Innovations in Restaurant Tipping: Just Do the Math For Us


At a local cafe in western Massachusetts the printed bill contains something I’ve never seen before: At the bottom is a list of percentages—15, 18 and 20—with suggested gratuity amounts based specifically on the bill’s total. While tipping is a social norm in the U.S., it’s a hassle to figure out the right amount to tip. The tip amount is rarely suggested, and never in specific dollar terms (though sometimes a gratuity is included for larger groups of diners).

So why not do this everywhere?  Perhaps it could be viewed as crass; but it saves time and makes the social norm explicit (as it already is in our minimum wage laws)—and it might shame those who refuse to tip.  I hope this innovation spreads rapidly in this time of apparently decreasing social cohesion.


Did you check the math to see whether it had been calculated pre-tax or post-tax?


Or you include the wage of the staff in your prices like the rest of the world does. If the staff isn't up to scratch you get rid of them and hire others.

Why do the customers have to calculate what the effort of the waiter was but not what the effort of the cook was? Get rid of tipping, put them on the payroll proper.


Agreed. The "ip goes to the waiter, host, and busboy. If the food is bad, does the kitchen suffer if you tip less than 15%?

I hate tipping. I do it, but I hate it. And I tip 15%. The relative price of services versus food hasn't gone up or down, has it? Is the value of the service worth more than 15% of the meal now?

If I had any guts I'd stop tipping completely. We should all stop tipping, after one week, the system would change.

Yes, I've never waited tables.


This type of things also contributes to the mental laziness of Americans. It is sad how many people cant figure out a proper tip and need the help.


I'm all for it! Hey, if it helps to ensure that waiters -- most of whom rely on tips are part of their living wage -- get their tips, I'm happy to follow the suggested tip, with one exception.

Call it miserly, but I don't tip on the total with tax included. I tip on the total cost of the meal before tax (food, alcohol, corking fee if applicable). The tax has nothing to do with the cost of the food you ordered and how the service went. I'm more likely to give a generous (20% +) tip when I exclude tax, and that ensures that more of my dining-out dollar goes to the servers who made the meal memorable.

As for those restaurants who automatically charge gratuity on groups of six or more -- I'm sorry if that means the servers don't see as much of it (presumably the house keeps it, or a percentage of that automatic gratuity) but if the establishment is helping themselves to my wallet, I can't help but be a bit less forthcoming with my cash.



Even more useful would be the list of percentages, added to the total, rolled up to the next round $ figure.

Jeff Frazier

Seriously, just pay wait staff a fair hourly wage and wrap it into the cost of the food. I hate making my choices and having to add 15-20% in my head when I'm looking at the menu just to stay on budget. Tipping is a ludicrous social convention.


I would not be surprised this would offend some diner in some way. Any of the "Oh you need to tell me how much I'm thankful" crowd, the "Oh you think I can't do math" crowd, the "Oh your lowest tip suggestion is 15% and you look down on anyone who don't pay 20% anyway" crowd etc...


Any all the commenter in this thread, apparently.


I *do* love this, but perhaps I don't find this innovative as I've seen this at various mid-high end restaurants on the west coast for years. I have noticed polar reactions to the suggestions: some with whom I've eaten are deeply relieved at not having to work out the math themselves--these have often tipped more than they usually would out of gratefulness. Others have expressed offense or quiet outrage at being told how much to tip and conversation quickly devolved into nit-picking either the server's job performance or the merit of the tipping system. Tipping amounts from these friends depended on how likely they were to give into pressure from other dinner guests.


Well, some people (like me) tip 20% all the time just because the math is easier to do in your head. If the amounts were printed on the receipt, I'd be more likely to tip just 18%, unless service was excellent. So it might work out to be a losing proposition for the waitstaff. But I wouldn't complain if this caught on...

Blaise Pascal

This. Where I live, the tax rate is 8.25%, and the tax is usually printed on the bill, so it's easy for me to just double the tax to tip at 16.5%. But when the bill says what 15% is, it's even easier to just write that down, which reduces what the waitstaff gets.

(I have had trouble with the "double the tax" policy... I once ordered a drink in a restaurant to find that they included the tax for the drink (from the bar) in the price, and the tax on the bill only covered the food. My tip would have been significantly low if I hadn't noticed it)

Benny Armanto

In Indonesia, especially in Jakarta where i've lived for a year. The bill has included what we call with "Service Charge". Basically it means the tips we are ought to pay. In general, the service charge costed you between 2-5.5% from your total cost.


Why not go the next step and just include service in the item price.
Though I understand the principle, I've never seen the point in tipping in reality. If you want to charge for it - put it on the bill.
I don't believe many people really put too much thought into the quality of service when calculating what to put down. So I doubt it serves much purpose.


I saw this at least a year ago.

Tipping is a way for restaurants to pay their workers less in the hope customers will make it up and not notice that prices are higher than those published in the menus. A better system is to pay workers more.


In Eastern Massachusetts, we saw something that did even more of the math. The server at Legal Seafoods brought a portable credit card swipe machine to our table at the end of the meal. There were keys labelled 15%, 20%, etc.

All you had to do was swipe your card, press a key labelled with percentage of your choice, and the tip would be computed and added to your bill. (There was also a key labelled something like "manual tip" for those who wanted to enter a tip that was not a suggested percentage.)

It makes sense--fewer and fewer people can do math without a calculator anymore, and probably those who have had a few drinks at dinner are even less well equipped than the general population.


The practice is fairly common, pehaps you don't eat out that much! I would love to read a Freakonomics analysis of what servers make per hour. My guess it is $$$+ in fancy restraunts and not much in low end establishments.

The official BLS numbers are way low because tips are under reported.

Daniel Mexico

i have seen this in many places, and yes, it should be an standard practice...... waiters deserve more, if they perform well.


Move the decimal on place to the left, then double it for 20%. Bill of 51.27? Tip is 5.1 times two ... $10.20. Round the tip amount if the addition makes you nervous.

Steve Smith

It's a bit too forward for me. I'd be tempted to see it as an instruction that I need to pick one. I might feel forced to oblige and so pick the lowest option as a compromise, and yet I'd know that doing so would make me look cheap, since I can't give poor numeracy as an excuse to not giving more. An alternative is to avoid tipping altogether and look like I'm making a point rather than look cheap. It makes the whole thing very complicated!