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Tipping in France

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Felice -- Thank you so much for your definitive and comprehensive response covering the subject of tipping in restaurants in France. This has been a subject of considerable discussion, anxiety, and widely varying opinions on this board. From my perspective, you have answered this question and put it to bed.

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you have answered this question and put it to bed.

You don't know the Internet, :laugh: but I have also found the information you've posted to be invaluable. Thanks.

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You don't know the Internet, :laugh:

Bux -- I do know the Internet, and these boards as well, so your comment is undoubtedly prescient. I should have qualified my comment by writing: put it to bed for me.

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Wondering if anyone has in recent years worked in a restaurant in Paris (or elsewhere in France if things are the same everywhere) and can answer a question about tips. On a bill I have it says service 13.50% 41.31 Euro. (please note this is NOT the VAT which is also on the bill on a separate line at 19.60%) Where does that 41.31 Euro actually go? Does it go direct to the staff? If I had food and wine does 13.50% of the wine costs go directly to the wine staff and 13.50% of the food costs go to the food staff if they have separate wine waiters? Is there any limit? What if I order bottle of wine for 500 Euro, does the staff get 13.50% of that? Does each restaurant decide itself on the rules or is there some French law that everyone has to or should follow? Thanks in advance.

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You should be aware that waiters in France are generally better paid than waiters are in the US. In the US, many waiters are paid less than the minimum wage and employeres are often allowed to include a waiter's tips as part of his salary to meet the minimum wage. French waiters have health care and retirement benefits, as well as paid vacations that are far better than those offered to American waiters. Thus it should not surprise you to learn that the service charge usually goes to the house. While that may finance a waiter's salary, rarely is a salary directly affected by the amount of the service charge.

It is common for Frenchmen to leave 2-5% or even more when dining in France. When paying with cash, diners often leave the change to round off the bill, but this tip is always left in cash even when paying by credit card or check. This goes directly to the staff.

For more information on this, you should read the Tipping in France thread. Felice, a parisian waiter, has posted direct answers to your question in the thread.

For more information on tipping in Paris, you can read the eGullet Q&A with a Concierge in Paris, where you will find a couple of threads on the topic of tipping.

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I've always been impressed by the terrific professionalism of most of the wait staff in France. I've had impeccable service when my waiter is handling 15 tables all by himself at a bistro, no bus people, no help. Here is the US, I've seen miserable service when a waiter is handling 5 tables and has 3 bus staff helpers!

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I wanted to add the average monthly waiter salary for 2007 as given by Hotellerie Restauration

Barman 1526

Waiter 1564

Maitre d'hotel 1897

Dining room manager 2023

Restaurant manager 3263

Average montly salary for all positions in a Paris restaurant €1824.

These figures are all pre-tax and pre-social security, so the take-home pay would be several hundered less.

So, as you can see, a few euros for good service is probably appreciated by someone only taking home 300€ a week.

*Edited to add that these are monthly salaries


Edited by Felice (log)

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This is a discussion carried over from another topic

Another funny thing I've noticed is that many people here seem to leave no tip.  I mean, I know we're supposed to tip less here than in America, but I thought it was still customary to leave some small change or something.  And yet I've never seen anyone do that in all the years I've lived here.

We've had this discussion elsewhere before. I have a personal observation though.

The "old rule" used to be that when you paid in cash, which we all did in 1910, if you liked the service you left an extra 5% as a tip (the yellow pieces that now Mme Chirac wants you to send to hospitals - not a bad idea by the way).

I think that since credit cards came in though, the 5% or extra change is not left nearly as often.

But many of you out there worked or work in the wait-business (me I worked construction), do you find tips in France dropping off?

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I have written about this elsewhere many times, but since I am an ex waitress, I am probably a bit more passionate about the subject of tips. Waiters in France generally do not get the service charge added to the bill, that is given to the house to pay their staff (kitchen included). They are instead paid a monthly salary.

According to the trade journal Hotellerie Restauration the average monthly salary in Paris in 2007€ for front of the house was

Barman 1526

Waiter 1564

Maitre d'hotel 1897

Dining room manager 2023

Restaurant manager 3263

And these salaries are before social charges which cost several hundred. So, most waiters don’t make any more than 300€ a week. If you consider that a small one bedroom apartment costs about 750€ in one of the outer neighborhoods, you can see that waiters in Paris are not raking in the bucks.

