The Ultimate Global Guide to Tipping: A Bartenders and Party-Promoters Insight

Dear Reader; next to my serious sides I have spent many years in the party and nightlife industry. Both as a bartender (classical and club) as well as the promoter of a viennese clubbing series active till today. (Also worked the casino next to my time at the university of Innsbruck)

So let me hold this little lecture on tipping.

Over the course of over a decade I have taught many of my guests how to tip and why to tip and I believe it has made their experience of gastronomy a whole lot better. It certainly has made my experiences in bars, clubs and hotels around the world a whole lot better and memorable. I have observed that countries or areas with bad tipping customs tend to end up getting bad service quality, as good people stop working in the industry.

Only recently did I have a longer discussion with people in southern France telling me how much better service quality etc. was in Vienna than there. My simple reply was that judging by the treatment of hospitality staff by local people as witnessed by myself in southern France I was not surprised in the least. For me service was perfect there. Just tip a fair amount and start being nice and you would be surprised what you usually get back.

Same goes to locust tourists (all inclusive tourists) that just treat staff like shit and never tip locals who probably make less a month than what you make in half a day or less; maybe even giving them sh*t and talking down to them. My approach is to find a favourite staff member or two and hand out tips for the week the first day and some more at the end. I get the better booze, better service and if I crash at 4 am or later I get a personal guided tour of the kitchens cold room to get me going again with good food.

I could write an entire 100 page essay on tipping but I will try and focus on the essentials.

There are four points I want to make plus a little extra on hotel tipping.


Who to tip, how to tip, why to tip and how much to tip.

Who to tip?

This is basically the easiest part of this guide. If you are new in a town or a club; choose one or two employees of your liking and stick with them or him. Establishing yourself as a good guest can never work if you spread out your consumption over every single person working that venue. Approaching a bartender with words such as : “I spent tons of money over there give me a deal here.”

Won´t work.

A single person or bar that gets to know your name and face is the best way to get a foot into the place (maybe even town) and access to services reserved for guests that are liked. Just don´t expect the employee to remember your name the first time; chances are he´s had to remember 50 names just that week. Writing it down or leaving a business card can help.


How to tip?

This part I will also keep extremely short.

The how part varies strongly not only from country to country but often even from county to county. Where many clubs in Ibiza will leave a little plate on the bar for you to tip into, Viennese waiters or bartenders will expect you to answer the amount you are giving after being told the total: Example Bartender says 4,50 please! You reply 5 and will then get change onto five. Also saying thank you in Vienna before you get your money back implies that the rest is tip (if its in a reasonable bracket that is). In other countries still, it is customary to just leave the tip at the bar or table.

The only point I´m making here is; ask somebody whenever you arrive in a new country. Any waiter or bartender will fill you in on the customary way to tip in his town. This will also avert misunderstandings going both ways.

An important thing you might want to ask in some places around the world is whether the person you are tipping gets to keep the tip. In some countries it is not customary for staff to be able to keep the tips. Worst case scenario the manager keeps it all. (seen that in Hong Kong)

Some nationalities are not accustomed to tipping for this reason. Italians often don´t tip as central points of paying at a register (often to the owner of the café or bar) is a regular sight in their country  (which then leads to them not appearing in other countries favourite guest ranking)


Why to tip?

The main and simple points here are

a: people work for a living

b: it´s what makes working in the industry fun (and with the fun part I am not even referring to the amount you might be giving.)

c live and let live

d: networking

e: longterm quality


a: people work for a living

Getting a smile or a shot from the guest is a nice gesture but it doesn´t pay rent plus usually bartenders and waiters split tips with people helping them (bus boys, cooks etc.) so by not tipping or tipping badly you’re holding back somebodies income. Depending on the country and kind of venue tips can make up anywhere from 20% to 90% of that persons salary. So by all means invite the bartender to a shot if that is possible but then still tip. In all likelihood you´ll be getting those shots back as soon as the staff has time.


b: it´s what makes working in the industry fun

Of course working in nightlife or hospitality can be fun, but it is also exhausting. You miss out on most of your friends birthdays working weekends and holidays. You usually get off many hours after all guests have gone. More often than not the working hours you have are unhealthy for relationships, family and the body; plus you often get to double as a bouncer, entertainer, cleaning lady, psychiatrist, love coach and emotional dumpster all in one. And after that last guest has been a real pain in the ass complaining that you don´t serve his favourite kind of beer or that it´s cheeper in the supermarket or whatever; that nice tip you are giving with a smile lets one completely forget that last guy and gives a whole lot of energy.


c: live and let live

we all hate guest that start asking for specials because they just had a beer (probably did not even tip) and now want a shot on the house etc. Or girls that think we are seeing cleavage for the first time and should now be completely overwhelmed into giving out free drinks.

