Tipping in Restaurants and Cafés
Let’s get something straight right away:
- You are not required to tip in restaurants.
- You are not required to tip waiters/waitresses.
- A 15% service fee is automatically included in ALL cafés, restaurants, bars, etc. as part of the price of each item (not on top of the total).
- Servers in France do not live off tips. They get salaries, paid vacations, health care, and living wages.
Don’t bring your ingrained tipping anxiety — “What percentage is polite?” — with you to France. This is not the United States. No workers are allowed to work for less than a full wage. No one will yell at you or shun you if you pay your bill and leave a restaurant without tipping.
Having said that, it’s always polite to tip when you’ve received good service (wow, what a novelty). The French usually round up to the nearest euro or two. My rather affluent French friend who eats out for every single meal (he’s a bachelor) never tips under €2 or more than €20, even when dining at a Michelin-star restaurant. But if you WANT you can leave more, especially if you’ve been a particularly demanding client (ie pain in the a**).
Don’t Tip for Bad Service
If you have had rude service, DO NOT TIP! If you ask the server if the tip is included, they will most likely say no. This is because in France a tip is a tip, the service fee of 15% is incorporated into the price of each item, not added to the top of the bill like the VAT. Don’t let them guilt you into tipping. Don’t guilt yourself into tipping for bad service. It brings down the level of service. And we don’t need that in France!
If you pay with a credit card, there is usually no place to add a tip (except in the most touristy restaurants). If you plan on tipping, bring cash or be prepared to ask your server to add it to the bill before you pay (although when and if they actually see any of that tip is debatable).
NOTE: The VAT (or TVA en français) has been lowered to 5.5% for food, but remains 19.6% for wine and some luxury foods, both itemized on your bill.
Tip hairdressers, tour guides, theater ushers, parking valets and concierges (depending on how demanding you’ve been). In hotels it’s customary to tip luggage handlers, room service (except for breakfast) and to leave something on your pillow for housekeeping (especially if you’ve been a slob). In some places (like cloak rooms) you may see a sign that says pourboire interdit (tipping forbidden). I never tip a taxi driver more than a euro, usually I round up to make it easier for them to give me change.