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Tipping in Bars


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It has been my experience that the higher end the restaurant, the more people have their hands in the tip jar. At a job in Cambridge, we tipped out 36% of out tips to support staff. Sure there were only 3 waiters, but also 2 bussers, a food runner, and a bartender. So a $400 night turned into about $250 after tip out. Not bad, but hardly a windfall for a weekend night. Some places also pool their tips, so maybe one bartender is making $3 a drink, but the slacker at the other end is making phone calls. Every place is different. I basically tip what would make me happy (usually around 30%). If I get a comp drink, extra special treatment, or see that the bartender is skilled, but getting their ass handed to them, I chip in extra (above the 30%). No one likes to get clobbered all night and then having to roll quarters for an hour... :biggrin:

It is very tricky. If I'm not sure, I usually ask what the situation is with support staff. Partially from restaurant curiosity, but it also helps to gauge how much is appropriate.

I like the comment above about the $4 dollar monday lunch. I've had days like that, when after I ring in my half price burger for lunch, I owe the house money. I keep track of my earnings and average them every week. The shocking revelation is that, except in rare occasions, huge money nights are almost always balanced 2 days later with a crappy night. I usually make within $100 either way per week unless something fancy happens. Those windfalls (other bartenders, etc.) are eaten up by people who don't tip on wine, etc.

Sean

edit to clarify about quaters. I actually have nothing against quarters, I just hate rolling them at 2am.

Edited by Snowy is dead (log)
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I balance out my $300 Saturdays (a ten+ hour non-stop shift) with the $0 I get every other Tuesday when I'm "cut" as soon as I show up.

I work in a restaurant bar with a pretty esoteric menu: The drinks are classic cocktails that most people havent heard of; the wines are all old world and small-producer; the only popular beer we have is bud, other than that they all demand explanation for first-time diners.

I like this sort of thing. I like introducing people to new drinks. I'll also happily make up something on the spot if someone asks me to. It's fun, and it makes people feel taken care of.

I get a pretty standard $2/mixed drink, $1/beer, $1-2 wine, tempered by the occasional nothing, and the occasional $50 palm (which goes into the tip pool).

Drink maker, heart taker!

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in Nyc where i work its a pulled house. a dollar a drink isnt going to cut it. I fit into that 5 day 300 + 300+ 100+100+100 drinks= 1800 dollars catagory which is a pipedream. where i work ten drinks will be about 100 or 120. a buck a drink is a ten dollar tip. with tax i doubt thatll even be ten percent. I think the buck a drink is alright in some one on one relationships. i e a bartender serving beers alone in a dive. but of the above mentioned ten percent on a friday im going to get about a dollar or two of that. and that minimum wage thing amounts to zero dollars after taxes. ive always wanted to keep one of my zero paychecks to show some dolt who doesnt tip. itd finally be something ( a lesson ) instead of a waste of paper.

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That's a good point, and really, caused me to think while I was posting.

Why do I tend to tip bartenders less than waiters?

Here in my local area waiters and waitresses make "restaurant server minimum" which . effective Januray 1, 2006 , is $4.35 per hour. I know of no local restaurants - even the most upscale places - that pay above this minimum.

I also don't know of any places in this area apart from total dives that pay bartenders less than $8 to $10 per hour before tips. It might be different in larger cities but here? The payscale for bartenders is far higher than for waitstaff.

I used to tend bar part time and when I quit the business seven years ago I was getting $10 per hour before tips - back when "restaurant minimum was probably less than $3 per hour.

But savvy bar and restaurant owners, at least in this neck of the woods, know they have to pay at least that much to get people who are not only fast and good with customers but also trustworthy.

I don't know exactly how many local places have gone under in the past twenty years due to a bartender with sticky fingers but it's quite a few. In this area it's a mostly cash business and the inventory is portablel and easy to resell if it makes its way out the back door.

It may not be your rationale about the situation and it's not typically mine but I suppose that in the back of my mind I don't feel guilty about just leaving my 50 cents on the bar when I buy a $1.50 soft drink.

That's not an excuse for undertipping a bartender but I can tell you that when I worked as a waiter the bartenders in our restaurant all earned, in total take-home pay, a minimum of twice as much as the best waitperson on staff.

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[Hey, Phaelon: speaking of local bars, is Uncle Sam's still around?]

I've found that overtipping in bars generally pays off pretty well over the long haul. I've gotten many a free drink and had numerous gtlasses of wine topped off thanks to my polite demeanor and readiness with a crisp fin.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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In every restaurant I've worked in NYC, the bartenders made the same percentage of the pool as the captains/waiters and didn't get a higher base pay.

It's a completely different in this small city market. As a general rule there are no "captains" here and the waitstaff have to tip out to the bar staff at the end of their shift for a percentage of all the drinks that got sold across the service bar. The tips that the bartenders make across the bar for patrons sittign at the bar and not ordering drinks at the table gets pooled among the bartenders. And they don't tip out to anyone unless maybe they throw a couple bucks to the busboy or dishwasher for doing an ice run.

This is not a large enough city to support upscale "cocktail bars". Folks looking for that kind of ambiance typically go to the bar area one of the better restaurants so as to avoid the younger more boisterous and/or rowdier crowd that gathers in "taverns".

