Does the Old Notion of Leaving a 20% Tip Still Apply at Restaurants?

Written by |

Welcome to Ask Clark, a column designed to answer your financial questions, by money expert Clark Howard.

If I’m Having Less Interaction With Servers, Should I Still Tip 20%?

Jill from California asks: “I’ve noticed more and more restaurants using new technologies to enable customers to order and pay for their meals through their cell phones or by using tableside kiosks. These changes certainly help to streamline restaurant operations and I assume to reduce staffing.

“If customers now have less interaction with waitstaff, does the old notion of leaving a 20% tip still apply? I don’t want to be a cheapskate, but I also believe tipping should be based upon the service provided.”

Clark’s Take on Whether You Should Still Tip 20% at Restaurants

Clark says: A severe shortage in restaurant workers combined with advancing technology will continue to lessen the interaction between waitstaff and customers. Each patron will have to decide what that experience is worth.

“You’re going to see what you have experienced happen more and more where you’ll be doing your own order, paying out your own check, things like that,” Clark says. “As to what you feel that’s worth, and for what you feel you should tip, that’s your call.”

“The people that are there are working many more tables than they would have before,” he adds. “Let’s say before, when there was full service at a restaurant, they may have had five tables to wait on. Now they have 10. Now in a lot of ways, they are a food runner. And so you decide what that’s worth.”

As for Clark, he says, “I’ve continued to tip as before.”

One way you may be able to save on your restaurant bill is to take advantage of special deals for kids and seniors.

These places will give you free food on your birthday.

To hear Clark’s full take on this question, listen to the segment:

Do you have a question for Clark? Use this form to ask him! And remember that you can listen to the Clark Howard Podcast at any time here.


If you have a question but don’t want to be included in the podcast, contact Clark’s Consumer Action Center for free money help.

More Resources From

Welcome bonuses can be a great way to boost the value of a credit card. Best Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses for 2023 - If you're in the market for a new credit card in 2023, you may be hoping to cash in on the hundreds of dollars in sign-up bonuses offered to new customers. Welcome bonuses and offers are a marketing tool that…
The best cell phone plans include Tello, Mint Mobile, Visible, T-Mobile, Consumer Cellular and more Best Cell Phone Plans in 2023: The Cheapest Plan for Every Need - Team Clark ranks the best cell phone plans and deals! See our favorites for unlimited data, families and cheap plans starting at $10/month.