How Much Should You Tip At A Fancy Restaurant?

Anyone who has ever worked in the food service industry will tell you the same thing: "If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out." No biggie; stay home and cook a nice meal instead. Tipping isn't a suggestion — it's how hardworking people make their livelihoods. Singers at concerts call out, "Be sure to tip your servers" for a reason. As Best Life puts it, "If you'd really wanted to save some money, you could've gone without that extra cognac at dessert — don't take it out on your server."

When it comes to dining at a fancy restaurant, there are all sorts of rules. Picking up the wrong fork at the wrong time might cause you to blush — which, in any other setting, would make zero sense. The menu should touch the table at all times according to etiquette coachMyka Meier (via Food & Wine). Many fine-dining establishments even make chefs provide their own knives. It's weird! But if the head chef preparing a meal for you at your special-occasion restaurant isn't exempt from the secret, idiosyncratic, kind of bizarre rules of fine dining, then neither are you — and your server almost certainly isn't. Adequate tipping is perhaps the one rule of fine dining that isn't strange or unfamiliar at all – at least, it shouldn't be. Here's how much you should tip at a fancy restaurant.

Tip 15%-20% across the board

According to Best Life, 18% is the tipping standard for fancy restaurants; anything less than 15% is unacceptable. A 20% tip, it says, is a good way to acknowledge exceptional service. But, this is the minimum end of the spectrum. Daniel Senning of etiquette school The Emily Post Institute says a 15%-20% tip before tax is expected (via The Daily Meal). Bankrate agrees that 15%-20% pre-tax is customary. But, in light of a rampant disease pandemic and record-high inflation (yet still no raise on federal minimum wage), perhaps the way folks think about tipping is in need of an update: Eater says your default should be 20%, no matter where you go. "Sure," it says, "tipping is inherently exploitative, but as long as tipped minimum wages exist, you don't get to opt out."

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. If you're dining with a particularly large party, says Menufy, your tip should be increased to reflect the extra accommodations. According to The Daily Meal, if your host has put in extra effort to secure a table for your party during a busy night, an extra $10 or $20 is only mannerly. Although, if you splurge on a bottle of top-shelf wine for the table, you aren't expected to factor that into your total when it comes time to tip, per Eater. (To diners who argue that tipping is ridiculous and should just be factored into employee wages: Many servers might agree with you.)