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Tipping at a buffet
Old 07-05-2018, 09:36 PM   #1
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Tipping at a buffet

Hi All,

I'm not a cheapskate, I usually tip 20% or so to the nearest dollar when at a restaurant or club. Often more if the prices are lower, the servers work just as hard as if the prices were higher.

I took DW to a buffet the other day and they included on the tab a gratuity option of 18%. This is a run of the mill buffet where you serve yourself and staff takes away your plates. I think it ran $13 a plate for each to give you an idea. ( I know, I said I wan't a cheapskate, but it wasn't like it was her birthday or our anniversary, just a great Chinese place in a small town).

I don't know the rule of thumb, but I usually leave a couple bucks a piece for a tip at a buffet, I've never seen the 18% recommendation on the check before. I respect the workers and would rather be able to stuff some cash directly in their pocket if I could.

I don't get out much, what do you all see and consider reasonable at a buffet ?
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Old 07-05-2018, 09:43 PM   #2
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I usually do the same--if it is a buffet and they are clearing the tables well and bringing drinks, etc, I'll leave about 10%.

If the restaurant also serves food made to order, maybe the "suggestion" on the ticket is just left over from that?

I would not choose to add 18% for a buffett, especially if the house "recommended" it. I resent those reminders.

And I favor adding the tip to the charge card bill, that way the server is more likely to pay tax on it (as is required anyway, this makes it easier for them to stay above board) and I get the small cash back from the card company.
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Old 07-05-2018, 09:49 PM   #3
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I tip 15-20% at a buffet. The servers clear plates, bring drinks, and do pretty much everything a regular server does except bring the food. When you add in the effort in keeping the buffet filled and clean I think the workers are doing at least as much work as a regular server does. Although if it's a low end buffet (I usually won't eat there) I probably would drop the tip to 10-15%. I don't pay any attention to the suggestions on the bill, so they don't bother me. Except I do dislike that they "suggest" a tip % based on having the tax added in. I tip on the meal amount, not the tax.
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Old 07-05-2018, 09:53 PM   #4
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10% is adequate unless special attention was received.
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Old 07-05-2018, 10:00 PM   #5
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I'm not big on the auto gratuity after having been burned at Crab Shack. I didn't
study my check to see if the tip was already included thinking the % was a suggestion. I typically tip 30% or so for really good service and she was really good. So good in fact she forgot to mention the auto grat. and ended up with $80 on a $150 check. I now study my guest checks.


I have been reading "tales from your server" a forum on reddit for a couple of years now and after the horror stories I always overtip to make up for the stiffs.
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Old 07-05-2018, 10:27 PM   #6
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The only buffet I attend is the Mongolian BBQ. I toss a buck in the cooks bin and I tell the clerk to keep the change on a $9.50 check. So a buck and a half on nine and a half.
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Old 07-05-2018, 10:38 PM   #7
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So, like I said, 15-20%.
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:49 AM   #8
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Timely question. I was at a Chinese buffet last night with the grandsons. This was my first buffet in a number of years. I wondered about tipping. I took a guess at 10%, figuring less service than a full service restaurant.

Afterwards, I thought about all the dirty plates she cleared along the way, and the times she was back to refill drinks.

This looked like a family business. The only person working the dining room appeared to be an owner.
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:42 AM   #9
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I go out for lunch 1-2 times a month with a group of retirees from MegaCorp. Usually 10-16 of us, and we ask for separate checks. We frequent the same 6-7 places, so they know the group. The only place that adds a tip is a Mongolian Buffet (I think they add 15%). I think they do it because so many people leave little to nothing at a buffet, so it is standard practice. I don't have a problem, but hope the money actually goes to the workers, and not the "house".

While the other places mostly have a standard policy of automatic tip for large groups, the servers have figured out that they do much better leaving it off.
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:49 AM   #10
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Don't assume that the staff are getting all of that 'gratuity'. It is not unusual for some restaurants to rake off part of the tips.
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:52 AM   #11
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I also don't like "included" tipping, but I still tip on buffets the same as ala carte.

The server still has to come to your table, take your drinks order, and bring those (even if just water). They have to clear your table usual a bunch more, and the actual leg work of back and forth is the same as ala carte.

