Colene writes at length about tipping in restaurants:
Unless the server was rude, ignored me, or completely wrecked the dining experience, I always leave 15% minimum. For good service, I at least expect them to serve me promptly, be polite, refill my water (better yet, do it before I ask for a refill!). On a bit of a tangent, I hate when servers are rude to you when you have water instead of a pricey drink. Can I help it if I like to drink water? Anyway, if I have ever left less than 15%, it was because something was horribly wrong and I am never going back there again.
I’m with Colene on both of these points. I used to work in a restaurant, and I recognize that servers make a lousy wage and tend to only work four to six hours. So, I generally leave 15-20%. I also don’t dig getting sneered at for ordering a Coke.
Colene raises two questions:
1. Do you tip on wine? If you order an expensive bottle of wine, do you take that into account?
I don’t drink, but I always tip on the final amount on the bill. I suppose that’s ill-advised, as it includes the tax, but see above–the server probably needs the extra buck or two more than I do. Why wouldn’t you tip on the wine?
2. But my point is, why should a server get more of a tip for bringing me a $18 steak versus a $8 salad?
A couple of reasons. First, there’s more at stake with the steak. The diner has to specify how they want it, and it has to be delivered that way. Far more things can wrong with a steak than a salad–or at least there are far more complaints about the former. Additionally, a portion of your tip is usually distributed among the kitchen staff. Clearly, a steak takes more skill than a salad, so the tip should reflect that proportionably.