And some of the restaurant bars do a surprisingly large amount of business across the bar on Friday and Saturday nights. I'll hazard a guess that a good sernior bartneder with a following in one of the more upscale places in this area can earn about $35,000 to $50,000 per year with at least $10K of that not falling into a... uhhh... taxable area.

It may not be much in NYC but around here it's a low to mid middle class income.

It's so dissimilar to the setup in major cities that it's truly an apples vs. oranges comparison.

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i've never really thought about this, but i think i am an okay tipper. i think my general equation is

niceness or ability of bartender x busyness = tip

in other words, if the bartender is friendly, personable or just plain good and it is really busy, s/he'll get a good tip (2-3 bucks on a $6 drink)

if s/he is friendly, personable or just plain good and it is not busy, s/he'll get a normal tip (1-2 bucks)

if they are surly and it is busy...normal tip

if they are surly and it is not busy...sorry charlie, bad tip--a buck or sometimes...nothing (gasp)

if they are comping drinks...the value of the drinks they comped

Edited by freshherbs (log)
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if they are comping drinks...the value of the drinks they comped

That one is a slippery slope that I'm very careful about because I know and can relate to the challenges the owners face in making enough profit to keep their doors open. I've known of a few places where a certain bartender would comp every other or every third round knowing that they had regulars who would still put down the full amouint for the round. The money went straight in the tip jar and the bartender, in essence, was pocketing a good share of the owners profits.

Years ago I drank in a place that was so poorly run and the owner treated staff so poorly that I could tip $5 on my first $4 drink order and get my next three drinks for free. It's not surprising that his business failed.

A savvy owner with a good barstaff will lay down some ground rules about "spillage" for regulars and heavy buyers so it could be a win-win-win for all three parties: customer, bartender and owner.

I also know of bar owners in this area who hire private security folks to come in peridiodically as "spotters". Sort of like "secret shoppers" but their job is to monitor not only service and activity levels but more importantly - what gets rung up, what doesn't and how often are comp rounds being handed out - and to whom.

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I think comped drinks involve compromise. It doesn't do me any good to pay the full price for a comped drink, but the bartender does deserve a substantial prmium. I usually try to split the difference.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Here in my local area waiters and waitresses make "restaurant server minimum" which . effective Januray 1, 2006 , is $4.35 per hour.  I know of no local restaurants - even the most upscale places - that pay above this minimum.

I also don't know of any places in this area apart from total dives that pay bartenders less than $8 to $10 per hour before tips.  It might be different in larger cities but here?  The payscale for bartenders is far higher than for waitstaff.

Here is good 'ol Massachusetts, the waiter pay is $2.63. Which is a substantial improvement from the $2.55 it was 6 or 7 years ago. The rule of thumb around here seems to be that waitstaff, with a few exceptions, are almost always paid the 2.63. Bartenders in chain restaurants also get 2.63. Restaurants and bars where the service is expected to be very good and the staff knowledgeable get more, especially the bartenders. I've heard of $10 an hour in Boston, but never seen it. Best I've done is $7.

I know of one boston chain (nameless) that pays the waitstaff 2.63. Large parties get an 18% tacked on the bill. However, the bar, and the bussboys take a cut. which is fine. It's the cut to the house and the "function manager" who booked the party that rots. Waitstaff end up walking with as little as 12%, splitting among the people who got the party. It's like the mafia or something.

edit to add the point: that not all tips end up where the patrons assume they do. fortunately, these kinds of things appear to be happening less often.

Edited by Snowy is dead (log)
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I frequent a wine bar in the city very close to my office.

Tipping is not part of the collective consciousness here, HOWEVER... I make it a point to always leave something, $5 minimum, in the jar. It's more to say to the guys/girls "Hey, I appreciate the service and enjoy spending time here."

Compared with another wine bar that I sometimes frequent and do not practice the same, I find that wine bar #2 just that little bit grating and officious and annoying, probably why I didn't start off tipping there in the first place!

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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i hear this often from a lot of people

they proudly proclaim they "always tip 20%"

well great.

i've been a waiter for 8 years and i would easily tip 10% without hesitation if the service was horrible.

more importantly tho i would talk to the manager and let him know what was so wrong with the service so he has a chance to improve the situation.

also, do not confuse bad food with service. great waiters cant teach cooks how to cook, but they can make you forget about the food if they know how to work it.

anyway, back to your topic.

i agree, for cocktails, at a bar, i would usually tip $1. definitely on $6 rum and cokes, but probably still on a $10 martini.

i think if you're at a wine bar and you're only ordering glasses of wine, around 15% is okay......because on a $20 glass of nebiolo or puligny or something like that, is it really neccesary to leave $4 for about 5 seconds of work from the bartender? (remove stopper, pour wine)

but then again if i were having like a panini or tapas and a bottle at a wine bar, and the service was good, i'd probably leave 20%

Edited by chefboy24 (log)
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Chefboy-- There is one part of your post that I do not understand. How do you explain "easily tipping" 10% when the service is horrible? I understand that you are in the trade, but, why should one have to tip if the service has been bad, let alone horrible.

Honestly, I dont mean to start a food fight, but, Im trying to understand the logic behind your post.

Thanks,

Gaucho

Visit Argentina and try wines from the RIGHT side of the Andes !!!

www.terroir.com.ar

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