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Tips in Western Canada - all about them


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As a rule of thumb i would like to think that I/we tip well, and for the well deserved.

For a couple of reasons, but primarily because we are a cheap table. Yes thats right. I`m a cheap bastard.

As restaurateurs are calculating their average spend figures, along come the fattyacids to dash any plans that they might afford a new Mercedes. My disposable income ain`t what it used to be and i don`t drink.

A financial version of survivors guilt kicks in when presented with the bill. So i tip to compensate this. Generally around the 17-20 % mark.

I also receive tips at work, not lifestyle changing amounts here, but it all helps. The waiting staff give a pile to the kitchen, which gets shared by all us sweaty cooks.

Interesting that you bring the UK up here Mr Maw. As i`ve been made painfully aware in the past, how utterly bad we are as a nation at the tipping game. And i`m sure that if we are to be racialist towards my fellow country persons of no specific gender, then that generalisation would be correct.

My wife had to school me on the confusing art of tipping, when we arrived in Vancouver from London.

Should i tip the hairdresser after preening my blue mohawk ?

Should i tip at mcdonalds, and if not where do you draw the line for me to start tipping ?

... is it where things are brought to you whilst your sat down?

like in an airplane ?

or does the establishment have to have a structural foundation recognised by the builders guild as to be sound ?

Anyway as for England, Since you started it Mr Maw.

Yes the middle ground, so to speak, has it`s own set of issues regarding attracting staff and then rewarding them for doing the job well. but i do find tipping an alien concept. As i recall to get good service in England you really have to open up your wallet wide and pay top end prices.

Having worked at a top end restaurant over there, i did receive a wage that allowed me to have the disposable income required to eat out well and be served accordingly in london. But to say it`s ..

1. The vestigial remains of a class-based culture, i.e. "us versus them",

On the contrary as i would argue that tipping creates the very us and them attitude between the have and the have not`s, and alot of British folk find it all very condescending, me included.

My first impression of Earls by the way (and i`m a fan of their work) was being told that my order of chicken vindaloo was " like totally awesome " .

Now the opposite to the English ( lack of ) incentive model is the North American one, which some one mentioned above, to get better service on a second visit tip well. so tell me is that right, or is that not a teensy bit elitist ?

and here in Vancouver are we all just a walking walk-in dollar amount to our servers ?

and do you propose that creates a less sincere service culture ?

Any way enough of my nonsense, potentailly off topic ramblings and armchair revolutionary speel

so yes 17 - 20 % it`s is then.

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So I was wondering if the convential wisdom that Canadian dining patrons tip a little less than Americans holds water. My (unstated and untried) hypothesis is that, in the US, a lower base wage and higher tips would find equillibrium with the opposite formula here.

30 years of experience says that the conventional wisdom is true (at least with regards to British Columbians versus Americans). Americans are accustomed to a dining culture where the server is completely dependant upon the customer for their income. Americans tip more, but are also much more assertive in using that power to get things exactly as they would like them...

In typical fashion, Canadians seem to have found the "compromise" position between the "high wage/no tip" & the "starvation wage/high tip" countries.

Damian du Plessis

Bravo Restaurant & Lounge

Chilliwack, BC

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So I was wondering if the convential wisdom that Canadian dining patrons tip a little less than Americans holds water.

As an American resident of Canada (who travels back to the States all the time for business), I don't notice any overwhelming difference in tipping between Americans and Canadians, to be honest.

However, I think some people do a distinction between tipping at a social/personal meal versus a business dinner ... in the latter case they're more often than not spending the company's dollar AND trying to impress whomever they're dining with. Wondering out loud if many of the Americans who are dining at your various establishments in BC are, indeed, on business -- and thus a bit freer with their tips...?

My father back in the States still to this day doesn't think leaving more than a dollar on the table is necessary. I've tried to educate him, but it hasn't worked yet...

Edited by Xando Head (log)
Food Lover -- nothing more, nothing less
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I know that 10-15% is standard among my friends. I tip around 20%, sometimes 15% for average service in a more casual restaurant, but if we're dining in a group, it barely raises the tip total on our table. (I can see servers drawing straws in attempts to avoid my table in the future. :huh: ) REALLY bad service = between 10-15%. I always leave a tip, though, even if the service is not that great. I don't bother to really calculate tip at a Chinese noodle house or at a pho place...I'll leave a twoonie for a bowl of noodles.

