I am uncomfortable with tipping and would much rather eat at sit-down restaurants in the United States that pay their employees fairly without expecting customers to supplement with tips (as occurs in many other countries in the world). In other words, I want to eat at restaurants that explicitly do not allow tips.

Some restaurants have been in the news for switching to a no-tip system. Aside from scouring headlines, how can I find out which sit-down (not fast food) restaurants in a city I travel to will not accept tips?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 9:10
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    In other words, I want to eat at restaurants that explicitly do not allow tips.. I think you should change the title of your question and replace "expected" with "allowed". Commented May 16, 2018 at 13:17
  • Maybe ask on softwarerecs.stackexchange.com if there is an app? If not, and you can code, developing one might be a good way to make money to pay for restaurants.
    – Mawg
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 14:27
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    What happened to "when in Rome, do as the Romans do"? Commented May 18, 2018 at 19:29
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    Hi @Thunderforge sorry for slow reply, we moved house :) normally i'd have thought so too, but down the bottom when i tried, it said: protected by JonathanReez♦ May 15 '18 at 6:09 Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).
    – Ming
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 0:51

8 Answers 8


Tipping is still the norm in any U.S. establishment where you do not seat and serve yourself—that is, everywhere except fast-food restaurants and places organized as food courts or cafeterias where you order at a counter. In buffet-style restaurants, where the server does not take your order or serve more than drinks, the standard is lower (10-15% instead of 15-20% in a full service restaurant), but a tip is still expected.

I tried the major food and review sites like Yelp, Zomato, and OpenTable, and none have a category or filter which makes it easy to find places with a no-tipping policy. Therefore, it seems you will need to rely on Reddit, local guides which do include such information, or indeed on headlines.

You will want to follow up on the headlines. Not only are non-tipping restaurants exceptionally rare, but as Zach Lipton notes, this trend was mostly limited to a few restaurants in major cities, and as user71659 notes, many of these restaurants ended the practice and returned to tipping — sometimes within weeks. An NPR interview with restaurateur Thad Vogler provides some reasoning behind the reversals.

Per @Ellesedil, if you're interested in the food from a sit-down restaurant and not necessarily the experience of eating there, you can sometimes order takeout (aka carryout or to-go; takeaway is the British term but rare in the U.S.). You place the order in person at a counter or with the host/hostess, over the phone, or online; the restaurant will prepare the food and package it; you pay and leave with it. This is a common service of chain family restaurants and especially associated with pizza, sandwiches, Chinese or Thai food, and barbecue, but it is not limited to low-end establishments, as the Morton's The Steakhouse to-go menu demonstrates. On the other hand, commenters have suggested that tipping is expected for takeout at some establishments, especially if the order is complex. I myself have never heard of such a thing, and most people seem to be with me based on reports, but on the other hand I do not do takeout from nice restaurants or make complex orders. It's never wrong to tip a service worker in the U.S., unlike in some other cultures.

You can also order food for delivery, although then the expectation is that you will tip the delivery person. This is the case both for establishments which deliver food themselves, as with many pizzerias, Chinese restaurants, or bakeries, and for third party delivery services such as Amazon Restaurants, GrubHub/Seamless, Uber Eats, Yelp/Eat24, or DoorDash among others. Often, the menu price goes to the restaurant, any delivery fee to the company behind the app or service, and only the tip to the driver. One can argue that the drivers have a worse working environment than a server in a restaurant, so stiffing the driver would be a grave act.

Not every restaurant offers takeout or delivery, but it doesn't hurt to ask the host/hostess.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 23:31
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    You may also want to include information specifically about carry-out at sit-down restaurants. For example, even natives aren't clear if you're expected to tip or not, and could be a consideration for someone who wants to avoid tipping.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 22:41
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    There's still some expectation to tip for takeout at sit-down restaurants, though less than if you're dining in. Not everybody does tip in such situations, but I'd say there's more than "zero expectation for any tipping," particularly if it's a tipped waiter who is taking time away from tables to take a large or complex order and package it up or they've done something to go above and beyond. Commented May 17, 2018 at 7:37
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    I agree with @ZachLipton; almost every restaurant I've ever eaten at offered takeout (in Los Angeles and the Midwest, including some high-end restaurants in LA), and I've always left a tip (but generally less than 20%, more like 5–10%, with a floor of a buck or two). It seems like nowadays there are tip jars out at every food-related establishment I visit except the grocery store, including fast food counters, so I would be really surprised if most Americans are comfortable stiffing the person who packs up a complicated to-go order.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 17:32
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    Edited again, but the mere existence of a tip jar does not obligate one to fill it. It's a mechanism, oftentimes, for monetizing from loose change that most people don't want to carry around these days anyway. If I'm paying cash at the liquor store I will throw the loose change in the jar, but not if I'm paying by card.
    – choster
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 18:11

As your main reason to shy tipping is ‘being uncomfortable doing it‘, I’ve added this answer, even though it misses the question given.