In light of this, I think most waiters very much appreciate tips. I know that I certainly couldn’t have lived in France without them. So, if you like the service, throw in a euro or two per person.

As for tips dropping off, I think on the contrary people are tipping more. I do remember one woman who had lunch with us on a daily basis and always left 20 centimes, but this was very rare. It seemed like people either left nothing or a euro or two.

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In light of this, I think most waiters very much appreciate tips.  I know that I certainly couldn’t have lived in France without them.  So, if you like the service, throw in a euro or two per person. 

As for tips dropping off, I think on the contrary people are tipping more.  I do remember one woman who had lunch with us on a daily basis and always left 20 centimes, but this was very rare.  It seemed like people either left nothing or a euro or two.

In NYC I regularly left 20%, unless the service really sucked and then I would leave 12%. I arrived in Paris trained by the NYC scene to tip reasonably well...

I came to Paris from the states a year and a half ago, and this tipping question continues to plague me. I figured I would run some numbers by those expats lurking about who have been around Paris longer than me.

My french parents-in-law typically leave 3-5 euros when we go have a relatively simple dinner - maybe 30-40 euros a head... at a local brasserie including wine. Personally, I fee weird leaving less than 5 for dinner.

I regularly leave 1 euro for a 10 euro breakfast or 5 euro cafe creme.

DH and I go out on a relatively regular basis to nicer restos where the tab can run from 150-350 for the two of us (depends on the wine) and we typically leave 10 euros - I must point out, however, that we are regulars in a couple restos and we get excellent service.

On St. Sylvestre we went to Senderens and left 40 on a 750 euro for two prix fix menu (yes, I know this is the one night in the year when one should stay home since restos charge double, but New Year's is my favorite "just-the-two-of-us" holiday - and we always go on a date, so...)

SO here is the question... am I way over tipping? Am I in the ballpark? Am I (cringe) under?

Curious minds want to know...


Edited by CavePullum (log)

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In light of this, I think most waiters very much appreciate tips.  I know that I certainly couldn’t have lived in France without them.  So, if you like the service, throw in a euro or two per person. 

As for tips dropping off, I think on the contrary people are tipping more.  I do remember one woman who had lunch with us on a daily basis and always left 20 centimes, but this was very rare.  It seemed like people either left nothing or a euro or two.

In NYC I regularly left 20%, unless the service really sucked and then I would leave 12%. I arrived in Paris trained by the NYC scene to tip reasonably well...

I came to Paris from the states a year and a half ago, and this tipping question continues to plague me. I figured I would run some numbers by those expats lurking about who have been around Paris longer than me.

My french parents-in-law typically leave 3-5 euros when we go have a relatively simple dinner - maybe 30-40 euros a head... at a local brasserie including wine. Personally, I fee weird leaving less than 5 for dinner.

I regularly leave 1 euro for a 10 euro breakfast or 5 euro cafe creme.

DH and I go out on a relatively regular basis to nicer restos where the tab can run from 150-350 for the two of us (depends on the wine) and we typically leave 10 euros - I must point out, however, that we are regulars in a couple restos and we get excellent service.

On St. Sylvestre we went to Senderens and left 40 on a 750 euro for two prix fix menu (yes, I know this is the one night in the year when one should stay home since restos charge double, but New Year's is my favorite "just-the-two-of-us" holiday - and we always go on a date, so...)

SO here is the question... am I way over tipping? Am I in the ballpark? Am I (cringe) under?

Curious minds want to know...

You are definitely not under tipping and probably tip more than the average person. I think 1-2 € per person for good service or even 5€ is very nice and will be appreciated. I probably wouldn't tip over 5%.

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.... I must point out, however, that we are regulars in a couple restos and we get excellent service.

In these instances, there is often the additional consideration of your (or our) being comped champagne or digestives or extra desserts, etc. that influence the tip.

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SO here is the question... am I way over tipping? Am I in the ballpark? Am I (cringe) under?

Curious minds want to know...

I know I am probably in a minority here, but I have lived in Paris for 8 years and have never seen a French person tip, not even so much as a cent. (That's why I brought up this question in the other thread John Talbott mentioned - this is something I just can't get used to.) When I eat out with my husband we always leave a couple of euros, and when I go out with my parents they leave a massive tip, but none of us are French. But this brings to mind a common belief - that the waiters here expect bigger tips from foreign (especially American) customers? Certainly they never seem offended when the French people I know don't leave a tip.