I do take a discreet glance at how much tip a guy I'm dating leaves...so far they've been very generous--usually 20%+ to over 100% (that particular instance was for a casual meal.) I don't know if they do this on a regular basis, or only b/c they're on a date, and my "discreet glances" are not as discreet as I think they are. :wink:

Edited by Ling (log)
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How much do you tip out on average in restaurants? How do you vary the percentage for good, bad and ugly service experiences? Please feel free to be honest.  :biggrin:

Have you ever stiffed a server without explanation?

And turning the tables, if you're an industry person, what do your tip averages run? Do people ever discount wine service? Are Western Canadians generally decent tippers? Do tourists (especially Americans) tip more?

And as for locals what demographic is the most generous? Hell's Angels management? Realtors with their pictures on their business cards? The least? Ladies who lunch, Rotary groups? Have you ever been surprised? What are the signals that you're dealing with a short tipper?

Damn, it's late on a Sunday, and I'm damn tired after a busy December weekend, but I can't resist...

I'll try to answer these one at a time:

I tip an average of 20%. I'm in the biz, and know lots of people, and lots know me, but I would anyways, because "live by the tip, die by the tip" y'know. Just OK service merits 15%. If it's bad, I let someone know.

I have never left zero, or that inane "tiny tip to make a statement" tip. Stiffing the waiter is a passive cowards expression of dissatisfaction, and my therapist says.. well, that people shouldn't do that. If you're pissed at the service, do us all a favour and complain about it. Then it will change. (note: spelling of "favour" making this a canadian post)

"Turning the tables", tip averages in Vancouver run at around 15%-17%, better Monday to Thursday, weekenders are generally a little less, you make it up on volume. Sunday can be hit and miss depending on the attendance of industry types who frequent my place (God bless you every one).

Yes, people sometimes discount wine service, but they don't understand that at many establishments the tip-out to support staff and kitchen is based on all sales, liquor included, so if you "can't pay, don't play".

Yes, Western Canadians are generally decent tippers, but that's mostly in the GVRD. In the Okanagan, for example, waiters are doomed, that's why it's hard to find a good one.

Do Americans tip better? There's an old (american waitstaff) saying "What's the difference between a canoe and a canuck?"

As for local demographics, I'm sorry Jamie but I can't answer that, I have no idea what you mean by that question.

What are the signals that you're dealing with a short tipper?

Can't see over the front desk.

Booster seat.

Small shoes.

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Really, this is just a wage subsidy issue. Owners should simply raise their prices 15%-20%, and give all their staff a raise, especially the dirty cooks and dishwashers who do all the work. It would make the situation more fair.

Reminds me an old Canadian cook's joke.

What do you call a restaurant with no servers? Take out.

What do you call a restaurant with no cooks? Closed.

Hardy har har.

And WTF is up with *managers* skimming off the tip pool? Why don't they just chill out and take their salary? This really gets me going. Geez.

OK, was that inflammatory enough? I hope so. :raz:

I will leave 15% as a standard for good service, 25%-30% for excellent service and some kind words to the manager (the one with the different coloured shirt and all those keys) about my server. When the food is outstanding, but the service does not do it justice, I will leave 10% and buy the kitchen crew a round of beers on my bill. As for bad service, I will leave something, but you only get one chance. If next time things aren't better, no tip, no note, no chat. I just don't care. Figure it out on training day.

Also, I tip on the total amount, including alcohol, excluding things like promos, discounts or coupons. Most places I've worked, the server tips out (kitchen, bar, host and manager) on gross sales.

-- Matt.

edited to add: Can someone adjust this crazy eGullet clock?

Edited by Matt R. (log)
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Actually there are some good points here. This might be a general practice but out of lazyness I just tip on the total. I don't think I really look at the pre-tax amount however during promotionals or when using an entertainment book coupon for example I will ensure I am tipping on the pre-coupon amount. I mean come on, we're saving a main dish with this coupon don't get too skimpy on the tip!