I once told a guest (now a good friend) asking for extra strong drinks that If i made his drinks as strong as his tips… he might as well go for water. He ended up giving good tips and getting very strong drinks. Just don´t expect this treatment automatically. Not because you shouldn´t emotionally, but because access to house shots etc. greatly varies from place to place. In many venues bartenders have a lot of options and rights to invite guests other places have limited or exhaustible resources.


d: networking

Most people working in hospitality or nightlife are quite well connected. If they like you and you prove to be a good guest they can usually hook you up with all kinds of stuff. Be it guest lists or tips to the best venues to go to that or any day day or who to ask for when you get there. (the guest list part is always dependent of different house policies so don´t take them for granted)


e: longterm quality

As already stated in the intro. Only places with good tipping cultures can attract and hold good people to work in the industry. (Exceptions are countries paying high minimum or standard salaries). I have witnessed many discussions in areas where tips have gone down (often due to large amounts of tourists not tipping) about the lack of good, fast and charismatic employes who for obvious reasons prefer to work in other industries if tips and thus income go down.


How much to give?

First for everywhere outside the US.

Except for a few dozen venues catering to stars or millionaires in London, NY or St. Moritz etc. people in hospitality and nightlife are used to normal guests and don´t expect and rarely see immense amounts of tips. I would even go so far as to say that most staff has a very social view of tipping. In other words: Tipping is always seen as a percentile not as a sum. The average bartender or waiter will think of you more favourably if you add 1 euro to a 4 euro beer (gracious 25%) than if you add 3 euros to a 100 euro bottle (stingy 3%). My personal credo is: if you can´t afford the tip, you can´t afford the drink. Going for something in the vicinity of 10% is always good. More if you really like the person serving you or if he or she has gone out of their way for you. Less to zilt if you think the person is a lazy or pretentious ass. I am all for not tipping arrogant assholes.

Also adapt your tip a little bit to what other people are giving. If the person before you gave little or no tip although service was good, fast and friendly. Give a little more and (if possible) make sure the last guest sees it :) not a better way to make a great impression.

Oh and don’t ask for ten cents back…. ever. Always go for a round or 50 cent amount. Better to give nothing one time and then more than to make anyone go for small change.


Special situation: Tipping in the US

The US is in a very different (crazy) situation here. There is a difference between tipped and non tipped minimum wage. The tipped minimum wage has been $ 2.13 for over two decades. Basically the employers are letting the guests pay the salaries for their employees. Tipping here is not optional and often included in bills as a fixed percentile as service charge. Not tipping staff basically would let them work for as little as $20 a day. (depending on the employer and venue of course). So tipping in the US has an entirely different status as compared to the rest of the world where tips are not used as a legal means to undermine minimum wage. So in the US… look around you, try and guess what the person might be making, see what you can afford and then (If you´re a citizen) next time try to vote for someone willing to raise the minimum wage for everyone.


A quick excursion into hotel tipping.

Basically for bars and restaurants in normal Hotels stick with the tips written so far.

Special situations involve all inclusive hotels and very foreign countries.

In these situations staff is often used to working for very long hours for very low wages while they are serving foreigners making ten to a hundred fold their salary of which many think they are foreign low life serfs and treat them as such. (I have witnessed this too often). Giving these guys good tips shows them, that you see them as human beings as much as you might just have effectively doubled that persons salary. Usually gratitude emanating from such gestures will go a very long way. There was one little bar on the beach in Egypt (where we stayed for 4 weeks) that kept a table free for us every day of the week (even when the place was packed) although we only showed up once or twice a week. They went bonkers over us. Also because we treated them with respect and learned some of their names.


The special situation is concierges.

Basically give as much as you like, depending on how much the guy helped you out. Experienced and talented concierges can get more done in a town than anybody else, especially, when it comes to getting that last ticket for the opera or that table in the restaurant that is booked solid. Do consider that if you got that last table, that the way you behave there will fall back on the concierge as much as you are free to report any bad service you might encounter. Both the venue in question as well as the concierge rely on being sent good guests as well as sending people to good places.


Hoping this was an enjoyable and enlightening read



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