Gratuity (food & bar server tip range) As a server, if you had a choice?

Of being paid $13.00 to $15.00 per hour without collecting tips, verses a minimum wage and tips, which one would you choose?     ($3.00 – $4.15 per hour in some restaurants)


The Law States:  According to the IRS, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires payment of at least the federal minimum wage to covered, nonexempt employees.  An employer of a tipped employee is only required to pay $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage, the employee retains all tips and the employee customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips. If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference. 


Some states have minimum wage laws specific to tipped employees. When an employee is subject to both the federal and state wage laws, the employee is entitled to the provisions which provides the greater benefits.  


Here is an unwritten and unpublished standard governing gratuities.


Food & Bar Gratuity Range 2009:
0 to 12% ~     Server performed below average. Guest took pity on server.
12 to 15% ~     Server performed average. Guest was benevolent.
15 to 16% ~     Server performed good to satisfactory, could have been better.  Guest was kind.
17 to 18% ~     Server performed above average.  Guest was gracious.
18 to 20% ~     Server performance was exceptional and well above average.  Guest was well fed, well served and pleased.
20% plus  ~     Server was outstanding in providing an unforgettable experience.  Guest was well fed, well served and euphoric.


  • 18 to 20%+ For above average performance when the table has been attended too by one or more of the following: Back-server, maître d’, sommelier or whomever.
  •  A table of six or more guests, entitles the server to 20% or more gratuity, depending upon the rate that is stated on the menu of the establishment.  When a server adds this default amount they are professionally bound to make the host of the table aware of this automatic gratuity added.
  • The $1.00 per drink tip for bartenders ~ sorry pal, it just doesn’t cut it, especially if a guest is eating a meal at the bar and the bartender is tipping out the barback runner.

The amount of the gratuity percentage is left to chance.  The most appropriate phrase that best describes this situation is that your tip is “left in Gods hands.”   Entombed and shrouded strictly within the confines of the guests personal integrity and ethics.  


The Crosshairs ~ The only emotional salve I am able to offer servers in dealing with this murky situation is that your integrity and ethics must rise above that of the guest you serve.  You are duty bound and expected to provide outstanding V.I.P. service for everyone without exception, in hopes that you will be rewarded accordingly.  It’s a horse race.  You win some and you lose some.


This reminds me of what George Carlin once said, “I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out there isn’t.  Than live  my life as if there isn’t, and die to find out there is.”


Comments always welcomed!

(c) 2010 : PTsaldari Group Inc. | The Art of Serving Well | Serve Me Well Inc. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared on blog authored by PTsaldari.  This article may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it. Email:

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Penelope Tsaldari December 12, 2009 at 6:26 am

  • enzozebo December 14, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Just think of tipping this way, if it was you, how much would you tip yourself? How a person tips tells you a lot about that person in my opinion.

  • LaurenOwens January 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    I used to wait tables years ago…but since I was in my early 20′s and was working at Hooters in Myrtle Beach, SC during golf season…I have a pretty warped view of what it feels like to wait tables where you are tipped on your service rather than how nice your butt looks in your shorts. :) I have always tipped well and will continue to. Growing up in a service town you just learn that!

  • Penelope Tsaldari January 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Lauren,Spoken like a true Atticus Finch follower!  I applaud you and as you have stated, it should be.  Thank you for taking the time to respond.  This type of feedback is a treasure.  This type of response allows many readers to read and learn how to think right.Wishing you a wonderful New Year.

  • DINING WITH BATALI January 12, 2010 at 3:00 am

    I find this really valuable! I have the tendency to overtip (good or bad service) to the point that I get in trouble with my expense reports. So glad I met you —I’ll browse more on your site and I’m pretty sure I’ll learn more here…

  • Penelope Tsaldari January 12, 2010 at 3:06 am

    Always a pleasure!  We are preparing some wonderful articles for January and hope you will continue to us.  Thank you for dropping in.Cheers,PT

  • Claudia January 12, 2010 at 5:18 am

    As a former server (many decades ago), I lived on tips. My paycheck was $30/month with nno insurance or benefits. i appreciate good servers today – who do not intrude but do all with a smile and reward them – it is a hard jon!

  • Penelope Tsaldari January 12, 2010 at 5:48 am

    Good God Girl!  That is so eloquently stated.  Thank you so very very much.  This was a wonderful comment.  I hope you visit with us again.Warmest regards,PT

  • Daryl March 24, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    In regards to gratutity from 20% and over, it not always because the customer was well fed and great service, its also because the customer REALLY understands what kind of crap tips we get from all the other custumers who get the same kind of service, but leave a 10% tip because they just dont care….. I wish everyone was a server at least once in ther life so they would undertsand too!

  • Penelope Tsaldari March 25, 2010 at 3:47 am

    Dear Daryl,Could not have said it better!  Maybe I should have!  Know who you are and thank you for your special visit!  Take care, and hope to meet you sometime soon,Warm regards,Penelopi