Generally, I try not to 'punish' the waiter for something that is out of his/her control. However having a waitor ask myself and my mother to 'leave the restaurant' because someone of 'higher importance' has arrived warrants no-tip and in my case a 0.01 tip. Don't worry this was not in Vancouver.

Back on topic, I figure serious consideration on tip (ie not just tossing a toonie down) usually happens in a place which sits you down and it doesn't take 5 minutes to have your food to you (ie noodle shops, congee places, fast burger shacks, etc..)

Vancouver has a lot of these kind of places and they either have a jar for tips or if you do sit down I guess they pool them.

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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As an American resident of Canada (who travels back to the States all the time for business), I don't notice any overwhelming difference in tipping between Americans and Canadians, to be honest.

Having personally observed the gratuities over the years on bills totalling in excess of $20 million....

The Canadian benchmark is 15%....Americans (whether business or simply tourists) average closer to 20%. In the long run, that difference is actually pretty overwhelming!

Whether the average American tips that well "at home" is something that only someone with data from that country can say. However, anecdotal evidence would suggest that the average mid-upper range diner in the U.S. tips higher than their BC counterpart.

Edited by bigdaddy (log)

Damian du Plessis

Bravo Restaurant & Lounge

Chilliwack, BC

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Being in the industry, I tend to tip 15 to 20% unless the service is amazing.

Then I will tip more than that, sometimes as much as 30%.

If it is bad service 10% is the max.

I have never stiffed anyone as this is not a "get rich quick" career but I will not return to the place and I will not reccomend the place to others.

I find that people from Western Canada tend to be in the 10 to 12% tip average range, way down from their southern cousins, the Americans.

Americans tend to tip at least 15% to 20% and I think it is mainly because places in the States tend to pay peanuts to their staff in the way of wage.

To those people who replied earlier in this thread.......

To the person who worked in a sales job in retail......

Did you make a commission on your sales? If so, look at the tip in the same way.

To the one who doesn't tip at all....

Stay out of any restaurant I work at, please!

I find the cheapest people tend to be British or Austrailian tourists who, to be fair, come from countries that have unionized labour in their kitchens and restaurants and therefore the price of dining out is higher to cover the increased labour costs.

But when they are abroad, they tend to stay in this mindset. (Not all of them to be sure, but a significant number)

The telltale sign you are about to get stiffed is when someone is high maintence and says to you, "Don't worry, I'll take real good care of you."

I don't like this topic very much as I have always been more concerned in giving the guest the best possible service rather than concentrating on what they might leave as a tip.

Isn't that what the "service industry" is all about after all?

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

Edited by Oyster Guy (log)

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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I tip 15-20% for reasonably good service and 25-30% for really good service. Or if I'm paying in cash and it's a small bill I will usually go higher . I mean, I'm not going to break out the change purse for a tip. Not that I carry a change purse, but you get the picture.

I have noticed that in Canada, tips seem to be lower. I've gone out with friends who are not cheap in other domains, but who leave between 10-15% tip. I figured that I was just the outlier because in America waiters and waitresses get paid less, 2-3 dollars an hour I think because of the tips. So one only figures that in Canada, you simply tip less. I was going to start doing that until I read this forum. thanks egullet!




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Unless the service is really crappy (and it's not due to things beyond the server's control), I generally tip 20-25%. I'm of the mind that there's no point in nickel and diming. Even when it's really bad though (fortunately this has been rare) I don't think I've ever left less than 15%.

My partner in crime and I usually tip really well at places we like and want to be considered regulars.

I'm not really sure how this area stacks up against the rest of the country - do people in the industry notice significant difference between "locals" and other canucks?


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if we're dining in a group, it barely raises the tip total on our table.

Would there not be some sort of autograt policy in place?

Many restaurants have them for groups of 8 or more.

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To the person who worked in a sales job in retail......

Did you make a commission on your sales? If so, look at the tip in the same way.

No. You'll actually find very few places that will pay commission on top of wage, and if you do, it's usually only 2%, and definitely no more than 5%--a far cry from the 15-20% average waitstaff make.

Back to the original topic, I mentioned this before but it got removed because of other off-topic remarks (as I fear this reply will be).

