestion that fresh_a has made. I would be very interested in learning more about this, but I must admit that I am sceptical.

To me, overtipping is an indication of insecurity. However, I can understand and sympathize with why someone like fresh_a. who's job is based on receiving tips, would tip more in return.

In the course of many meals in France at all levels of restaurant, I have tried to observe what the French diner does. This is much easier today, as most people are paying by credit card and credit card slips in Europe typically do not give you the option of adding in the tip, so you need to leave it on the table. Even in high end restaurants, close to half do not leave anything extra. In Belgium, virtually no one will leave anything extra. My observation is that those who tip in France, leave something in the 3% range, 5% maximum.

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I've always understood that the 19% tax on meals is like VAT, not a service charge. I don't know of anyone, even in top restaurants who get anything out of any service charge. This is definitely not a common practice. However people in top establishments have good salaries, not like in the US, where much of the time the salaries for restaurant workers is abysmal, and service staff need tips to survive.


Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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Many top restaurants' menus indicate that service, among other things, is included in the prices. The prices are supposed to include the tax and service. I do not believe that resolves the appropriate level of tip issues, though.

Note I would agree that not all dining room teams directly share in the implicit service component included in the pricing.


Edited by cabrales (log)

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The 19.6% "service" charge is otherwise known as VAT or Value Added Tax. This is roughly equivalent to a sales tax you find in restaurants in the US. The only time you won't see a 19.6% VAT at a restaurant is if you pick something up at a fast food place, where the VAT is only 5.5%. There is a huge debate about this in France among people in the restaurant industry.

Service, or what most people call a tip, is included in the bill at almost every restaurant in France. You will sometimes note this as an additional item in the bill, but many times it is also built into the price. The typical service charge is 12,5% and most definitely goes to the waitstaff. Sometimes you will see this noted on a menu. Since French waitstaff are paid a better salary than their American counterparts, you can understand why the majority of French people don't leave tips. It's already there. SO, when the French enjoyed the service and their meal, they typically leave a "token" of their appreciation, which before the euro was a ten franc coin. After the introduction of the euro, people have been confused whether or not to leave a 1 or 2 euro coin. (10 francs is smack dab in the middle)

As an expat in France for quite a while, I've always tried to understand these types of protocol. No one wants to make mistakes about tipping, especially if they want to return to certain restaurants. But know this, when American tourists come to restaurants in France and leave 15-20% tips, the waitstaff is surely happy, but they are also laughing at the fact you paid for service twice.

One last note...I was really concerned about tipping at a three-star. SO, before going, I did a random survey of French friends. The consensus opinion was to leave 5 to a maximum of 10 euros for two people. Yes, you read that correctly. Our bill was over 450 euros, and we left 10 euros. We didn't feel like there was anyone giving us dirty looks. In fact, we were accompagnied to the door, and chatted with amicably by our waiter.

Tipping is a personal issue, and there are surely loads of opinions. In my mind, it doesn't hurt to know the local customs and follow them accordingly.

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But know this, when American tourists come to restaurants in France and leave 15-20% tips, the waitstaff is surely happy, but they are also laughing at the fact you paid for service twice.

As I mentioned, some people leave no tips at top restaurants. However, I believe the potential rationale "one should be concerned the staff thinks one doesn't know service is included" to be a frail one. If a dining room team has provided good service, I believe a tip of 10%+ is entirely appropriate. For a 400 euro meal, that's only 40 euros. I see adjacent diners buy two aperatifs at more than that. :sad:

What is conventional might define what one can "get away with". It doesn't define what one should do, necessarily. :hmmm:


Edited by cabrales (log)

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Like I said, the possibility of opening up a can of worms here is possible.

I just want to clarify one thing....I'm certainly not "trying to get away with anything". :blink: For some people a three-star meal is a drop in the bucket. For others, it's a serious splurge. I'd rather take my tip money and put it towards a nice aperitif, because I know the service has been built in and there isn't any reason for me to feel like i'm cheating the wait staff. I actually worked as a waiter for 5 years to get through college. I would never stiff a service person.

This is a classic French vs. American argument I have with people all the time. Because we are used to tipping in the US, should that mean we apply our ways in France when their ways are different?