In sit-down restaurants, normally nobody sees you doing the tipping - it happens after you paid, and before you leave. Staff will only know the amount of your tip when you have long left (from experience, this is not known to many people outside the US).

The usual sequence in the US is:

  1. You get the check (bill), server walks away.
  2. You inspect it at your own time, nobody is watching.
  3. (If you agree with it,) You put your credit card on it
  4. Server picks it up, walks away to the cash register with your card, and brings it back for your signature, with the full amount charged to your credit card. No tip is added or mentioned at this time.* Server walks away.
  5. You take your sweet time deciding on tip amount, add it, and sign. The amount could well be zero, if service was really bad (but that is rather harsh). Then you get up and leave.
  6. Someone comes and cleans the table, and takes the signed check. Later in the day, someone types the new total (including the tip) in, and your credit card charge gets adjusted.

This removes the need to interact with the server about any piece of the tipping process. Maybe that information removes your discomfort.

* Some restaurants charge a mandatory 18-20% "gratuity" for parties over a certain size, most commonly six or more people

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 6:09

Since no-tipping restaurants are very rare in the U.S., your best bet is going to be to find restaurants where you are doing much of the work for yourself - counter-service restaurants, for example.

There are many such restaurants in the U.S., although they veer toward the casual (most fast food restaurants are such). Fried chicken and barbecue restaurants very often have counter service. A good seafood joint in San Diego with counter service is Point Loma Seafoods, as another example. Yelp should be able to help you find such restaurants.

Another strategy? Just add 20% to the prices you see in the menus, and consider that to be the price of your meal. If you'd eat there if they printed that as their price, in effect, that's what you're paying with a 20% tip (which is a slightly generous tip in the U.S.).

A final strategy? You can completely avoid the tipping issue by renting hotel rooms that have kitchenettes or full kitchens, and preparing your own meals. You'll save a lot of money too!

  • 38
    @JBentley You can still sit down to eat in such restaurants, but if we answer the question literally as presented, the answer is pretty much "Good luck. There are probably fewer than 20 such places in the U.S. Have a nice trip!" Others might read the question later, so a broadening of the question seemed appropriate given the narrowness of the pedantic answer. Commented May 13, 2018 at 20:59
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    Yes you can sit down in such restaurants, but a "sit-down restaurant" is actually a phrase with a particular meaning; it doesn't mean any restaurant that you can sit down at. Indeed, the correct answer is "good luck". The OP specifically requested sit-down restaurants, so such an answer is not pedantic. However, I suppose it is reasonable to provide such information as an aside to the actual answer.
    – JBentley
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 21:07
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    @JBentley We call those restaurants "table service restaurants", so I think the terminology varies by dialect of English. Commented May 13, 2018 at 21:17
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    In addition to the 20% tip, in some (many?) locations, there is also a sales tax added to the bill. This can be up to ~10%.
    – shoover
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 21:33
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    Sadly, I'm seeing more and more counter service restaurants moving towards adding a tip line to their credit card receipts. I find it as equivalent to begging, as it's asking for money prior to providing any type of service.
    – Travis
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 17:52

I am uncomfortable with tipping and would much rather eat at sit-down restaurants in the United States that pay their employees fairly without expecting customers to supplement with tips (as occurs in many other countries in the world). In other words, I want to eat at restaurants that explicitly do not allow tips.

You can't.

That's simply not how it works in the US. The restaurant in the news article you linked is notable because it is extremely rare (like, a tiny tiny handful across the entire US).

If you are uncomfortable with tipping in the US, then you need to choose fast food or counter-service restaurants, period.

At table-service restaurants in the US, tipping is expected. Is it the law? No, but this is an extremely strong norm in the US.

Let me emphasize this point, which has been much discussed in comments: failing to tip at a table-service restaurant in the US would be viewed by Americans as extremely rude.