Of course, part of that is because I waited tables in college. And I worked both styles. Buffets were just as much work, but customers were cheaper, and checks were smaller. Getting $4 from a table of 4 that sat and did all-you-can-eat for 2 hours, while refilling their water 3x and coffee twice, and getting Helen her "unseasoned" shrimp instead of the ones on the buffet (oh for no charge of course), yeah... made my night.
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Old 07-06-2018, 09:47 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by harley View Post
I tip 15-20% at a buffet. The servers clear plates, bring drinks, and do pretty much everything a regular server does except bring the food. When you add in the effort in keeping the buffet filled and clean I think the workers are doing at least as much work as a regular server does. Although if it's a low end buffet (I usually won't eat there) I probably would drop the tip to 10-15%. I don't pay any attention to the suggestions on the bill, so they don't bother me. Except I do dislike that they "suggest" a tip % based on having the tax added in. I tip on the meal amount, not the tax.
I guess it depends on the place.

To me, 10% at a buffet is the starting point. Without having to take orders and bring out the food, the server does about half the work and therefore gets about twice as many customers assigned. Half of 20% is 10%.

If they bring any special orders or otherwise go above and beyond, the server will get more.

It's not usually the servers who fill the buffet, and sometimes they don't even bus the tables. Kitchen staff rarely get tips, and bus staff only sometimes get a cut from the server's tips. Not saying that's good or bad, just the way the system is set up.

Every case is different. If they work harder, or have fewer customers, or the price is lower, or I don't order drinks, I'll increase the tip. If I bring up the dirty dishes myself, fill my own drinks at the buffet line, and check out at the register, maybe no tip is in order.

You not only have to watch whether they add the tip, but also how they calculate the "suggested" amounts. I tip well, and always round up, but I won't pay a tip on the tax.
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Old 07-06-2018, 09:56 AM   #13
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Don't assume that the staff are getting all of that 'gratuity'. It is not unusual for some restaurants to rake off part of the tips.
That's been illegal since at least 2011 (which is not to say it doesn't happen, but the employees could file wage theft complaints if it did). There was a big brouhaha last year when the DoL tried to make it legal again, but congress overruled them and wrote the prohibition into a bill which Trump did sign.
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Old 07-06-2018, 11:04 AM   #14
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I'm reminded of a "grill your own" steak place in my area -- you went to the refrigerator case, picked out your meat and had it handed to you on a plate with a pair of tongs. Beyond that point it was DiY ... except that the waitperson came over and served you some salad greens out of a big salad bowl. That seemed just weird. I could only think the restaurant was trying to find a reason for diners to leave a tip.

The place is long out of business, thankfully -- the chef was terrible!
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Old 07-06-2018, 11:31 AM   #15
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There is an Oriental buffet near us that is actually very good. The custom is to take your check up to the desk when you're done and pay it there.

Since the employees all do a good job and are quite attentive (as in very ready to bring me another beer when I'm ready for one), I like to leave a generous tip in cash on the table. Whoever took care of us during our visit will be the one clearing the table, so I know where the money is going.

I'm sure some people add a tip to the bill when they bring it up, but I just pay in cash and tell the cashier to keep the change.
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Old 07-06-2018, 01:43 PM   #16
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It's rare that we go to a buffet and I'd always thought 10% was the appropriate tip. Aerides' perspective has made me rethink that so I guess I'll go to 15% or perhaps more.
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Old 07-07-2018, 01:50 AM   #17
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It's not usually the servers who fill the buffet, and sometimes they don't even bus the tables. Kitchen staff rarely get tips, and bus staff only sometimes get a cut from the server's tips. Not saying that's good or bad, just the way the system is set up.
That's not true for the most part in a buffet type environment. Tips are shared between everybody, they don't just go to the servers. If that was the case I'd agree with the 10% concept, but it's not. Everybody works, everybody shares. And the restaurant isn't allowed to rake off a portion, although what's legal vs. what's done isn't always the same thing.
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Old 07-07-2018, 05:19 AM   #18
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The only buffet I attend is the Mongolian BBQ. I toss a buck in the cooks bin and I tell the clerk to keep the change on a $9.50 check. So a buck and a half on nine and a half.
Robbie, this is NOT "blowing that dough"!!! You're starting to slack here buddy.

Thought for sure you were going to say you tossed them a $20.
This is very disappointing.

(just ribbing you of course)
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