Take another example. When in France, should you switch hands after cutting your meat? Does this make sense? In the US, we typically (right-handed people) put the knife in our right hand to cut, and then return the fork to our right hand to put the food in our mouth. In France, they don't switch the utensils. Anyway, I was once told I was being rude because I was eating the American way. Should I change because I'm in France? I don't know.

In any case...I'm happy to discuss either topic for fun. :cool:

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As I mentioned, some people leave no tips at top restaurants.  However, I believe the potential rationale "one should be concerned the staff thinks one doesn't know service is included" to be a frail one. If a dining room team has provided good service, I believe a tip of 10%+ is entirely appropriate. For a 400 euro meal, that's only 40 euros.  I see adjacent diners buy two aperatifs at more than that.  :sad:

What is conventional might define what one can "get away with".  It doesn't define what one should do, necessarily.  :hmmm:

I'm inclined to disagree entirely with this line of reasoning. I believe the tourist has some responsibility to abide by local conventions and some responsibility in learning what these are. The worst part of allowing one's own convention to govern is that it means American waiters are likely to be stiffed or under-tipped by foreigners traveling here.

I don't think it's inappropriate to tip as much as 10% in Paris, but I wouldn't tell anyone that's an appropriate tip as I don't believe it is expected. How much I left on the table at Gagnaire is really between myself and the staff, but I suppose I could have doubled it for the price of aperitifs, or I could have stiffed them and taken a cab both ways instead of the metro and a walk back to the hotel. I think it's unfair to use the term "get away with" when one knowingly complies with what one has good reason to believe is proper and expected behavior.

My rough guide is 2 1/2% to 5% rounded off. What really puzzles me is tipping wait staff when staying in a country inn and settling the bill as one checks out. I have never seen a guest leave cash on the table. I did once at Marc Meneau's place in Vezelay, see a guest try to leave a tip with the cashier to be distributed among the staff. He was politely, but very firmly told that service was included and that they had no way to distribute the cash. It strikes me that where tips are expected in a first class establishment, they are pooled and distribution would not be a problem, assuming the tip is in any way anticipated.

I do tip the chambermaid and the porter who carries my bag, or the person who helps me at the curb. It's always accepted, but sometimes I am genuinely convinced it is unexpected. I believe the service charge includes only those things that are not done for you in person and the chambermaid tip is just an old practice that lives on. Most people I've talked to do the same as I. The concierge also gets tipped, although I don't make all that much use of one and never know how much to tip. At a hotel my wife uses for her clients, we may use the concierge to meet him and as an excuse to tip him for services rendered to her clientele.


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I don't disagree it would be appropriate, by local convention, to leave nothing or 10 euros.

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This is much easier today, as most people are paying by credit card and credit card slips in Europe typically do not give you the option of adding in the tip, so you need to leave it on the table.  Even in high end restaurants, close to half do not leave anything extra.  In Belgium, virtually no one will leave anything extra.  My observation is that those who tip in France, leave something in the 3% range, 5% maximum.

Sorry Marcus, I think you are confusing France (and Belgium) with Europe (a common mistake on this site - when will these people realise that there are many diverse countries in Europe not just France). It's certainly NOT true of Germany (where, half the time they don't even take credit cards) and it's not true of Italy and it's not true of Greece and it's not true of...........you get the idea.

What you are referring to is the credit card machines that French waiters carry on their hip which automatically prints out the total thus leaving the client no opportuniy to leave a tip contrary to many pllaces in Europe that add the tip and then leave the tip box clear hoping you'll be stupid enought to add another tip. It won't catch on in the States!!!

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I believe that problem does exist in France (regardless of whether the machine is brought to the diner at the table), although at least American Express makes possible a tip being reflected somehow (not necessarily as a separate line; it can be written just as numbers on the credit card slip, I was told by a reliable source). However, presumably a diner interested in leaving a tip could bring cash for the tip, as I do.


Edited by cabrales (log)

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Just my two-cents worth, but I think it is very appropriate to tip in the top establishments, and most guests I know of would leave a MINIMUM of 10 Euros per head, probably more...

As for only American tourists tipping 10% or more at top establishments, I can guarantee you that the vast majority of my clients (perhaps a reflection of their financial status) , American, French or otherwise tip 10% or more.

In my experience, I can think of perhaps a handful of people working as waitstaff who actually get anything out of the service charge... I think I'll look into this further and report back...


Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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