A majority of consumers say they've been tipping restaurant workers more than 20% during the pandemic, according to a recent survey by restaurant technology company Popmenu.
While a tip of 15 to 20% at sit-down restaurants has been commonly recommended in countless articles over the years, just over half of customers are tipping their servers 20% or more, and 1 in 5 tip over 25%. However, only 38% of customers tip food delivery workers 20% or more.
But does this mean that social norms have changed when it comes to tipping? Has 20% become "the new 15%," and should you tip 25% or more for exceptional service?
"The baseline is 15% for basic service, but if you have any extra cash or you feel inspired, go for it and tip more," says Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post and host of Emily Post's Awesome Etiquette podcast. "I'm not going to tell every single person out there that they absolutely must tip 20%, especially if it doesn't fit your budget."
That said, Post says people shouldn't skimp out on paying a minimum tip of 15% for decent service, either, since restaurant workers are more reliant on tips compared to other jobs. Under federal law, employers can pay restaurant workers less than minimum wage — as little as $2.13 per hour — if the tips they receive add up to a total of $7.25 an hour.
"If you left me a 5% tip when I was a server, I would have assumed you were a jerk or not familiar with our tipping customs, unless there was something noticeably bad, like I spilled a drink on you," says Post.
The survey also found that 6% of customers typically don't tip at all, which Post thinks is "ridiculous."
"My advice to these people is to never let your tip speak for you," says Post. Instead, she recommends paying 15% and speaking to a manager to address your concerns if the service was subpar.
"Ultimately I'd love to see workers paid more livable wages," says Post. "That way, we don't need to rely on tips so much and have the buck passed onto the customer, where it's a discretionary thing."
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter