Unsure about when and how much to tip? Here's the ultimate guide to gratuity

Aug 25 2022, 2:31 pm

For many, figuring out when and how much to tip can be a confusing and awkward situation.

From restaurants to hotels to hair and nail salons, the unspoken rules of tipping can be murky, especially during an ongoing pandemic and surging inflation.

But not to worry, we’ve created the ultimate guide on where, when and how much you should tip, with advice from an etiquette expert and people who work in these industries.

When and where you’re always expected to tip

According to Toronto-based etiquette expert Lisa Orr, you’re always expected to tip at establishments where you experience extra service.

“Places like restaurants, personal care locations, like hair salons and spas,” she told Daily Hive.

Businesses that don’t require tips are professional services.

“Obviously you don’t tip your doctor, your accountant, or your dentist, so that’s sort of a difference in personal services versus professional services,” Orr explained.

We’ve broken down the services that may make you stop and think about whether you have to tip into three different categories: food services, personal care services, and accommodations and transportation.

Let’s get into specifics!

Food services


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According to a Restaurants Canada spokesperson, the industry standard for tipping is between 15 and 18%.

However, the non-profit organization that represents the foodservice industry released a survey in April which found that 44% of Canadians have been tipping more compared to before COVID-19.

Orr says that it can depend on where you are, and often, the options you read on credit card machines are what sets the tipping bar.

She adds that a 15% tip used to be the max customers would give, and it meant you did a good job.

“Now, 15 is typically the bottom of the range,” Orr explained. “It’s an interesting shift. I think definitely the average is much closer to 18 now, sometimes 20 depending on the location.”

If you are dining with a large party at a restaurant (in a group of more than five people), Orr says it’s generally custom to tip 18 to 20%. She also advises that you read through your receipt in case a service charge is already included.

Coffee shops or bars


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Shell Halim, who works at Shy Coffee Co. in Toronto, says tipping at cafĂ©s isn’t mandatory but appreciated.

“We’re providing a service by hand crafting drinks for hours on a daily bases and cleaning after patrons,” she told Daily Hive over email.

Halim says that ideally, people would tip somewhere between 10 to 20%, but that they aren’t opposed to a tip that’s lower or higher.

According to Orr, if there were to be a hierarchy for tipping, restaurants would be at the top, followed by bars and then coffee shops.

However, she says to consider the amount of service you receive because it can differ at each establishment. She gives the example of a bar that also serves food, and the same thing with cafés that go beyond making you a cup of coffee.

So, what if you don’t tip? Halim usually brushes it off because it isn’t mandatory, especially if the order is extremely simple.

However, if customers have a complicated or large order and don’t tip, she says it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.


For large takeout orders, etiquette experts recommend about a 15% tip. Tips aren’t required if you’re ordering takeout at a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop, but still appreciated.

Even dropping one to two dollars in change into the tip jar helps.

Food delivery

The recommended is 15 to 20%, especially if they have to deliver in bad weather, or a hard-to-find, hard-to-reach location.

Personal care services


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Hair and nail salons

Orr’s rule of thumb for hair salons is to tip in the five to 10% range.

An example Orr has seen is someone receiving high-end service for a big, $400 blowout and paying a $25 to $40 tip, which is about 10%. She also says you can just round up and give an extra $10.

Thu Nguyen, who works as a nail tech at a salon in Barrie, Ontario, says tipping is not mandatory but appreciated.

“I don’t see the difference between tipping a nail artist and a waitress,” she told Daily Hive. “It’s a service at the end of the day. Tip based on your experience with the nail tech!”

She suggests giving a $5 minimum tip, but it also depends on what service you’re receiving. A pedicure and artificial nails, for example, require more time and skill.

Spas and massages

Orr says massage therapists can sometimes fall under the category of a professional service like chiropractors and physiotherapists. This means the service could be covered by your insurance, so you won’t need to tip.

If the massage you’ve booked isn’t covered by insurance, and you find the card machine prompting you to tip, Orr suggests tipping in the five to 10% range.

A similar gratuity range is also suggested for spas.

Accommodations and transportation


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Before you withdraw a wad of cash from your bank, Orr advises to check the hotel’s policy.

“Some hotels now have no tipping policies,” she said. “It’s very much built into their experience… so you don’t need a handful of bills to be handing out to people all the time.”

She says that while tipping the housekeeping team is still common practice, it’s not mandatory.

Orr’s rule of thumb is tipping $10 a night, but it ultimately depends on the amount you’re comfortable with. She adds that you don’t need to leave a tip every day, just at the end of your stay.

There is, however, still an expectation to tip bellhops or door people. Orr says a typical tip for baggage delivery is one to two dollars a bag.

She highly advises doing some research beforehand because the tipping culture may differ among regions, especially in certain countries.

Coat check

If there’s already a fee for coat check, Orr says there’s no need to tip. Otherwise, it’s usually customary to tip $2 a coat.


According to Ridester, which provides expertise in the rideshare industry, a good rule of thumb is 15 to 20%.

They also suggest tipping a dollar or two on short rides that are under $10, and $5 on longer rides that are over $10.

100% of the tip goes to drivers, according to Uber and Lyft.

Other tips on tipping

Should you tip before or after tax?

For sticklers, Orr says you should be calculating the percentage of the tip before the taxable amount since that money’s going to the government and not the workers.

If you’re paying a small price, you may just accept the options the machine gives you because who wants to do all of that math?

“But just know that it’s totally reasonable to calculate it yourself and leave that custom tip,” she clarified.

She suggests calculating a tip before tax when you’re paying a big bill, especially if you’re dining in a large group, for example.

Should you tip with cash or card?

At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice, but Orr says that tipping with cash provides a degree of assurance that the money will get distributed to the rest of the staff, especially at a restaurant.

She does acknowledge that because of COVID-19, many establishments are cashless.

In the context of a coffee shop, Halim personally thinks tipping with a card is better.

“Unfortunately, people steal tips from the cash jar quite often,” she explained.

At nail salons, Nguyen highly recommends tipping with cash because nail techs get 100% of their tips.

“Tips are only split if it takes more than one person to give someone a service,” she said and added that if that’s the case, the tip is split as equally as possible among every technician.

Why are tips important?

@michellebellexo Not to mention it would be even harder to find good servers and bartenders. #serviceindustry#tipping#bartender#server ♬ original sound – Michelle Charlotte Bartender

Many people in the service industry rely on tips for their income because most are still earning minimum wage. In Canada, minimum wage differs among provinces, but it ranges from $11 to $16.

“When we get tips… that often contributes a lot to our groceries or gas money, essentially any necessities,” explained Halim.

Many argue that it’s not on the customer, but on the businesses to pay their employees a living wage, but Orr says it’s not that simple.

She gives examples of restaurants that tried to eliminate tipping. But in order to pay workers a living wage, establishments need to raise prices on their menus.

“I think restaurants that have tried to make [the tip] a part of the menu, to say ‘this is how much food actually costs,’ have had pushback from customers,” explained Orr.

When in doubt…

Ask! There are many more services than the ones we’ve outlined here that could prompt you for a tip.

“‘I’d like to leave a tip, but I’m not sure what’s the standard.’ That’s a totally reasonable question,” Orr said.

Isabelle DoctoIsabelle Docto

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