How to Tip a Server at a Buffet Restaurant

A group of people are standing at a buffet.
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Although your server at a buffet restaurant isn't responsible for bringing you your food, it's poor etiquette to leave the establishment without giving a tip. The tip, which may be as little as half what you leave at a traditional restaurant, rewards the staff member for performing duties such as serving drinks, clearing your table and bringing you the bill.

1 Tip 10 Percent

The Emily Post Institute recommends tipping the server in a buffet restaurant 10 percent of the bill, before taxes. This amount is less than the 15 to 20 percent that is appropriate to tip the server in a traditional restaurant setting. The tipping practice, however, is the same: Give the server cash or add the tip to the bill if you're paying with a card.

2 Consider the Server's Performance

Several factors influence how much you tip. Although you might not develop the same rapport with the person as you would at a traditional restaurant, note the server's general demeanor during interactions. Evaluate how quickly he serves and refills your water glasses, the speed at which he removes dirty dishes from the table and the promptness with which he gives the bill. If the server has significant shortcomings in these categories, tip less than 10 percent; likewise, give a larger tip if the server shines.

3 Calculate the Tip

It's simple to calculate a 10-percent tip. Once you receive the bill, check the subtotal price before the addition of taxes, then divide that number by 10 with the calculator app on your smartphone or use a tipping app. To perform the calculation in your head, just move the bill's decimal one space to the left. For example, for a $14.50 bill, a 10 percent tip is $1.45.

4 No Need to Tip the Host

Although the buffet restaurant's host greets you at the door and shows you to your seat, you don't have to tip this staff member. However, The Emily Post Institute recommends giving a tip between $10 and $20 if the host provides exceptional service. For example, she puts significant effort into getting a table for you and your group when the restaurant is fully booked.

Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.