Tipping Etiquette…for Bartenders

maurice amon tipping tips for bartendersBartenders think about tips a lot.  And we should – it’s how we get paid, and it’s inherently emotional.  When someone stiffs us, it sucks.  When someone tips 100%, it can make our night.  Career bartenders are good at letting the bad tips slide off our back, but we still take notice.

And bartenders have a lot of opinions about how tips should work.  From the percentage customers ought to tip based on the number of drinks, the size of the check, the duration of time spent at the bar, or the level of interaction they had with the bartender – there’s a lot of opinions out there.  And there are THOUSANDS of articles online instructing customers on how to tip.

What gets lost in the shuffle is tipping etiquette for bartenders.  Here are just a few thoughts I’ve had while working in bars for the past fifteen or so years…


 – 1 –  Don’t Talk About Tipping

Customers sitting at the bar, enjoying their drinks, don’t want to think about your salary.  Whether you’re commenting to another bartender or directly to the customer, discussing your tips in earshot of the customer is ugly.  Even that regular who truly cares about your well-being and always tips 30% probably doesn’t want to hear you complain about a low tip from another guest.  People are there to enjoy themselves, and your job is to facilitate that.


 – 2 –  Take Care of Your Staff

The only people making money in many restaurants and bars are the bar and floor staff.  When you have that amazing night, the night where you make $200 more than usual, this is an opportunity to thank your supporting staff for the help they offer you every night.  Make sure that your barback gets a little more than their regular cut.  The dishwasher who doesn’t usually get tipped out but helps out by removing bus tubs and delivering glasses promptly?  Throw him $50 and say thanks.  This shows your support staff that you care, and helps to build morale.


 – 3 –  Give Change

If someone orders an $8 drink and gives you a $10, put change on the bar.  They may want to tip you $2, and for that you can give the head nod of gratitude.  But some people want to tip $1.  Assuming the customer’s tip can put a bad taste in their mouth, even if they were going to tip you $2 anyway.  In today’s world of intense competition, that could be enough to convince a customer not to come back to your bar.