And not just by the wait staff. On a date? Good luck getting a second. Trying to impress that American business client? Sorry, the other supplier is looking like a better fit.

Is it illegal to not tip your server? No. It's not illegal to write "F--- YOU" on your bill, either.

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    Leaving no tip is acceptable in cases of extremely bad service. Although, I would leave a penny or a nickel instead of no tip, just to make sure they knew it was intentional
    – Kevin
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 18:44
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    This is my own personal strategy, but I'm much more likely to complain to management and/or ask for a reduction of the bill rather than stiff the waiter. Sure, it can be the waiter's fault, but slow food or mistaken orders are just as often the fault of the kitchen, or because the waiter is covering too many tables (management issue).
    – BradC
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 19:19
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    While every answer provided the same, "you can't" this is the only one that actually addresses the American culture with it that it is considered rude not to. Just like many other countries have their customs that we have to learn/be aware of, this is one in the US.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 21:05
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    @Kevin If service got so bad that I wouldn't leave even a small tip, I would probably complain to the manager and try to get the meal comped. I can hardly imagine a sit-down meal with service so poor that I wouldn't tip at all.
    – Sparksbet
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 19:28
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    In many US states, restaurants are authorized to pay a wage of something like $2.13/hour on the expectation that tips will make up the rest. They're required to bump that up to minimum wage if the tips fall short. Granted, in theory tipping is supposed to be an indication of good or bad service. But before you pay no tip or an extremely low tip, keep in mind that somebody is living off those wages. At your job, do you make less money if you're having a bad day and not as relentlessly cheery as usual?
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 14:46

In general, you don't.

There are exceedingly few restaurants in the U.S. where a tip is not allowed. In most parts of the country, you won't find a single one. There are some where tipping is not expected, but these will primarily only be counter-service restaurants (i.e. fast food,) not table-service restaurants with servers. Even the fast-food restaurants will generally allow tipping, even though it isn't expected. Some will even have a tip jar, though most people still don't tip in such restaurants.

Almost all table-service restaurants where your food is served to you expect you to tip the server in the U.S. Most towns will not even have a single table-service restaurant where tipping is not expected, let alone one where it isn't allowed.

If you really don't want to tip at a restaurant in the U.S., then you should plan on only eating fast food or food that you purchase at a grocery store and prepare yourself.

As far as the bit about payment, though, tips are usually pretty generous in the U.S. People who work at restaurants with tipping usually make significantly more than people who work at restaurants where tipping is not expected. Do not assume that workers are not being treated fairly because of the tipping system. Reality is closer to the opposite of that.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 6:09
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    We tip either because we’re embarrassed not to, or because we know that restaurants can legally pay almost nothing.
    – WGroleau
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 12:43
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    @WGroleau Actually legally, the restaurant must ensure that any given employee's wage+tips is at least equal to minimum wage -- if they don't get enough in tips to make minimum wage, the employer is obligated to make up the difference. Me, I like to tip based on quality of service. Unremarkable service will net ~15-20% of the bill, if the service was amazing I'll go as high as 25%, and if it's crappy I'll go as low as 10%, or even $1 in one case on a ~$35 bill (to make the point that no, I didn't just "forget" to tip, that the service was that awful)
    – Doktor J
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 17:16
  • @WGroleau $7.25. But these comments are really getting off-topic again... There's a chat link above if anyone wants to discuss minimum wage and tipping further. Please only put comments relevant to this answer here.
    – reirab
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 21:22
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    @WGroleau That's both not correct (see the link from the Department of Labor in my comment) and not relevant to this answer. Doktor's comment is correct, but all of these are irrelevant to this answer.
    – reirab
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 21:27

Direct answer: Limit yourself to less formal restaurants, which operate in "cafeteria style", where you go to a counter to order, and are given a pager to come collect your food, or a tent card to put on your table and a runner delivers it. (that's the last you'll see of the runner). These are becoming surprisingly good, that is to say, the food is good. The demographic is middle-to-upper-class, who want an upscale taste without the time and expense of waitservice. Panera Bread, Noodles & Company, Chipotle, Qdoba, Mod Pizza, Smashburger, various Korean BBQ, etc. As well as a variety of locally-owned one-off or mini-chains (Buckhorn, Firewood Grill).

