Ask Ann: Is 20% Still the Going Rate for Tipping?

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Is 20 percent still the going rate for tipping?

A: In a word, yes. I’m writing this after reading a random internet story on why tipping hurts the server – it keeps the owner from having to pay him/her a decent wage – and so the solution is… don’t tip.

That’s not the solution! I will admit that barring terrible service, I tip 20 percent. That’s on the pre-tax total. For backup on tipping, I consulted that trusty source, The Emily Post Institute, which advises tipping 15-20 percent on a sit-down restaurant meal.

But what about fast-casual counter-service joints, food trucks and places that add gratuity to the bill? The last one is easy. Don’t tip on top of the added-in gratuity!

As for counter-service, where you’ll often pay with a Square or other mobile app, per’s recent “definitive” restaurant tipping guide, 20 percent is your go-to. Why? Because workers are sharing the burden of taking and running orders, busing tables and keeping the place clean. Coffeehouses? Not necessary to tip, says Eater, but a buck or two per order is an extra token of appreciation. Food trucks? Not mandatory, but again a dollar or two to show recognition. Bars? The Eater guide advises a dollar per drink at a dive bar and 20 percent at a cocktail bar.

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“Ask Ann” appears in the January 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.