Should you leave a tip at a buffet? It’s a simple question with a simple answer. But there’s a follow up question that gets a little more complicated: How much should you tip at a buffet?
Buffet tipping & etiquette exists, it just happens to work a little differently than full table service restaurants, where an established tipping rate is conventionally set at between 15- and 20-percent of the total bill, depending on personal generosity and quality of service. Well, just like the all you can eat buffet at Jimmy’s Seafood Buffet, most buffet restaurants include primarily self serve food for a flat rate per diner. That means buffet tipping & etiquette isn’t as strictly connected to billing percentages as most restaurants. However, the staff of a buffet restaurant still works hard to ensure proper service. Ergo, the answer is yes: you should leave a tip at a buffet.
As to how much that should be, here are some easy guidelines.
One of the great benefits of dining at a buffet is the reduced cost. By allowing customers to serve themselves, a buffet reduces the number of servers needed to operate a restaurant, with the savings are passed on to each diner. However, for buffet servers, that reduced cost can mean reduced income opportunity in the event customers don’t tip at all. While buffet waitstaff doesn’t take food orders or bring plates to the table, they do bus dishes and glassware, and do clean and prepare the table for the next customer when you leave. For such service, a decent show of gratitude would be the smallest unit of paper cash: one dollar per diner. This allows the customer to still enjoy the bargain of a buffet restaurant, while still ensuring service staff earns a fair amount over their base wage when the restaurant is busier and fuller, and additional hard work is required.
Less may be required of a buffet server, but that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t work any less hard. More often than not, the buffet server will be monitoring more tables than a full service waiter. If they receive a dollar from every patron, they will go home fairly compensated. However, if your server goes above and beyond standard buffet service, and extra dollar per patron will reward such service. For example, if you order a lot of alcoholic beverages to the table, or make repeat visits to the buffet. A good rule of thumb is, if you flag down your server more than two or three times over the course of your buffet meal, consider tipping two dollars per patron to account for your extra demands on their time. And if you generally leave feeling a server has done more than reasonably expected, throw in an extra dollar per diner. You’ll know when great service happens.
We’re accustomed to tipping as a percentage of price, so for some of us it may be easier to calculate as a percentage of total cost. That said, buffet servers don’t do as much as full service wait staff, so tipping 15- to 20-percent doesn’t make sense. A conventional service staff will recommend dishes, take your order, bring food and drinks to the table, and take away your empties. In other words, a buffet server does about half the work, so a 7- to 10-percent tip sounds reasonable.
However, also consider how much the per person charge is for a buffet, and adjust accordingly. For example, if you’re at an $80 buffet, tipping one or two bucks doesn’t come close to 5-percent, so it’s better buffet tipping & etiquette to leave at least five dollars. At Yummy buffet, a one dollar tip on a lunch buffet is a reasonable starting point. However, because the cost of dinner buffet is higher, the ten-percent rule indicates a reasonable tip for dinner service is closer to two dollars per person.
There’s no fixed amount that makes sense when calculating how much should you tip on a buffet. Simply knowing you should leave a tip at a buffet, and factoring in a little common sense, should get you closer to understanding how much is too much, versus how much is not enough.
Give Yummy Buffet of San Diego a call today at 252-261-4973 if you have any questions!