Confused about tipping in restaurants and bars? What about the "tip jar"? | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Confused about tipping in restaurants and bars? What about the "tip jar"?

An etiquette expert and a bartender weigh in on how — and how much — you should tip

The gratuity is as much a part of any dining experience as the food.

"It is important to tip as a way to say, ‘Thank you,'" says Susan Timko, an etiquette-skills trainer and associate director of career services at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College.

It's also the way many in the food industry make their wages. "The hourly rate is much less than any other minimum-wage job because they factor in tips," says Summer Voelker, a bartender at Salt of the Earth, in Garfield. And tips are shared among all the restaurant staff. Here are some of Timko and Voelker's tipping guidelines:

  • Food: 15-20 percent of food and beverage cost, before tax. (Tip in cash, if you can.) If you're not satisfied, try to resolve the issue with a manager before the bill comes. If you're still not satisfied, Timko suggests reducing the tip to 8-10 percent. Using a coupon? Tip on the full cost of the meal, not the discounted price.
  • Counter service (baristas, delis, anywhere with a "tip jar"): "Not leaving a tip is fine," Timko says. But "if someone has given you excellent service or accommodated a large or unusual order, leaving a tip would be a wonderful gesture."
  • Bartenders: 15-20 percent on the total bill, or $1-2 per drink. "There's something to be said for every aspect of what we do," says Voelker, "whether it's popping open a beer or taking an hour and a half to make a dram. There's a craft in all of it."