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Posted by on Aug 10, 2012 in Blog, Rants and Raves, Restaurant Reviews | 17 comments

Nolan Dalla Rant: A Guide to Restaurant Tipping



Bon Appetiti!




1.     Food Service

Start with 20 percent of full bill (tax included) and work way either up or down, based on the following events.

If server approaches my table within the first two minutes, maintain 20 percent tip.  Then, deduct one percent for every minute the server is tardy.  If server shows up 2 to 3 minutes late and then profusely apologizes, reset meter to 20 percent.  Moreover, if server stops by and asks for more time, allow one reset.  But no more than one reset permitted.

If no waiter shows up within five minutes, bolt for the door.  No questions asked.

If I am alone or dining with Marieta, we ALWAYS order everything IMMEDIATELY.  I do not want to fuck around and have multiple visits from some college kid asking what I want on each course — drinks, appetizers, and main course.  Let’s get to the point, I am here to E-A-T.  Not listen to someone’s life story.

Furthermore, I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THE WAITER’S NAME!  I am ordering a meal from you, not buying a house.

If waiter tells me his/her name, deduct 5 percent.  If waiter tells me his/her name and is actually WEARING A NAME TAG (utter madness), belittle the establishment with the opening remark, “how the fuck can you work in a place that makes you tell the customer your name?  I want a burger, I don’t fucking want to be your chat friend.”  Sorry, but ordering one meal from you is not going to get me to accept your Facebook friend invite.

If waiter shows any attitude about my order whatsoever — the way I order it, the way I want the food prepared — deduct 5 percent.  Note:  I usually come loaded with my stock comment that “We are trying to catch a movie” (dinner) or “we have a doctors appointment in an hour” (lunch) to get their asses moving.  Use one of these stock verbal cattle prods in advance if it looks like you drew a slow waiter.  They almost always work

In order to keep all of my glasses completely full, tell waiter “I need to take some medicine and need to be hydrated.”  This will ensure they keep the glasses topped off.  Slip the busboy a few bucks on the side, if necessary.

If waiter does not bring *ME* my San Pellegrino mineral water and tries to SHARE IT with the rest of the table, immediately seize command of the situation and lambaste the waiter for not fucking listening.  Deduct 5 percent.  They can order heir own fucking drinks.  Bring me mine.  I do not grab someone’s margarita and start gulping it down when they order.  So, why do they fucking ASSUME the sparkling water I FUCKING ORDERED is for *everyone.*  It’s not.  It’s for me.  Some people order a soda.  I order Pellegrino.  Bring it, pop the cap, and then keep your hands OFF my bottle.

If waiter brings me a cold glass, multiple limes, and sets me my own Pellegrino in front of me, especially serving me first before the rest of the party, ADD 5 percent.


Do not get snooty with me that I do not order a $100 bottle of wine.  I drink a bottle every day at home and I pay one-quarter the price that you charge for your jacked up grape juice.  I MIGHT order a bottle of wine on a special occasion and if I do, don’t fucking upsell me on the $42 bottle of Zinfandel to a $74 bottle of whatever, so you can shake me down for $7 more on the tip.

Furthermore, do not EVER touch my wine bottle.  EVER!  You let me pour it.  I know your fucking game.  Trying to top off all the glasses so we might blast through the first bottle and order a second.  You aren’t fooling anyone.  I know how to pour the fucking wine.  Just keep my other glasses full, my guests happy, and make sure they are moving it along in the kitchen.  You take care of the fucking food.  I’ll handle the wine.

Now onto the food…..

If I ask to hear about the daily specials, that’s fine.  But do not read me “War and Peace” with the ornate descriptions and preposterous options.  You are serving a meal, not auditioning for a movie role.  I may have my mind completely set on the rainbow trout.  I do not want to hear about how tasty the Talapia is, because I know if you are pushing it, it’s about to turn bad.  So, when I order, keep your trap shut, write if down, and start running off to the kitchen when I have completed my order.

