Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Pan

Tipping in France

Recommended Posts

Service charges are included in the bill, but I recall that my French friends tended to put a few Franc coins on the table as a tip, but I never really knew what was expected or polite (it seemed like 2-5 FF per 100 FF or so was a nice gesture, but I couldn't really get a straight answer from friends). So what about it, folks? Is it a percentage thing, a flat rate, totally optional, expected, highly variable based on judgments about service? And how has the changeover to Euros affected tip amounts in Paris and in the Provinces?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A "service charge," not a tip is always included in the price of the meal, as is tax in France. Often the check, or the menu (carte) itself will note the percentage of the bill designated as service charge. It's usually 12-15% and it's not uncustomary to leave another 1-5% for a tip if service merits. If paying with cash, the change is often used to round off the the amount. If paying by credit card, tipping, if desired, should be in cash and not added to the credit card bill.

I suspect it's hard to get a straight answer as I've met people who espouse both extremes of always leaving a tip and never leaving a tip.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pan, two to five francs per 100 is what is appropriate in almost every case: two for bad to mediocre service, but not wanting to stiff anyone (although I have in the rare instance where I have received abusive, anti-tourist or anti- American service); five for good service in a low to medium price establishment and a few more percent in a classy joint. (Check to see if service included is 12-1/2 or 15 percent) I never tip the person who brings you back your coat- often it's the waiter-and I almost never give something extra to a maitre d'hotel or sommelier unless they have done something out of the ordinary such as accompanying me to my car holding an umbrella or giving us complimentary glasses of dessert wine, for example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've met people who espouse both extremes of always leaving a tip and never leaving a tip

I'm one of those extremes and very rarely leave a tip when dining in France. It's all included and not expected. For some reason I do leave a few cents (Euro cents that is) in cafes and bars unless I've been upset by the staff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my problems with tipping in France, especially in the countryside, is that I'm usually dining in the same in or hotel in which I'm staying and will not get the bill until I check out. It's awkward to leave money on the table in those circumstances. I've never seen anyone else do it. If fact once, at a multi-starred upscale inn, I witnessed an American trying to add a tip to his credit card at check out. He was told service was included and that there was no way they could do add a tip to the charge. He then tried offerng cash, but was told they couldn't make a distribution--there was no tip pool and they had no way of dividing the money among the staff. In these situations I tip those who offer a direct service such as carrying my bags (whether or not I want the help) and to the chambermaid. I do not tip management when they carry bags.

Many of my friends who live in France, both French and Americans, tend to leave a tip particularly in places they frequent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Many of my friends who live in France, both French and Americans, tend to leave a tip particularly in places they frequent.

Bux -- That's a good point. While in a conceptual sense tipping should reflect the quality of the service received during a particular meal, the pragmatic effects of tipping at a restaurant at which one expects to have repeated meals over time are highly relevant.  I generally tip well on top of the included service charge at restaurants in Frnace generally, and very generously at the 2-3 restaurants I truly care about.  :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cabrales, do you tip the restaurant staff at inns where you stay? If so, how and when?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux -- I try to tip at inns or hotels by leaving cash in my room, accompanied by a note specifying my intent (e.g., "pour vous -- merci"). However, I am much less generous in tipping for cleaning, which I view (perhaps wrongly) as a rather routine activity, than for service at restaurants, which is multi-faceted and more difficult to excel in.   :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My assumption has been that money left in the room goes to the chambermaids.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux -- Sorry, I misread your question. If you're asking whether I tip dining room team members of restaurants located in small inns, I do. However, so far I have not stayed at small inns in the countryside with particular frequency. I certainly hope to explore small inns more. As for the problem of not receiving the bill until checkout at such inns (or larger places), I generally leave cash at the table.  :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am hoping that someone could give me an idea about appropriate amounts to tip in French Hotels. How much does one tip a concierge for making reservations, etc. Also, how much for porters, housekeepers, etc.

I have read wildly different amounts, which is why I am asking here.

Merci beaucoup!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Check in the fridge : "Q&A with a Concierge in Paris", by yours truly!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Check in the fridge : "Q&A with a Concierge in Paris", by yours truly!

Restaurat Tipping

(Concierge) Tips

Several things remain uncovered in those threads and I fear I may be behind the times. My father was a generous man who always gave money to street beggers, but as he got older, his tips for services rendered fell victim to his age, retirement and a loss of connection to what was considered the standard. It's good to have these things discussed from time to time to keep abreast. For purposes of tipping, I assume parity for the euro and the dollar. Here's what I've tipped.

The porter: about a buck a bag. We travel with small suitcases and I generally don't count shopping bags while the computer and camera bag together might count as one bag, although I like to carry the computer.