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I think you insult a European waiter and show yourself a fool by tipping.

You imply the job is not professional and the restaurant do not pay their team properly. At best you are conspiring in a tax fraud.

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But this brings to mind a common belief - that the waiters here expect bigger tips from foreign (especially American) customers?  Certainly they never seem offended when the French people I know don't leave a tip.

I'll let Felice (who has been active in the field) answer about whether waitfolk here "expect" different tips.

I will say though that I've never been regarded or treated any differently here whether or not I tipped. No one snears at you as you exit as they do in the lower 48. (I know, I'm so famous that they know I won't.)

I will also add that Antoine Ego a few days ago, not only didn't pay, he didn't tip or give a yellow piece for his coat.

I do think one should drop 5% and I do in cafes for a coffee, for instance, but 20% shows you're from Chicago and 25% New York. I don't know about LA.

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I think you insult a European waiter and show yourself a fool by tipping.

You imply the job is not professional and the restaurant do not pay their team properly. At best you are conspiring in a tax fraud.

Well, underpayment was the point that my cohost Felice was raised upthread.
Waiters in France generally do not get the service charge added to the bill, that is given to the house to pay their staff (kitchen included). They are instead paid a monthly salary.....In light of this, I think most waiters very much appreciate tips. I know that I certainly couldn’t have lived in France without them. So, if you like the service, throw in a euro or two per person.

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I will say though that I've never been regarded or treated any differently here whether or not I tipped.  No one snears at you as you exit as they do in the lower 48.  (I know, I'm so famous that they know I won't.)

True, I've never seen anyone sneer when I didn't tip, but sometimes they seem disproportionately happy and almost amazed when I do, leading me to believe that perhaps they didn't expect it.

This is particularly true with pizza delivery guys, but it seems I can't break the tipping habit, even though I was once roundly scolded for it by a friend of mine in London when we were teenagers and could scarcely afford it...

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I always tip. I can't believe "tax fraud" was mentioned..jeeshh!

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I will say though that I've never been regarded or treated any differently here whether or not I tipped.  No one snears at you as you exit as they do in the lower 48.  (I know, I'm so famous that they know I won't.)

True, I've never seen anyone sneer when I didn't tip, but sometimes they seem disproportionately happy and almost amazed when I do, leading me to believe that perhaps they didn't expect it.

This is particularly true with pizza delivery guys, but it seems I can't break the tipping habit, even though I was once roundly scolded for it by a friend of mine in London when we were teenagers and could scarcely afford it...

For some reason I'm reminded that persons like my wife and Felice, who have worked as waitfolk, as I have not, are much more generous.

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.... I must point out, however, that we are regulars in a couple restos and we get excellent service.

In these instances, there is often the additional consideration of your (or our) being comped champagne or digestives or extra desserts, etc. that influence the tip.

Ah Margaret, the apertif/digestif/dessert things do indeed register. Full marks.

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I think you insult a European waiter and show yourself a fool by tipping.

You imply the job is not professional and the restaurant do not pay their team properly. At best you are conspiring in a tax fraud.

Well, underpayment was the point that my cohost Felice was raised upthread.

If underpayment is the primary reason for tipping, then we should be tipping far more occupations than waitstaff (and some should get much more than waitstaff).

I think, however, that times are changing, and there may be a time in the near future when tipping, even in Europe, is expected at restaurants.

I regularly leave 1 euro for a 10 euro breakfast or 5 euro cafe creme.

In the latter case, I think you're definitely over-tipping, and you're probably one of the reasons for why tipping will soon be expected at restaurants in Europe.

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I think it has been said by many people that tipping is not part of the culture in france.So when someone leaves a few euros ,its an indication that one has really appreciated the service.

Actually waiters in france work very hard and are very different from most state employees who shuffle paper and dream of their 6 weeks vacation .

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I think it has been said by many people that tipping is not part of the culture in france.So when someone leaves a few euros ,its an indication that one has really appreciated the service.

Actually waiters in france work very hard and are very different from most state employees who shuffle paper and dream of their 6 weeks vacation .

Yes. In an effort to understand this question from the French perspective, we make special effort to watch our French friends when we dine together. Even our most fiscally conservative companions leave something (around 5%) when service has been generous, and nothing when the meal and service have given us no reason to return.

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