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I know for most restaurants here in the US that tipping is an integral part of each meal to show appreciation for the waiter (as long as they did a great job). For buffets however, especially all-you-can eats, it seems to be more of a self-serve sort of thing, so tips are less customary there.

Is there an established "tipping" practice when it comes to buffets, both in the US and internationally? For example, if I have a meal at a buffet in Australia, is it customary to leave a tip, whether the waiter does anything or not?

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In japan, tipping is considered an insult. Do not tip in Japan at all times. – Heidel Ber Gensis Aug 18 '13 at 20:00
In what country? This is extremely dependent on the country, ranging from places where it's insulting (e.g. Japan) to places where it's almost compulsory when your food is brought to your seat (e.g. US). – Gilles Aug 18 '13 at 20:45
Changed the country in question to avoid conflict – Unshakeable Aug 18 '13 at 21:00
up vote 11 down vote accepted

In the US, it's certainly customary to tip the wait staff - presuming that there are wait staff!

At most buffets in the US there will still be someone that shows you to your table, brings you drinks, takes away your dirty plates, etc. In these cases most people would tip that person, normally by leaving some cash on the table when leaving. The amount varies greatly, but would normally be in range of $1-3 per person depending on the number of people, the price of the buffet, and the level of service provided.

For buffets where there is nobody who is acting as your wait staff (eg, in breakfast buffets in many cheaper hotels) then you would not normally be expected to leave a tip.

Buffets are certainly one of the grayer areas when it comes to tipping. Some people will tell you "yes", others "maybe", others "no" - and at the end of the day it's really up to you. As an Australian living in the US I frequently don't leave a tip for buffet-style meals depending on the level of service provided - whereas in a non-buffet restaurant I wouldn't consider not adding a ~15% tip to the bill.

In my experience, the US is fairly unique in this regard - I would not expect to tip staff at a buffet in any other country.

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The U.S. buffet chain Sirloin Stockade is also popular in Mexico, where I do leave a tip. I can't think of any other buffet I have ever visited in Mexico where I would leave a tip... – Flimzy Aug 19 '13 at 1:02

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