The housekeeper: about two bucks a day in moderate to better hotels. Years ago when I graduated from youth hostels, someone told me a dollar a day. That was a long time ago. When staying for a period of time at one hotel (when we leave a big city, we usually drive around and stay only a day or two at most places while we're touring) I leave the tip on a daily basis. I usually leave in on a piece of notepaper on which I've written "merci." I resent the idea that the housekeeper would take any loose change lying around, but my guess is that the note is superfluous.

Taxis: I've been told that 10% is generous in Paris. I tip 10% rounded up and sometimes a bit more rounding up if the ride is particularly pleasant. I note that there are always airport and baggage charges I may not understand and try not to assume the cabbie has already built in his tip when he announces a price in excess of the meter. I always get a smile and hearty thanks which unnerves me. I'm a New Yorker and gracious cabbies always unnerve me.

I'm not surprised you find conflicting advice. I've heard everything from nothing should be left in a restaurant because service is included, up to 15% or more. In Spain I've been even more unsure about tipping and finally cornered two people who live in Madrid while there last month. I was told 5% by one and 10% by the other.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for directing me to those links. I wish that I had seen the thread on tipping in restaurants when it was first discussed because I think I could have shed some light on the situation as I work in a restaurant in Paris two nights a week.

Fresh A is 100% correct that most waiters do NOT touch the service charge. In my restaurant we are paid the SMIC which is around 7 € per hour. After the social security charges are taken out, not much remains. We collect the tips that are left on the tables and distribute them amongst everyone (kitchen included) at the end of the week. It usually amounts to 15 extra Euros per shift.

The service charge goes to the restaurant to pay these salaries. Don't forget that in France, waiters have health care, retirement, and paid vacations.

The restaurant in which I work is a moderately priced bistro in the 6th, which has been written up in just about every book. Obviously, the 3 star establishments are not making the SMIC, however. An article in Where Magazine said that waiters in Paris make anywhere from 15,000-50,000 € a year.

When I first started working in Paris, I was shocked at how little waiters make and would never continue working at my restaurant if I didn't love it so much. It is a third of what I made in the United States, at best. I have asked many, many people working in restaurants and so far have not met any who have made much more.

Of course if the service is terrible, don't leave a cent more, but if the service is good, the waiter will appreciate a few extra Euros. I think between 1-5 € per person is appropriate in a more casual restaurant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm a New Yorker and gracious cabbies always unnerve me.

Oh that is just so true :laugh: I think I tip New York taxi drivers at a higher rate than even the best restaurants, because I'm most scared of them when I get out of the cab and turn my back on them :wacko:

Given what Felice confirms about the "service charge" in French restaurants, does anyone know if this is in fact optional as it is in other countries ? If I get awful service in France, am I allowed to deduct the charge ? And what is the position with service charges in hotels ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Given what Felice confirms about the "service charge" in French restaurants, does anyone know if this is in fact optional as it is in other countries ? If I get awful service in France, am I allowed to deduct the charge ? And what is the position with service charges in hotels ?

No, you can not deduct the service charge. The service is often just calculated into the price of the meal (just as the rent, the electricty, the kitchen salaries, etc is calculated into the price). The server gets the same salary no matter if it's busy or slow.

It's like woking as a clerk in a store, you can't ask for a discount because the clerk was rude.

That's why I think waiters can be rude in France at times, or at least less accomidating. Since you know you're getting paid, you don't worry about getting completely stiffed.

The part that is optional, however, is whether or not you want to leave an additional tip or "pourboire". If the service is poor I wouldn't leave a cent more, but if the service is good, it's nice to be rewarded!

The service charge is the same in hotels, I believe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The SMIC is the minimum wage which all employees are entitled to in France. I'm not sure what it stands for...probably salarie minimum... quelques choses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are the tips dispersed throughout the restaurant staff in all of Europe, or is that just in France?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Felice, thanks for the inside straight talk on this. It's interesting for travelers to understand how things work in other countries, although I wonder if most Americans know how things work at home. Minimum wage laws vary across the U.S. In many, if not most and maybe all, localities, the employer is allowed to estimate tips and include them as part of the minimum wage. Thus many waiters here have a guaranteed salary of a couple of dollars an hour and tips bring it up to the minimum wage. Of course waiters in four star (NY Times stars, not Michelin) restaurants in New York, where tabs run high and the standard tip is approaching 20%, earn a nice living, although one should also understand that dinner takes a long time and that tip is split between many more servers than would be on the floor in a diner. France also has a greater social benefits program for workers (health care, retirement, and paid vacations -- usually paid vacations of a month or longer if I'm not mistaken). It is therefore dificult to compare salaries directly.

Something I find interesting, and appreciate to a great extent, is that the price listed on the menu includes service and tax. When the bill arrives at the table, there is a note at the bottom how much goes towards taxes and how much towards service. Without checking my bills, I believe that is given in both percentages and amounts. I've always wondered where the service percentage comes from and if it actually represents how much of the restaurant's gross goes toward salaries and in turn, if it should affect my tip. I rarely take into account whether the charge says 12% or 15%. Should I, and if so, that would mean I would have to compare these charges when selecting a place within my budget.

