Tipping in buffet restaurants

How much, if anything, should you tip the waiters who bring you your drinks in buffet restaurants (leaving you to get your own food)?

If they’re good about the refills and clearing plates, $1 per person at the table. Maybe throw in a couple of extra bucks if they do something particularly cool.

So for a family of 3? Three to five bucks.

In non-buffet restaurants, it’s customary to tip a percentage of the check – 15 to 20 percent. I was thinking the same would apply in buffet restaurants, but at a lower percentage. You think the amount of the check should be irrelevant?

While I will go out of my way to avoid eating in one, I’m a 10% tipper in buffet restaurants for “good” service. Bringing drink refills is the only service that they provide.

Usually we’ll leave them a couple bucks. As a general rule I hate buffets, most of them aren’t very good, and the ones that are really good I always end up overeating. But since the only couple my friends and I ever go to are really good ones, they’re very good about bringing refills and they take care of your cheque and everything, I’d feel bad about leaving nothing. They really pack you in and one waiter will usually be working 6-7 tables, twice what a normal waitperson would, so I think $2-3 is appropriate.

The wife and I hit a Chinese buffet all the time, and the usual tip is a couple of bucks. A bit more if the waitress was on the ball with the iced tea refills. But we always leave something, if for no other reason than that we are regulars there, and we usually get tremendous service and attention.

Most of the servers at buffet restaurants get paid the same far-below-minimum-wage rate that waiters in full-service restaurants do. They depend on decent tips to make the job worthwhile. I didn’t know that until one of them told me. I ran into him serving at another restaurant after he quit the job at the buffet place. He said that was the primary reason he quit… people assumed they didn’t need to tip so his pay sucked.

So you should be tipping them the exact same percentage you would tip any other server, because they’re being paid accordingly.

What if it’s the kind of buffet where the waiters don’t do anything except collect the plates every once in a while? I’ve never tipped in that kind of buffet and I’ve only seen one or two others do it – they seemed to be the exception, though, as most tables were empty of tips after the patrons left.

I’ve always wanted to tip them since they actually seem to do as much work as any other waiter (they don’t bring you the food, but they sure have to collect a lot of empty plates). But I never have because it seemed customary not to. Am I wrong?

I tip 10 percent, rounded up to a buck.

But if they have to dedicate less time to each table, and consequently cover more tables than a full-service waiter, shouldn’t increased volume make up for a decrease in tip percentage?

I usually leave 10% at buffets (which I love to go to).

I always tip 20% everywhere, including buffet places. The one Chinese buffet I go to all the time costs $6.49, and I tip $1.51. I get great service there!

The two of us generally tip 2 or 3 dollars.

Yeah, I think the amount of the check isn’t as important when you’re at a buffet place.

Let’s take the local (kickass) Chinese place as an example. Before 4pm, it’s something like $4.50 a head. After 4, it goes up to about $7ish.

They may be busier at nighttime, and I’m sure customers eat more for dinner than they would lunch, but it’s not like the waiters are doing anything different. They clear plates, bus the tables and do drinks.

I’m not so sure about that.

I’m all about tipping, and I’m a very good tipper, especially in regular restaurants. However I do not understand why customers are expected to supplement low wages.

Let’s say you’re at a buffet and the check comes out to $25 for three people. All three people received one refill and the plates were cleared one time, and let’s assume the waiter was average in personality … not a jerk but not overly personable either.

If we were at a “regular” restaurant, I’d leave about a $7 tip. If we’re at a buffet, though, it’s going to be like I said earlier — $3-5. Why? I did most of the work myself. There’s a big difference between carrying big, heavy plates of food and frequently stopping by the table to check on customers vs. merely clearing some plates and getting refills.

In short, being a waiter at a buffet is generally an easier job because the customer is doing a major part of the work themselves. So while it’s nice to leave a big tip at a buffet if you want to, I don’t think buffet workers “deserve” to be tipped the same amount of money as someone who is hauling trays all night at the Outback.