To Tip or Not to Tip (hint: this isn’t a question!)

I want to talk about tipping today.

Warning: this is a semi-rant, but this topic is near and dear to me and I have been planning on writing this for some time.

Quick note: I am focusing on tipping servers (restaurant, bar and coffee shop) here.

Aspects of Tipping to Consider


Ok- let’s be real.  Wait staff can make a killing on tips, but they can also make jack sh*t.  The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13/hour + tips (as long as this rate averages out to be equal to or greater than the federal minimum wage).  Sheesh.

That’s right, minimum wage.  Minimum wage for a job that often requires patience, fast-paced work, incredible memory, and an impressive level of multitasking.

Not to mention these workers are dealing with customers who can be annoyed, drunk, mean, rude, misogynistic, condescending or all around jerks.

Level of Service

What I don’t have to deal with when we eat out!

Wait staff and bartenders/baristas are doing their job.  They have good days, they have bad days, and they have life outside of the moment you see them.  And quite honestly, as customers, we have no context about their life or their resulting attitude.

So when I am served a meal or drink, I am not concerned if there is a distracted server or a server having an “off day”.  Everyone has a few hard days (or even hard moments… who knows if they were just yelled at back in the kitchen!).

Bottom Line:  No one knows what another person is really going through.

Ok, that was important… I’m repeating it.

No one knows what another person is going through at any given point in time!

Sure, maybe the wait staff could be nicer at times.  But I’d rather give the server the benefit of the doubt.  Plus, by being kind and tipping well despite subpar service, you may just happen to be the ray of light that server needs in their day… so why miss out on an opportunity to make their day a little brighter?


Advocado Fries… yes, they are a thing. Yes, they are to die for.

Raise your hand if you have NEVER made a mistake at work.




Didn’t think so.

A server is doing their job and mistakes can be made.  It is embarrassing and unpleasant to arrive at a table with the wrong sandwich or fries instead of a baked potato.  But do you know what is worse?  When, despite your apologies and attempts to fix the mistake as quickly as possible, the customers then punishes you by knocking your tip down to a mere 5-10%.

Oh, and sometimes those mistakes aren’t your fault!  As the server, you can only control so much of the equation.  As a waitress, I experienced times when the line cook might make a mistake or another waitress grabs that club sandwich that is part of MY larger order (thus leaving me with an incomplete order… an awkward situation when I show up at the table).

Moral of the story… we all make mistakes.  Let’s not punish a server or bartender due to a mistake made by them or by any other member of the establishment.

My Approach to Tipping

Date night with a gift card!

So, what is the Adventure Rich approach to tipping?  Here is our approach to tipping.  We tip 20+% at restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Too much?  I beg to differ.

I waited tables for 5 years for a wage of $2.65/hour + tips.  While this is not the set up in all states, it was the reality for me and I relied on tips to help pay for college.

The years waiting tables opened my eyes to the importance of tipping.  And not just tipping, but tipping generously.

Quite honestly, barring a blatant insult or disrespect on the part of the waiter/waitress towards me, my family or any other person (customer or fellow co-worker), I tip 20% or more.

Demands of the Job

Waiting tables and working behind a bar (coffee shop or pub) are high stress, high energy jobs.  The customers want their food or drink quickly, the manager demands efficiency and cleanliness at all times and other than a scheduled break, there isn’t much room for “taking a breather” or resetting after a busy lunch rush.

The demands of the job (physically and mentally) are real, yet the pay is often low.

So, in the middle of a busy day (or sometimes worse yet, a slow day with fewer tips!), an extra few bucks on a tip would bring a smile to my face and give me a little sense of refreshment.

Sure, the extra tip money might have only added up to a few dollars, but the act of generosity from a complete stranger made an impact on broke high school/college Mrs. Adventure Rich.  I was touched by the gesture in a positive way.

Now, it is my turn to pay it forward.  Why not give a little extra or round up a tip?  At the very least, why not tip 20%?

Putting it in Perspective

Still on the fence?  Let me give one more argument.

If you are going out to eat or drink in the first place, you are (hopefully) not broke.  Even going out and splurging on a $100 dinner results in a $10 tip at 10% or a $20 tip at 20%.

Will that extra $20 on top of the $100 you chose to spend really break the bank?

What if you went a step further and jotted down a tip of $25 because it was a busy night and the frazzled wait staff did a great job despite the difficult evening?

Embrace Intentional Lifestyle Inflation

There are excellent reasons to trim costs and save money on big and small expenses.  But when it comes to tipping, I plan to continue to practice “intentional lifestyle inflation”.

In this intentional lifestyle inflation, I put the tip in perspective and allow myself to recognize that I am well paid and can afford to tip well.  And beyond that, I can tip generously.

I can skimp and scrape on other expenses, but I never want to look at a bill and think “I’ll save a few bucks on the tip today”.

End rant 🙂

Always an Adventure,

Mrs. Adventure Rich