A gentleman’s definitive guide to tipping

We asked a stalwart of London's hospitality scene what he expects, what he wants and what he hates when it comes to tipping

Let’s not beat around the immaculately-set table; you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing when it comes to tipping. Most ‘rules’ you live and dine by have been self-set — and you tend to bend, scramble and sauté them depending on the quality of the cooking, calibre of your company and, most commonly, the state of your bank balance.

But don’t get your napkins in a twist. Here at Gentleman’s Journal, we’re dab hands at tipping — be it for a simple round of coffees or a slap-up three-course meal. So, with a little help from André Mannini, a true enthusiast of the hospitality scene and Operations Director at Birch hotels (and formerly of M Restaurants), here’s what to bear in mind next time you catch yourself in the tipping zone.

Don’t make a show of it

There’s nothing worse than waving a bunch of freshly-withdrawn notes around a restaurant like a bouquet of flowers. You shouldn’t care who sees how much money you’re tipping, and ensuring everyone from the bar to the backroom sees your notes is gauche to say the least. Tip quietly and with class.

“The key to tipping like a gentleman,” says Mannini, “is finding that perfect balance between being discreet and understated — not to mention giving the money you are tipping the importance it deserves.”

It’s easy, really. Don’t showboat with your money, or draw attention to it with over-the-top, unbecoming behaviour. Leaving a tip is as much a part of the meal as the food, and you wouldn’t splash your soup around the table or make a scene with your breadsticks.

Don’t leave without saying anything

Tipping is a personal gesture; a heartfelt — and likely stomachfelt — thanks to your waiting staff. As such, you should present your tip to your waiter or sommelier with a personal touch. Of course, we don’t want you to leap from your chair and pull them into a bear hug, or whisper sweet nothings in the ear of the chef, but you can do better than coldly putting your cash on the table and leaving without a word.

“Personally, I am a big fan of not paying at the table,” says Mannini, offering you yet another alternative. “Instead make the effort of going to find the waiter to settle the bill in private. This will give you a chance to exchange a few words, thank your server personally, and will send a strong message of appreciation.”

Don’t leave your tip before your meal

You wouldn’t reach for the toothpicks until your meal is finished, and neither should you open your wallet. This sort of conduct screams that you don’t trust the establishment you’re eating at, and the staff will be put in the awkward situation of trying to give you ‘the special treatment’ because you’ve tipped in advance.

“If you are under some pressure and want to impress your guests,” suggests Mannini, “it is more gentlemanly to have a quiet word with the maître’d or the waiter — sincerely telling them how important this gathering is for you and if they could please keep an eye on things so they run smoothly.”

Don’t tip too much

This may seem counter-intuitive, especially with the hospitality in such dire straits following lockdown, but believe us. Your tip is a gratuity towards the staff, not a way to display your wealth, and slapping down a whole wodge of notes will come off as vulgar and arriviste. Always pay the service charge in full and, of course, don’t skimp on the tip — but it’s not an opportunity to laud your wealth over others.

“The fact that most establishments nowadays add service charge makes your life as a tipping gentleman much easier,” says Mannini. “This being included already in your bill takes away the effort of calculating it and leaves you to liberally add a small amount as a gesture of gratitude — which is exactly what a tip originally was, and really should be.”

Got more food-related etiquette qualms? How about how to eat oysters in front of a beautiful woman?

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