In my experience as waitstaff, the biggest tippers, at least in Winnipeg, were those who were out to impress. They were the schmoozer/pretentious/nouveau riche crowd. Generally, they left me the biggest tips (20-25%--20% is a lot in Winnipeg, 25% is outrageously good). Luckily, there are as many pretentious-types in Winnipeg as there are frugal-types. :biggrin:

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You will surprised in the US as a lot of top tables have an auto grat of 18-20%; which is annoying. Same thing in big hotels with Room Service, they charge a delivery fee and then leave the tip line open on the bill.

From my experience which seems to be the norm on the Thread:


Western Canadians= 15-20%

Eastern Canadians= 10-15% (I always like to see what Ontarions tip and it's usually lower than the West.)

As well you find some generational differences in tipping.

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As well you find some generational differences in tipping.

That goes without saying. Logically a starving university student might tend to tip less than a career person. However there are exceptions to every rule and I bet a starving uni student who part time bar tends will be more generous with the tipping.

Special circumstances will also cause a change in tipping: for example if a waiter gives us a free dessert or something because of some mishap (perhaps) then I will tend to tip such that the cost of the 'free' item is more than made up for.

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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I read James' comment as the older generation tips less than the younger (our) generation - however you also have a point Fud.

When I was at school, I'm sure I tipped less - though not much in terms of percentage points. I was definitely eating at cheaper estabishments because I couldn't afford eating out well. Cheap pasta (Chiantis) or sushi (Eatery at 3 AM), more emphasis on cheap beer (Fringe), etc. instead of 3 courses and wine, you know. But I still use the double-the-GST-plus-a-bit guide.

Also nowadays I agree that if I'm comp'ed something, I'll still tip on the service of that item - even though it was most likely given to me as a result of some other screw up. (But not always, of course.)

Re James' comment: remember when the tipping standard was 10%? Then it jumped to 15%. Now it seems like it's jumping again to 20%. (And read the other threads, in the States it's jumping from 20% to 25%.) Why is this? I could see why our parents generation would still tend to tip 10%, because that's what they're used to. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be chiding my grandkids for tipping 50%, whether that's the norm at the time or not.

Autograts: I have mixed emotions about these. I agree that quite often it is difficult or impossible to go out with a "group" and get everyone to pay their fair share (worse when we were in school). Someone should do a sociological study on why people feel it is okay to cheapen up in a group situation - safety / being able to hide in numbers? And while I don't want a server to get screwed in this situation, I also want the option to tip whatever I feel is appropriate.

I haven't seen too many places autograt around here, except in true group (ie 8+) situations at nice restos, but at Trotters it was 18% for a "group" of 4. The service was excellent and the percentage justifiable, but I still don't like being told that I have to tip a minimum percentage or they'll send the cops after me.

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Not to digress, but Trotter pays his servers a yearly salary. No day to day vagaries with tips. THis is concept I would like to see at the professional end of the spectrum for career waiters... but that is a big can of worms and eventually Revenue Canada will force this upon us (management / owners).

Edited by James Kendal (log)
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Not to digress, but Trotter pays his servers a yearly salary.

I believe he has to. It's not like there are individual shifts or a variation of hours there. If it's open, everyone works, so it's probably in his best interest to keep it consistent and fair amongst all.


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  • 4 months later...

Ah Tips!

This has been one of the longest discussions and arguments in the business. Who should get it- who deserves it? How much should the kitchen, the house, the bar get? Should we be taxed? And should the customer pay up front if you a group over 10 should there be a 15% add on their bill.

Other districts have their own standards but this thread is for industry people who live and work in the business in Van-BC and the West. It sounds like we need a forum for discussion and get a feel what the standards are for the West and do we need changes?


Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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I have no problem with a 15% grat on groups of eight or more. It's alot of work for restaurant staff. I always tip between 15 and 20%. I believe the tips a server gets will usually be divided up to this average formula: 2% to bartender, 2-2.5% to kitchen (chefs, sous, cooks, dishwasher) and 1-2% to the host/hostess and or manager. So on average your server will walk with either 10 or 15% tip depending on what you leave.



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


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