California Travel Tips

Tipping Tips and Tricks of the Trade

Published on: February 03, 2012

Pictured is a food server in Ojai, California’s Osteria Monte Grappa (, known for its great Italian food and pleasant wait staff. Diners like to eat in an upbeat environment and may tip more when they feel happy.

People who have worked in food service tend to be more generous tippers. They are sympathetic, recalling all the times they worked hard and were stiffed. Unfortunately, European tourists and travelers from other countries are the worst tippers in California. In their countries tips are stated on the bill and often paid as part of the meal. But here in California and the U.S., we have to work hard, provide great service, and smile…those are a few ingredients for trying to make a buck or more per meal served.

First, the perceptions:

  • Men are treated better than women in restaurants, thus they tip more.
  • Women expect the men to tip so are unprepared at tipping time.
  • Isn’t minimum wage enough to live on?  That’s the base pay for many food servers.

Tricks of the trade that have proven successful in garnering bigger tips for servers:

  • Squatting – Waiters who squat next to the table when taking orders and talking with customers have increased their tips by over 2% from approx. 15% of the bill to 17.5%, according to Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell.
  • Touching – Waiters increased tips by 3% when touching the customer’s shoulder, according to the same research report.  Both men and women left higher tips when touched, and although younger customers increased their tip amount more, all ages increased the tip by some amount.
  • Giving candy – Waiters increased their tips by 2% when they left pieces of candy with the bill, and by 2.5% when they left 2 pieces of candy per diner in the bill. However, the maximum impact for increasing tips involved giving one piece of candy per customer with the bill, then spontaneously handing out an extra piece per customer.
  • Weather predictions – When tourists or customers were told the weather was going to be sunny, tips often increased by 5%, versus no increase or a slight decrease when the weather forecast included rain or snow.
  • Bellhops found that by taking a few extra minutes explaining to guests how to operate the television and thermostat, opening the drapes for guests, and offering to fill the ice bucket  tips increased by $2

Tipping Guidelines – studies show that tipping isn’t about gratitude for food service. It is more about guilt. Here are the general guidelines for tipping if you plan to return to a restaurant and be treated nice:

  • Wait staff 15% – 20% of the total bill before taxes (Note: some restaurants now suggest tipping after taxes because servers themselves tip out on the after tax amount).
  • Wine served with dinner. Some restaurants say it’s OK to tip around 10% for expensive wines.
  • Drinks & bartenders only – 15% – 20% of the tab; or, $1 for beer or wine, $2 for mixed drinks.
  • Order at counter –  If the food is delivered to your table only as a convenience, tipping is not necessary.
  • Tip jar-  Optional  5%-10% for good service or complicated orders.
  • Parking Attendant  $1-$3
  • Coatroom Attendant Usually $1 per coat
  • Restroom Attendant Usually .50-$1
  • Pizza Delivery – Minimum $1, 15% for normal service, more during rain, snow or other poor weather.
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