1. Tipping incorrectly
Everyone loves getting great food at discounted prices, which is why restaurant deals on Groupon or all-you-can-eat specials are so popular. However, many people make the mistake of paying a tip based on the discounted total.
A cheap meal doesn't make your server's job any easier. Remember to calculate your 18% or 20% tip using the original pretax total, before the discount. (For example, if you got a $20 meal for only $10, the correct 20% tip would be $4, not $2.)
Face it: If your waiter had to go back and forth to your table five times to pick up plates because you were filling up on the all-you-can-eat pasta special, it makes sense to pay him a tip that reflects his efforts.
2. Unnecessarily complicated orders
Fast-food chains including Chipotle, Starbucks, KFC and McDonald’s have "secret" menu items that aren't on the regular menu because they're time-consuming and difficult to make. Other, limited-release items, like the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino, can make servers crazy.
Meanwhile, some people have the bad habit of giving way-too-detailed instructions to waitstaff about how their food or drink should be prepared. Even worse, some people lie about having an allergy, simply because they prefer not to eat certain standard ingredients.
Again, think of your poor server! If you are incredibly picky eater, try to lighten up — or start cooking at home.
3. Ordering near closing time
Just because a restaurant closes at 10 p.m., that doesn’t make it okay to walk in at 9:45. As long as there are customers in the restaurant, employees can’t leave. Is your meal really so important that you need to keep a staff of five to 10 people from going home on time?
What if a server has to hold down two jobs to put himself through college? Staying at work longer isn’t just a small inconvenience — it could seriously ruin his entire schedule.
So, try to arrive at restaurants at a decent time, find a 24-hour drive-thru, or just go home.
When you go out to eat with family and friends, you may be tempted to spend hours chatting and catching up. However, the longer you “camp” at a table, the less money a server can make.
Each waiter or waitress is usually assigned a certain section of the restaurant for the night. If you hold your seat too long, new customers cannot come in, and the server loses out on tip money.
Have you ever wondered why a waitress hovered and kept asking, “Can I help you with anything else?” That’s polite code for “Please leave.” If you do ever overstay your welcome, the least you can do is give your server a large tip.
5. Being cheap when you throw a party
When you throw a party at a restaurant, the establishment will typically tack onto your bill an “automatic gratuity,” or mandatory tip. And servers tend to hate those, because they get the short end.
In 2014, the IRS mandated that an automatic gratuity counts as regular wages — and is taxable. Those mandatory tips also are shared with the rest of the restaurant staff.
When a party lasts two hours and and results in a $50 tip, the server may pocket less than $10 after the gratuity is divvied up and the tax is taken out. So, if you throw a party in a restaurant, it's kind to tip more than 20% of the bill.