Feeling tipsy? Find out how much gratuity to leave

Bonnie Smith, a barrista at New Grounds Roasting Company in York, says tipping usually varies from customer to customer (Photos by Paul Kuehnel)

The jar at the coffee shop begs for your spare change.

“Tips. Thanks a latte,” it beckons, as you slip out the front door with your fat-free mocha cappuccino.

Another signed receptacle at Varsity Smoke Shack, a downtown York barbecue restaurant, reads, “Tipping is bad for cows and good for us.”

The sayings capture your attention but offer little advice on appropriate gratuities for your sandwich, coffee creation or table service.

Everywhere you go these days, someone seems to be asking for T.I.P.S.

“People use the acronym To Insure Prompt Service,” said John Hughes, program director for York College’s Hospitality Management major. “To ensure prompt service is part of it. It’s also to get people up to a reasonable living wage.”

It’s important to know what to tip and where to tip to avoid offending someone, said Hughes, a former vice president of operations for Carnival Hotel and Resorts.

It’s also important for his students, future supervisors in the service industry, to understand. Wages can be as low as $2 per hour for waiters and waitresses.

With this in mind, we asked you, service professionals and Hughes to answer the question: What do you tip?


You said: “I used to be one. I tip a dollar a drink or 20 percent on the whole tab.”

— Kristin Burney, 34, West Manchester Township

They said: “Everybody in the restaurant industry hopes for 20 percent. As a bartender, it does fare a little bit differently depending on what people are ordering. If somebody is ordering something more difficult — more expensive — it’s even appropriate to give something more. It’s not across the board for us … We’re always happy if someone gets a beer for $3.25 and leaves the 75 cents.”

— Christen Hunt, bartender at Bistro 19 in York

Hughes said: “Give 15 to 20 percent. If you just sit down and have a drink, it could be $2 per drink that you might give as a tip.”


You said: “I double the tax. But if they take too long or the service is not what it should be, I leave a penny.”

— Debbie Doughty, 41, York

They said: “A good tip would be anything over 18 percent. A normal tip is anywhere from 15 to 18 percent. Most people tend to tip between the 15 and 18. You have certain people who you know aren’t going to give you that. You might get 10 percent. You might not get anything. It all kind of works out in the end.”

— Nedra Breeswine, 27-year waitress at Central Family Restaurant in York

Hughes said: “A 20 percent tip is an excellent tip. A 15 percent tip says everything was basically OK.”


You said: “Usually change. Fifty cents if I’m just getting one coffee.”

— Kim Lambert Rhoads, 37, York Township

They said: “It varies. Sometimes people don’t tip. You have others that even if they buy a mug — which is our least expensive item — they might leave you a dollar even though they just paid a dollar for a cup of coffee. Just like anything else, it’s an individual thing.

— Bonnie Smith, a barrista at New Grounds Roasting Company in York

Hughes said: “I think 10 to 20 percent. A cup of coffee is a couple bucks. What’s 10 percent of $2? It isn’t expected as much in that type of instance as it is when you provide table service.”

Hair Dresser

You said: “I don’t know, but I think it’s outrageous what they’re charging for haircuts nowadays. I usually tip $4 or $5. I don’t know what percentage that is. That’s why I don’t get my hair cut that often.”

— Heather Mann, 39, York

They said: “I’ve been in bigger cities — Philadelphia, Atlanta, Manhattan — and tipping is still kind of general, around 20 to 30 percent. In York, it’s a lot different. Sometimes it’s a little less. The people who are dedicated to their looks and are committed to the same person usually tip in the 30- to 40-percent bracket.”

— Rebecca Stover, owner of Midtown Hair Company
in Springettsbury Township

Hughes said: “In a spa for instance, I think tips of 10 to 20 percent is pretty good. Manicurists and haircuts are probably in the same range.”


You said: “I’d say probably about 10 percent. It depends. Some buffets actually have someone who brings you drinks.”

— Kenna Rotz, 58, West Manchester Township

They said: “I don’t have an official policy. If anybody asks me, I’d say it’s like anything else. If someone provides you great service or you feel they deserve a tip, give them a tip. It’s not expected whatsoever … My employees don’t make server wages. I pay them regular minimum wage or more than that.”

— Mitch Piskur, owner of CiCi’s Pizza Buffet in Manchester Township

Hughes said: “I would say 15 to 20 percent at a buffet. You get a lot of service. They get you water and things like that. They replenish.”

Pizza Delivery

You said: “Not much. Usually it’s added onto the cost of your food. I usually give a dollar.”

— Paige Ball, 36, Manchester Township

They said: “Appropriately would be like 15 to 18 percent. Usually that is not what most people tip. You’re lucky if you get a tip.”

— Creelyn Kinard, employee at Caeser’s Wings Pizza and Subs in York

Hughes said: “My practice has always been 10 to 20 percent.”

Tipping smarts

  1. If you add a tip to a credit card, some institutions will share the tip.
  2. If you want the money to go to a particular individual, pay your food bill with your credit card and tip the person directly.
  3. Always ignore sales tax when calculating a tip.
  4. For hotel maids, leave between $2 to $5 per night at the end of your stay. Some hotels leave a little card with the name of the person cleaning your room. Keep in mind that the same person who cleaned your room for four days might not be there on the weekend when you check out. Leave the money in a marked envelope at the front desk.
  5. Tip $1 per jacket for coat room attendants.
  6. For taxis, tip 10 to 15 percent.
  7. When traveling, check tripadvisor.com’s tipping and etiquette pages. Tipping customs vary across the globe. What’s expected in the United States can be offensive in a foreign country.

— Source: John Hughes, York College

Lauren Boyer

I'm a Business Reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. I cover banking, investing and all sorts of manufacturing, from companies like Harley-Davidson to mom-and-pop operations. I don't go anywhere without my iPad or a large cup of coffee. Contact me with story ideas at 717-771-2062 or lboyer@ydr.com.

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1 Response

  1. Serving Sally says:

    Hey Debbie, I hope you know all the factors going into the ‘service’ being slow before leaving that penny.

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