Not to be confused with waitstaffed, must-tip restaurants going downscale by offering plain cheap food but retaining waitservice formalities (and thus the obligation to tip): Denny's, Steak & Shake, Cracker Barrel, your local greasy spoon diner, etc. These places are for people who want to be pampered on a budget, but want plain food that appeals to their palate. In these places you will be seated, a waiter will give you a menu and listen to you give your order verbally, and that means you need to tip!

You can also consider plain old fast-food, like McDonalds, Taco Bell, Wendy's, Burger King, KFC, Arby's, Subway, Sonic, Hardees/Carls Jr, Tim Hortons, Whataburger, Del Taco, White Castle, most pizza places, etc. Their hallmarks are lab-engineered food design, industrial food sourcing and distribution, lousy ambience, salt-of-the-earth clientele, cheap pop music (Muzak), frazzled minimum-wage staff, etc. To get the genuine American experience, make sure to be one of the 70% of customers who orders through the drive-through.

I thought the upscale-cafeteria type, such as Panera Bread, was referred to as "fast casual". But Google thinks otherwise, a search for "fast casual" will turn up 95% "plain old fast food", so that's useless.

If you genuinely have a medical need that requires you get waitservice, focus on fast-casual restaurants and request the staff help you. There is a disability-support law called ADA which obliges them to do what is easy.

Other than that, if you're a waitservice snob who insists on the formalities but can't tip, that is incompatible with being on this continent. That thing doesn't exist because the culture here is so strong, and you can't flip that culture, it's certainly been tried. I am not here to troubleshoot your issue with tipping but to say it may be troubleshootable, feel free to ask a separate question.

  • 4
    The ADA regulations were revised a few years back to state that only dogs (and some special rules for miniature horses) can be service animals (under the ADA; different rules may apply for fair housing law, air travel, and other legal contexts). You can't have a service alligator. Commented May 14, 2018 at 20:28
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    @ZachLipton bah, just as well, the bear was terrible at detecting seizures.. Commented May 14, 2018 at 20:56
  • Useful. Would be even better with a usable google search term, but +1 for the attempt with that.
    – AndyT
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 10:12
  • I searched the answers for “Chipotle”, and as this is the only one that mentions the example explicitly, +1 from me. :-) Commented May 20, 2018 at 13:44

would much rather eat at sit-down restaurants in the United States that pay their employees fairly without expecting customers to supplement with tips

This might be a bit counter-intuitive but many restaurants in the States also have something called: service included.

When you get the bill the tip is effectively automatically added. Meaning that you don't need to tip on top of that, but the service fee is already included in your check.

It seems some even market their products this way; this trip advisor question mentions:

they list the tasting menu at $275 service included

You might also see the wording:

Gratuity included

This way you don't need to tip, you just need to pay your bill.

  • I have to admit I've never seen this. Restaurants that automatically add a service charge to the bill (commonly for tables of 4 or 6 or more, less commonly for everybody), yes, but the prices are still advertised without that service charge, and there's a small "20% service charge will be added to your bill" somewhere on the menu.
    – jcaron
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 15:33
  • That pisses me off from a linguistic point of view. If it's an explicit charge, it is NOT a gratuity. And it also is independent of service quality.
    – WGroleau
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 21:28
  • @WGroleau From a practical standpoint it seems to be pretty crap too. A food blogger wrote about it in the LA Weekly saying: It has to do with the increasingly prevalent practice of including a service charge in the final bill. The charge itself is not an issue. The problem is this: The vast majority of the time, restaurants do not verbally disclose that the tip is already included in your final bill, leaving customers at high risk of double-tipping. laweekly.com/restaurants/…
    – Mou某
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 2:02
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    +1 for being the only answer so far to actually attempt to help the OP find the restaurants they're after. They may be rare, but these keywords will help them search. Commented May 17, 2018 at 11:44
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    It's not safe to assume that a restaurant which includes a service charge passes that on to the servers. I once worked in a restaurant that applied a 20% "gratuity" to all bills, and paid the waitstaff minimum wage. Yes, really.
    – barbecue
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 21:40

It is common in some high end restaurants to implement a service charge instead of a tip. One such example is Renee Erickson's restaurants in Seattle. Here is an article where she discusses this. Applying a service charge is illegal in some places for parties smaller than 6. In fact, here is an article about a lawsuit over such a practice.

I suggest looking for restaurants with a service charge on Google.

  • And be attentive when you get the bill (after drinking all those cocktails and good wine)... There's usually still a space for an additional gratuity on the credit card receipt, don't go and add another 20% when they already included it :-)
    – jcaron
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 15:34

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