Tipping at Restaurants, Bars, and Pubs in England

british-pounds.jpg
••• British pounds. Maurice van der Velden/E+

Do you need to tip at restaurants in England?  In general, yes, you should tip around 10% to 15% at sit down restaurants.

Unlike the United States,where restaurant wait staff may be paid lower than the ordinary minimum wage, by law, all British staff must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (approximately £6.50/hr) whether they receive tips or not.

Because wait staff are paid a living wage, high tips --- such as the common 15 to 20% found in the United States --- are not customary in the United Kingdom.

 The ironic part of this is that the American concept of over-tipping came from American aristocrats who were trying to copy and better their British peers in the late 19th century. (Read more about the fascinating history of tipping here.) 

This rule varies depending on the type of restaurant as described further below:

  • Sit down restaurant: A tip should be given for good service.  Tips should range from 10 to 15%, depending on how good the service is.  If the service is poor, it is perfectly acceptable to leave no tip.  If the service is good, leave a 10% tip.  If the service is excellent, a 15% tip is appreciated.  But, many UK restaurants automatically charge a "service charge" of 10 to 15%, in which case you do not need to add anything further.  Unfortunately, many restaurants are not very clear in showing on their bills whether or not they leave a service charge; some print the service charge policy on their menus while others list it on the bill.  The best option is to ask your waiter whether there is a service charge included in the bill.  
  • Bars and pubs: As inIreland, you should not tip bartenders at bars and pubs with cash.  Instead, if they offer good service and you'd like to thank your bartender after a few rounds, tell him to "have one on me."  He'll usually smile and pull himself a pint and add the cost of the drink to your tab.
  • Larger bars and pubs with wait staff service:  Some larger pubs, like gastropubs, now operate more like restaurants where a waiter or waitress will come to your table to get your order.  In that case, you should tip 10 to 15% as described above.  If the pub feels more like a restaurant, than a 10% tip is expected.
  • Takeaway/delivery restaurants: If you order delivery from a takeaway restaurant, while tipping is not mandatory, it is acceptable and nice to give a few pounds to the delivery man.  But, if you pick up your own food, you need not tip.
  • Fast food restaurants and cafes: Tipping is not expected at these casual venues.