Last Update: Mar 22nd, 2024
Vegas Waitress Server

A Thinking Man's Guide to Tipping in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Minimum Wage

The first thing to understand is that Nevada is not a tip wage state. 44 states allow restaurants to pay employees eligible for tips less than the minumum wage. In New Mexico, the minimum wage is $11.50 but restaurant workers can be paid $2.80/hour; so the first $9/hr they make in tips just goes to cover the minimum wage. In Nevada, the minimum wage for everyone is $10.25. So that person bringing your plate of eggs is making $10.25 before getting a penny in tips (note this is going up to $12 in July 2024). In California, the minimum wage is $15/hr. Remember these numbers.

Now restaurants that have to pay higher wages have to charge more on their menus. You're paying for the service in the higher price of food, so why would you tip the same in Nevada or California than you would in New Mexico or another low tip-wage state? Paying the same PCT on higher prices to tip people who are making more money without tips is just plain dumb.

Service Charges are Now Illegal

Service charges are not "illegal", but guidelines issued by the CCPA in July 2022 say that restaurants may not add a tip or a service charge to your bill. If they do, they must clearly indicate that the charge is voluntary; you don't have to pay it.

Tip on the Sales Tax

In high sales tax states, the "suggested tip" often includes the sales tax. On a $200 bill, the tax is $17.50. Are you really leaving an extra $3 tip for the tax?

People Are Programmed

Most people are math challenged. When the concept of tipping was devised, most restaurants were Mom and Pops; local families running restaurants to earn a middle class living. Back when hamburgers were 30 cents in the 1950s, 15% was the calculation they came up to help low paid servers earn a fair wage. People didn''t have calculators back then; and figuring the tip was challenging. Growing up in NY the sales tax was 7.5 or 8%; "Twice the Tax" was how we calculated the tip. Most people can multiply by 2. If you want to leave a 17% tip, you can do that in Nevada also.

But as times have changed, people haven't adjusted their thinking. Servers now "expect" 15-20%. They don't consider if you tip less it may because the service wasn't very good. Or that the same percentage tip for a $30 bottle of wine and a $90 bottle of wine makes no sense at all. With exploding restaurant prices, service industry people are raking in the dough from people tipping 20% on massively overpriced menus.

Tableside tablets and ipad-style POS systems now "suggest" a tip, which is way higher than it should be. Many people are just too embarrassed to changes the tip while the server watches.

Tablet Tip Suggestion

Restaurant Prices

Most restauranta are now owned by big corporations focused on making money primarily. Providing a good product at a good price is not their prerogative. Corporate restaurants raise their prices every 6 months even with 0% inflation. So if diners all pay a fixed percentage of their bill as tip, that means that restaurant servers get a raise every 6 months. Prices go up, tips go up. Do you get a raise every 6 months?

All of this is fine; businesses are allowed to make money. But the concept of tipping to help struggling middle class business owners is long antiquated. Restaurants no longer strive to keep prices down; they're no longer run by a nice couple raising a family in the community. They're owned by $billion corporations (Darden, Landry, Tavistock) run by multi-millionaires who can afford to pay their help without our help.

So why are you helping Billionaires and Multi-Millionaires to pay their employees when they're not even charging you fair prices? Why do you continue to tip more and more as the prices go up?

How Much is your Server Making?

Most servers handle about 4 tables at a time. Let's make it easy and say an average dinner is 2 hours. So if the average check is $150, that's $600 in sales every 2 hours. At 15%, that would be $90 in tips, or $45/hour. Plus the $10/hour they get in wages. Now they have to tip out the bartender and bussers; typically they'll keep at least 70%.

At a more expensive restaurant, the avg check might be $300. Is a server that brings you an $80 steak really worth twice as much as a server who brings you a $40 piece of chicken?

Using this formula:

Server Tipped Wages

So at most restaurants on the strip, that unfriendly server who brought you your $80 steak is making $70/hour, and probably not paying taxes on some of it. Does that make any sense to you?

How much is Service Really Worth?

Let's say you were opening a restaurant and tipping has been abolished. No tipping allowed. How much would you pay your servers? $15/hr? $18/hr? no more than that. Table service doesn't require a degree or special training. Anyone mobile can do the job. So if servers are making $10.50 and they're only worth $18, they only need to make $8/hr in tips in Nevada to achieve a fair wage;; in California, why are they tipping at all? Maybe leave a 5 spot if the service is special?

A Special Note on Casino Tipping

When people are winning, they love to show off and throw the dealer a tip. Of course you never get a buy-back when you're losing. Realize when you do this you're not tipping the dealer; you're tipping everyone on the floor. Tips in casinos are pooled (except in Poker, for some reason). So you're really just throwing your money away. Hope it makes you feel good about yourself.

A Practical Guide to Tipping

I'm not a robotic tipper. I don't tip a fixed percentage because the clowns on Facebook and Next Door say I should.

First, it depends on the service. If my group was particularly demanding and the server made many trips to the table and didn't give us a hard time or dirty looks, I'll tip more. But if they just take an order and bring stuff to the table. I'll tip based on what I think the service was worth. In a restaurant where the server just takes my order and I never see them again (runners bring out the food, they don't offer dessert, no rounds of drinks), I'll tip less.

1) For breakfast $2 and lunch $3-$4 per person. Sorry, but bringing me a single plate of eggs or a sandwich isn't worth as much as dinner with drinks, apps and dessert.

2) For a budget dinner, such as burgers, Outback or something of the sort, 15-20% is about right depending on the service. A $30 dinner is what the 15% guidelines were designed for.

3) For a fine dining dinner I usually leave 15%, more if the service was good and less if the service was poor. This is how tipping is supposed to work. If you bring me the wrong stuff, or forget to bring me something or give me attitude, you'll be getting less. The tip will also depend on the fairness of the prices on the menu. I'm not tipping twice as much for an $80 steak that should be $55; let the restaurant owner pay you out of the money he's ripping off from me.

To wokesters and braggarts (Look at me; I'm a big tipper), these ideas are appalling. But in a world where restaurants are now run by rich corporations, the same formula used in 1960 simply doesn't apply. Use your head; understand how much you're paying for food and how much servers make when you tip a high percentage, and tip in accordance to the service you receive.

Comment Policy Add Comment
Bravo, finally some sense. Restaurant prices are ridiculous.
Walmart sells stuff at the best prices and people complain that they don't pay their workers enough, but people gladly pay a 20% tip on a $45 chicken dinner with no criticism of restaurant prices. It shows that the average person simply doesn't understand how things work; they just do what the people on twitter and facebook tell them to do.

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