How much do you tip at Buffets?

Last night I went out to a Korean BBQ Buffet with three friends and two friends of a friend. The buffet mostly consisted of raw marinated meats and seafood. There were two grills in our table for six on which we cooked our food. We ate a lot of food. I was the lightest eater of the group and I ate at least five plates myself. The waitress was very attentive, the plates didn’t stay on the table for long and the waters were refilled often. She also stopped by every so often to cut up the large chunks of meat, open crab legs, and give us advice on cooking our meat. About half way through, we had cooked so much food on our grills that we needed them replaced. A busboy came over and removed the hot grills without turning off the gas. His fingers were centimeters from the surface and it looked like he touched the grill that was hardest to remove.

We ate for about an hour and a half, arriving at 7 and leaving about 8:30. Our bill was 122.xx. Because the service was a bit more involved than most places and because we requested that two hot grills be replaced, I thought that we should tip at least 15%. My friend’s friends objected to that amount, saying that it was too high for a buffet. Having worked both buffets and normal restaurants, I think that she deserved 20% which is what I give good waitresses. They said that I didn’t know if the busboy would get any of tips, so there was no point of paying extra for that service, which is true, I don’t know for sure, but I think it is a fairly good assumption.

Before I started working buffets at my restaurant, I would’ve tipped 10-13%. But I routinely walk with 18-19% which means most people tip 15-20%.

I’ve looked online and I’ve seen a wide variety of answers, from people saying that they tip $1 per person no matter the bill and others saying that they tip as if it were a regular restaurant.

So how much do you tip on buffets? Do you think I was unreasonable to suggest that we tip 15%? I did not force anyone to tip that amount, my friend’s boyfriend only paid $1 on his $19 bill.

I want to add that at my restaurant, working the buffet is about the same amount of work as regular dinning work because I am also responsible for set up/take down and ensuring that the food remains full, hot, and all the sides are filled.

Depends on the level of service. From what you say, I would have tipped at least $20.

From your description of the restaurant, 15-20% sounds appropriate. It doesn’t sound like a cafeteria the way some buffets are laid out.

Generally, I’m in the “dollar a person” camp, but that’s because I only go to cheap buffets - Old Country Barf-fest level (what can I say, my kid and my grandmother love it!) Occasionally, when I get my own drink and the service doesn’t remove plates and I’m eating with dirty plates banging my elbows, I’ll tip nothing. I consider that cafeteria service, not buffet restaurant service.

From what you describe, they really were useful. Not only plate clearing and water filling but “She also stopped by every so often to cut up the large chunks of meat, open crab legs, and give us advice on cooking our meat.” That’s a lot of work she didn’t have to do. It sounds like it wasn’t exactly a buffet, but something between a buffet and a full service restaurant. I think I would have given $20 for the table of 6, easy.

By the way, do they pay buffet workers “waitron wages” or minimum wage? For me, the fact that waitrons get paid such crap is the reason I tip. I’d rather all the prices were raised 20 or 25 percent up front, if it meant we could get rid of tipping, but that’s another debate. The reason I tip scantly at buffets is that they don’t usually do much for me directly, and I assume the people refilling the buffet are making at least minimum wage. If this assumption is wrong, I’ll rethink my buffet tipping strategy.

Sounds like 20% to me. She made your meal much more pleasent. Cutting up the meat, opening the crab legs, etc. sounds like a lot of work. Your friends are cheap and will spend eternity at a table with poor service.

Buffets tend to be cheaper food and many are all-you-can-eat so the waitstaff may actually end up working harder than at a conventional restaurant. The difference between tipping 15% and 20% is usually just a dollar or two which is not a big deal for me, so I usually end up closer to 20%.

County Buffet gets a couple of bucks (let’s say a dollar per person) since they only occasionally bother to take the dirty dishes.

Your place sounded more full-service and would have gotten 15-20%

At the Chinese Buffet place we occasionally go, the service on clearing empty dishes and providing fresh drinks is usually good. I usually leave a 15% tip.
At most restraraunts & Diners, I leave 20%.
My only experience with the Country Buffet was terrible food and terrible service and I left no tip.

kimera, for the service you described in your OP, I would have left 20%.


In the situation you describe, I would have gone with 20%. The amount I tip at a buffet depends on the amount of service I get. I seldom leave less than a dollar - if the service is that bad I will write a note on a napkin to tell the server why the tip is low or absent. If the server has refilled my drink more than once and cleared away the used plate promptly, the tip goes to $1.50. If she’s been run ragged refilling my glass, it goes up to $2.50.

I have been a waitress and a bartender, and like many ex-servers I tend to overtip, especially for good service. I also leave notes and no tip for really bad service, when there is no apparent reason for it. If I have to ask for a drink refill, your tip just went down. If I have to ask again, and the place isn’t really, really busy, you’re getting a note.

Yup, I worked in a restaurant that did a buffet-style brunch. Though I was only taking drink order and not responsible for getting food to the tables, I was doing a lot of coffee and pop refills, as well as much more bussing of plates and cutlery and so on. I worked just as hard during a buffet shift as I did during a regular shift. So I always tip whatever I would have for regular service. That said, the only buffets I go to tend to be pretty upscale, so I don’t know what I’d tip at a family restaurant or cafeteria style or some place like that.