How to Tip Your Server When Using Restaurant Deals to Save Money

So you found a great restaurant deal on Groupon, Living Social, or another one of those deal sites…congratulations! You’re about to save a lot of money on dining out! But when it comes time to pay your bill at the end of the meal, make sure you don’t screw over the server who took care of you. You may have gotten 50% off the cost of your food, but s/he didn’t provide you with only half the customer service.


Tip on the Full Value of Your Meal

Servers in restaurants get paid an hourly rate that is less than minimum wage. They are dependent on tips to survive. Your tip is not optional; I believe servers are legally obligated to report at least 8% of their sales as tip earnings. I think they’re really required to report all tip earnings, but the IRS assumes they will be tipped at least 8% of their total sales, and that is considered taxable income. So if you stiff a server on their tip, the IRS assumes they still received that tip money.

As an example, I went to IHOP for lunch with my parents today. Our bill came to about $29. We had a Living Social deal ($8 for $16 worth of food) and a coupon code for a free short stack of pancakes for having filled out a customer service survey that took another $5.69 off our bill. The result was that we only had to come up with about $6 to pay the rest of the bill.

Now, we tip at least 20% when dine out because we appreciate good service. We’re regulars, and we always get great service from our regular waitress. If we had tipped on the amount we owed after the deal, that would’ve only put $1.20 in our server’s pocket. She served us three meals and refilled our drinks for an hour and a half. (We like to visit for a while after we eat.) Is it fair to give her only $1.20 for that? Hardly. As a matter of fact, that works out to only 4% of our total bill before savings…and the IRS assumes she’d be getting at least twice that much as a tip. No, we tipped on the full amount of the bill. Rounding up for 20%, we left her $6.

So if you have a restaurant deal where you pay $15 for $30 worth of food, you tip on the full $30. How much should you tip?

  • Good tip for good service (20%) = $6
  • Average tip for average service (15%) = $4.50
  • Minimum tip for poor service (10%) = $3

Of course, if the service you receive is so bad it’s offensive, you may decide that a 10% tip is too much. I can count on one hand how many times we’ve done that in the last 12 years. It takes gross incompetence and a lack of apologies for me to consider stiffing a server out of at least what the IRS expects them to get from me. I’ve worked in customer service, and I know the difference between a decent server who’s trying her best to deal with a crowded dining room and an understaffed kitchen and a bad server who just plain out ignores me because she doesn’t care how she treats her customers.

The bottom line is this: When you buy a restaurant deal – or even find a restaurant coupon in the newspaper – you are saving on the money you pay to the restaurant for your meal, but that does not halve your responsibility for tipping your server based on the service they provided. Servers work just as hard for you whether you use a coupon or you pay full price. Please tip accordingly.

Christina Gleason (881 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I’m a relatively high-functioning Aspie who also lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in the care of a psychiatrist, who assures me that people in therapy are often better adjusted than “normal” people who are not, because at least we know what our issues are and are working on them. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including World of Warcraft and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead. I have started writing no fewer than five novels, and I hope to finish one of them...eventually.

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