For many people, a date brings on plenty of nerves to begin with. And, this is before considering the possible awkwardness of how to handle the bill once the meal is finished. As part of this, understanding when and how to calculate a tip – especially, if you’re going dutch (which means to split the bill equally) – can spare you a potentially uncomfortable situation and help you finish the meal on a positive note.
How to Know When to Tip
Each country has their own unique customs when it comes to tipping, with some even considering the practice to be an insult. In the U.S., you’re expected to tip at a restaurant unless gratuity has automatically been added to your bill (a common occurrence for large parties) or the restaurant’s prices already factor in an amount for tip. Since many of those working as waitstaff in the U.S. are paid less than minimum wage, a majority of their income actually comes from the tips themselves.
Aside from the average dine-in restaurant, there are some food establishments that call for different tipping practices. At a cafe, for example, tipping is considered proper etiquette if someone has ordered a more “complicated” drink. At a fast-food restaurant, a tip isn’t expected, but a small one is certainly appreciated, even if it’s just loose change in your pocket. Lastly, at a buffet, you can leave a small tip to account for the staff refilling drinks and clearing away used plates.
In the end, your date might be watching you to see how you approach the practice of tipping, so it’s important to do the right thing.
How to Know What to Tip
While there is no specific rule for how much to tip, the standard range is 15 to 20 percent of your meal. Even if you receive horrible service, it’s still advised to tip (albeit only 10 percent), unless your experience was exceptionally disastrous.
This 10 percent tip alone will convey your dissatisfaction to the waitstaff. This tipping percentage should be applied to the original price, before any discounts or deals have been added, and can be calculated pre-tax, although many choose to calculate from the post-tax amount. Therefore, it’s important to check the bill and see what the situation is with the tax before calculating the tip.
Should We Tip on Card or With Cash?
Wondering if you should pay tip on a card or with cash? In general, tipping with cash is preferred as credit card tips might require some processing time. Waiters and waitresses usually prefer to get their tips upfront in cash. But, if you don’t have any cash on you, feel free to use your card.
When two people are going dutch on a date, it’s customary to split the tip in half, too. If you’re both paying with a card, add 20 percent to your half of the bill and 20 percent to their half of the bill, which will come out to 20 percent of the entire bill. Otherwise, the person who initiated the date might offer to pay the entire tip.
How to Calculate the Tip Based on the Bill
A handy trick for calculating the tip based on the bill is to just double the sales tax dollar amount, resulting in a tip that’s between fifteen to nineteen percent (depending on the state’s sales tax). To leave a 20 percent tip, see what 10 percent of the bill is by moving the decimal point over to the left one digit and then multiply that amount by two.
If you’d prefer calculating a tip using another, specific percentage and would rather not bother with any mental math, consider using a tip calculator.
With this kind of tool, all you have to do is input your bill and choose a tip percentage, and you’ll get the exact amount, which is perfect when you’re going dutch on a date and you might be worried about making a mathematical mistake.
How to Split the Tip
For those planning on going dutch with the bill, an easy workaround is to ask the server if they can split the check, making it easier for everyone to do their individual tip calculations.
If you have a joint bill, then the simplest way to split the tip is to do it equally. Dividing the tip amount down the middle may not reflect the correct percentage based on what you ordered, but unless there’s a huge discrepancy between your food’s prices, it should be a negligible difference. It’ll also save you both a lot of hassle!
With these tips on tips in mind, you’ll be able to find the practices that work best for you. Next time you go dutch on a date, it’ll be easy to calculate a tip in no time.
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Time Out, CultureMap, Livability, and more.