I'm glad to see a waiter compare the service charge with that part of your purchase price that goes to pay a store clerk's salary. In neither place can you separate this from other fixed overhead. Same is true for hotels. You can't ask for a discount because you didn't like the service, although a justified complaint about anything in a restaurant or hotel may be rewarded the next time you patronize the place. In Cuenca, Spain, last month, we awoke to find no hot water in the Parador. I would not have paid twenty percent of the room charge for a hotel room that had no hot water, but there was no compensation for my discomfort. I suppose I would have been allowed a late check out if I was willing to give up my morning while the problem was fixed. I got no sympathy from a friend to whom I complained either. He just told me of the 30 minutes he spent in the street in the middle of the night in Boston becasue the fire alarm went off in his hotel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear New Guy,

I am not even sure that tips are distributed this way throughout Paris. We share the tips evenly because we are much slower at lunch and don't get many tips. This way it doesn't really matter when you work. Everyone is paid the same.

And to add to what Bux said about waiters salaries in the US. I worked for several years as a waitress and manager in Philadelphia and as a waitress I was always paid the same amount--$2.00 an hour. We were also taxed on a percentage of our sales and generally my paychecks were negative because of those taxes. There is a sub-minimum wage for tipped employees in the US. With tips however, I generaly made at least 100$ a night and on busy nights much more. These were fairly nice restaurants however. I think this is pretty much standard across the US.

But, it's true that in France I get 4 weeks paid vacation and get to walk across the Seine on my way home at night :biggrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Felice -- There has been a lot of discussion regarding restaurant tipping in France and I wonder if you could help to clarify. What percentage of native French diners tip at all versus leave nothing extra? When a tip is left, is it based on a percentage of the bill or is it a flat amount for a particular type of restaurant, you mentioned 1-5 E per person as an appropriate tip for your casual restaurant?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding taxis, when I first moved to paris almost 5 years ago, I wanted the low down on all sorts of things, as you might imagine. I asked the French guys in my office about tipping taxi drivers. The Director of Sales told me you give them nothing. And if you feel like it, you can round up on the change, which still amounts to nothing. I've usually abided by this advice and only tipped 1 or 2 euros for an airport trip, if the driver takes me on a direct route! I think the reason the drivers thank you so gracefully when you tip them is because they aren't used to getting tips. Another thing I've noticed is that some drivers expect tips from Americans, and get frustrated when you don't tip them. I don't believe in double standards, so I act French. :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Marcus,

I am not sure of the percentage, but I am never shocked if a French client doesn't leave a tip. I would say up to 50% of French clients do not tip. From those who do tip, I have received tips as low as .20 (which is a bit comical) up to probably 10 €. On average though, most leave a few euros, probably between 1-5 per table, unless it's a big group. I don't think it is based on any percentage, but they possibly tip more in a more upscale establishment. The restaurant where I work has main courses in the 16-19 € range and checks average about 40 € a head.

I understand that this is the custom and just live with it, but I really think that for good service a waiter deserves more that someone working at say McDonalds. That's why I think at least a euro per person (for good service of course) is required. If the service is poor then the waiter deserves nothing.

Americans certainly tip the most, but they are also welcomed because of that and probably get better service. Nobody minds bending over backwards to accommodate special requests (which Americans are famous for :huh: ) if you know you're going to get a tip in the end. Most Americans will leave me at least 5 € and I am always happy with that.

Another interesting thing about the salary system in France is that since the restaurant is paying the employee, there are less waiters working each shift. We only have two waiters at a time, with no bus person, etc for about 20 tables. In the States the most tables I ever had at one time was probably 5-6. Since the restaurant is paying such low salaries they tend to overstaff. In France it is often difficult to give the same level of service because we have so many more tables.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Regarding taxis, when I first moved to paris almost 5 years ago, I wanted the low down on all sorts of things, as you might imagine.  I asked the French guys in my office about tipping taxi drivers.  The Director of Sales told me you give them nothing.  And if you feel like it, you can round up on the change, which still amounts to nothing.  I've usually abided by this advice and only tipped 1 or 2 euros for an airport trip, if the driver takes me on a direct route!  I think the reason the drivers thank you so gracefully when you tip them is because they aren't used to getting tips.  Another thing I've noticed is that some drivers expect tips from Americans, and get frustrated when you don't tip them.  I don't believe in double standards, so I act French.  :blink:

Bless this forum. I was prepared to learn I was a cheap bastard. Unfortunately, I take so few cabs that I'm not going to save much money on my next trip. Off topic, I suppose, but I found taxis very inexpensive in Spain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×