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I've been told that in New York City, no less than 20% tip is expected in a restaurant. I've always thought you could tip anywhere from 10-20% in a restaurant depending on service quality. Is 20% really the bottom of the tipping range in NYC restaurants?

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up vote 17 down vote accepted

For the US in general, 15% is the commonly expected bottom line, not 10, unless you're trying to send a mean spirited message to your server. 20% is far from unheard of.

In NYC in particular, 17% is probably the most common number - this is because NY Sales Tax on your restaurant bill is 8.5%, and most people just double the tax to calculate their tip - possibly adjusting upward to a multiple of 5, 10 or 20 to avoid dealing with change when paying cash.

For drinks at a bar, the custom is to tip 1-2 dollars a drink (depending on the price of the drink, I tend to a dollar per digit of the drink price).

Be advised that some restaurants will automatically include the tip in your bill. Generally listed as a 'Gratuity' or 'Service Charge'. This is particularly common if you're dining in a large group, but some unscrupulous or cynical restaurants will do this automatically for anyone who seems like they're from a country where tipping isn't customary. Regardless, if this is done, it will always be clearly stated on the bill, so you'll know you don't need to leave any additional tip above and beyond that. (Unless you'd like to do so to reward exceptionally good service!)

Also note that tipping is not expected at fast food or similar places, such as a McDonalds, Deli, Starbucks or a Pizzeria. While many such places will have a 'tip jar' on the counter next to the register, tossing some change in is purely optional and not expected.

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How much do you tip if you don't like the food at all? The kind that doesn't make you sick, but the kind that you don't feel like eating at all. – would_like_to_be_anon Nov 28 '12 at 4:42
@Yoo The quality of the food shouldn't affect your gratuity for the service. The tip is for your server, not for the folks in the kitchen. It's not their fault that the chef is having an off night. – LessPop_MoreFizz Nov 28 '12 at 5:24
If you don't like the food ask your server to take it back and replace it with something you do like. In my experience they are usually happy to do so. Then if you are happy with the service (and hopefully the second dish) give a generous tip. Sometime they will even remove the charge for the dish from the bill and then a tip based on percentage of what the bill would have been is fairer to server. – Michael Smith Dec 4 '12 at 20:06

Tipping for me depends on the level of service. I have had experienced good, bad, and worse services and I did 15%, 10%, and 5% respectively.

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