Tip-sharing at restaurants: how common?

I’ve heard that at some restaurants, waiters don’t get to keep their tips - instead, the tips are pooled and split among both waiters and other employees like busboys, cooks, etc.

How common is this? Is it that way at the majority of restaurants? Less than half, but more than a very small number? Or just a very small number of restaurants?

Well, it isn’t new.
This place:

was doing it back in the '80s when my best friend was a bus boy there.

I don’t know where you’d fine actual statistics on this, but I’ve worked in around ten different restaurants in three different countries, and none of them shared the tips as standard practice (Britain, USA, and Australia). However, I have dined in at least two where I discovered that is how it worked.

Actually, most of the places I’ve worked in at has been at the discretion of the staff. Working in the kitchen, I would often get a share of the waiter’s tips if the meal was made especially well.

I have no idea how common it is, but I’ll offer up some anecdotal evidence. I’m a regular in two restaurants, and I know that tip sharing is practiced in both. One of them is a locally-owned mexican restaurant, and the servers there have to tip out 3%, which I think goes to the hostess and probably the busboys. The other restaurant is a national chain, and the servers there tip out to the bartender, among others.

I’m in Calgary and know a number of people that work in the food service industry. It seems to me that the ‘nicer’ mid-range and the upper-range restaurants have the policy where tips are pooled and split between all. Not all of them do this, but I’d say about 75% of them do. The cheaper places tend to not pool tips.

To further confuse the issue, there are two kinds of tip sharing. The first is where servers are expected to “tip out” the bussers, kitchen, and possibly the host/ess to the tune of about 5-20% of their take. In Portland, Ore., where I live, this is common in fine dining restaurants.

The second is true tip pooling, where all the tips go into a kitty and are split among the workers according to whatever formula the place chooses to use. This is common in more casual places, especially those without dedicated table service.

My experience as well. I worked in restaurants for years—first as a waiter, and then later as the General Manager. Theses were nice restaurants in Chicago.

In every one I worked in the wait staff “tipped out” 20%; 10% to the bus staff (which was pooled and split evenly) and 10% to the specific service bartender who made your drinks.

In the tipping-out scenario, does the waiter give 1/10 to 1/5 of his tips to the other workers? If so, that would mean they only get about 2% of the actual order price, while the waiter still gets the lion’s share.

Correct. The bussers generally make more per hour, but take home far less in tips then the servers.

A good friend of mine is a skycap here at SLC (Salt Lake International Airport), which at one time was a very lucrative job (there are/were several skycaps who have bachelors or masters degrees) and all of their tips are pooled equally.

He said once, a few years back, a fellow skycap was suspected of holding back some of his tips, and keeping money he should have turned in to be split between the others on the shift. Somehow management set up a sting, and was able to catch him in the act and he was fired.

He has told me some great stories about various celebs. that he has dealt with (many famous actors and musicians fly in yearly for the Sundance Film Festival or for ski vacations) and who is VERY generous (BB King) and who is a cheap bastard (Steve Buscemi is someone who he really loathes).

Tip sharing with the support staff (bartenders, sommeliers, busboys, and barbacks) was done at every restaurant I’ve ever worked at. I’ve never worked in a place where tips were pooled and split evenly among the waitstaff, and I don’t know that I’d ever care to be a waitron in that type of place, though I suppose in places where you don’t have a dedicated server that would make sense. Since (in most of the United States) the wages for waitrons are actually significantly less than minimum wage, the bulk of their take-home pay is in tips, and good waitrons will work very hard for their 15%-20%, and will also reward the support staff that keeps them from having to waste time filling water glasses or clearing dishes.

I have never worked in, seen, or indeed heard of a restaurant where tips are shared with the kitchen crew. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s far from the norm. I have seen a few instances where a patron will seek out the grill cook or sommelier for a kind word and a special tip, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Line cooks at good quality restaurants generally make significantly more than minimum wage, so tips are not a part of their normal compensation.


It happens frequently when you have many bartenders on one bar. They pool all the tips and divide evenly at the end of their shift.

It sometimes happens that a share goes to the person who worked the day shift, if the day shift is a dead shift, it’s a way of spreading the wealth around fairly and having staff not resent their turn on the dead shift.

Every restaurant I’ve worked and from talking to server friends, I don’t know any restaurant in Toronto that still pools tips. Usually a server tips-out anywhere between 2-6% of their sales to the supporting staff. Traditionally it’s split 1% to Host/Hostess, 1% House (Manger) and 1% to Bartender. Sometimes tip-out includes busboys, barbacks or kitchen. Tip-out can go directly from the server to the support staff, and sometimes it’s included with what they owe the house at the end of the night.

When I was a waitress, I had to tip out 2% of my sales to the bartenders and bussers/hosts. They provided a service for us, so they got some of our tips. I mean, if I’m a good server and I’m pulling in 20% instead of 15%, I’m still making 18% after that. I’m still motivated to be a good server, and I’m thanking them for their help.

So, Steve Buscemi is a real life Mr. Pink?

I have observed that, at every restaurant where true tip pooling is done, the service sucks, as you would expect.

I always wondered about this–when you give someone a tip, then, (assuming it’s not a pooled system), do they just make the change and pocket the tip right then and there or do they have to somehow report it to the manager so that it’s clear they’re not skimming off the top? And how does that work with credit cards? Deliveryboys?

I dont get the Mr Pink reference (I dont see too many movies) but if I recall, my buddy said SB was a cheap bastard, checking several bags and then outright stiffing the skycap.

BB King always tips the skycaps a crisp 100 dollar bill, though he apparently checks a couple of bags and a couple of guitars, so I suppose he wants to do what he can to ensure they are treated with kid gloves…

In the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs, “Mr. Pink” (the character played by Steve Buscemi) refuses to tip “on principle” even though Joe (the ringleader) is picking up the bill.

I’ve heard from other sources that Steve Buscemi is a shitty tipper and generally kind of an asshole to service people, so this isn’t surprising.

Now, about Val Kilmer…


I have heard that Steve is down to earth, and that after 9/11, he went back to the NYC Fire station he used to work at and worked 12 hour shifts with them clearing the rubble. Hearing this about him seems strange to me.