Waiter is not to be blamed for late orders or condition of food, UNLESS they get the order wrong.  For instance, if my steak if undercooked, I am not taking it out on the waiter.  But if the waiter DOES NOT LISTEN and brings me the baked potato with sour cream or some other shit I do not like when I MADE IT CLEAR I wanted “butter only,” then they must pay a price.  Deduct 5 percent.  If they get 3+ things wrong then call for manager (dessert is probably going to be free).

If waiter keeps my glass full (water, ice tea), add 2-3 percent.  If waiter does not at least glance at me each time he passes by my table, then deduct 5 percent.

Do not come up and interrupt me just as I am delivering the punch line on a joke that took me two courses to set up.  If I am in mid-sentence, keep on walking as long as I am talking.  I will SUMMON YOU if I need something.  Be sure and watch Marlon Brando in The Godfather as a training exercise on how I expect to be treated.  When I raise my right hand slowly and make a waving gesture while looking around, it means I need attention.  Immediately drop what you are doing and come service me.  But watch my hand carefully.  If I wave you off, do not disturb me or my guests.

When my dishes are finished, I want them off the fucking table.  Period.  For every minute an unsightly plate remains on the table, deduct half a percent. If it’s a fancy place, then deduct .75 percent, because there is more staff.


I expect to get REAL butter.  Not margarine.  Not some honey whip.  REAL BUTTER.

And, if there are four people in my party, we expect at least six tin foil segments PER PERSON.  Better yet, bring a whole stick.  When I get four slivers of tin-foiled butter and there are four guests, I am going to run your ass back to the kitchen like you are galloping in The Preakness.  So, save yourself the fatigue and the embarrassment of making multiple trips and BRING ME MY BUTTER, and plenty of it.

And one more thing — keep the bread basket full.

If waiter REMEMBERS I was in a hurry and asks if he/she can bring the check, or asks for a dessert order in advance while I am having the meal, ADD 5 PERCENT.  This shows common sense.  If waiter is a foreigner, void this step.

If waiter brings me anything complimentary during the course of the meal, and it’s not customary, add 5 percent.

If waiter asks me any personal questions during my meal, deduct 2-5 percent depending on situation.  I do not want a stranger knowing my business.  I am there to fucking eat the food, not engage in time-wasting dialogue.

If I see waiter/waitress goofing off while I need something, deduct 5 percent.  If I see waiter walk by my table when I have my hand up, and he does not see me, deduct 5-10 percent.  The server’s eyes should always be focused on the field of play, and that means me at all times.

Finally, when I am paying cash and server asks me ‘DO YOU NEED CHANGE?” automatically reset anything above 15 percent back to 15 percent.  “Yes, sweetheart.  The fucking bill is $43.  I gave you three $20s.  The other $17 was NOT for you.  You just dicked yourself out of two bucks.”

Also, when bringing me my change, give me extra ONES and FIVES.  You want to gamble that I am going to leave a ten-spot on a $39 check?  Bzzzzzt,  You lose.  Nothing more irritating than flagging down the waiter, finally getting your change, and the motherfucker leaves you hanging with a dick in your hand having to flag his ass down against and try to break a fiver.

Nolan Dalla on Tipping

Dinner is Served!

II.  Bar Service

See above about greet times.  I better have a cocktail in my hand within about three minutes, or you are getting STIFFED.

If bartender knows what I am drinking, that’s an automatic $2 (single drink).

If bartender asks me what ball game I want on TV, that’s an automatic $3.  If bartender hands me the remote control, that’s an automatic $5.

If bartender knows the proper way to make a drink (shakers, ice, glasswear, etc.) that’s an automatic $2 per drink.

If bartender is female and shows cleavage, she gets no fucking breaks.  I am there to drink and watch he ball game, honey.  Not to look at your rack stuffed into an undersized banana sack.  If I wanted to see tits and ass, I would be at a strip club (which I do not frequent — EVER).  I’m a totally equal opportunity tipper.  But don’t think laziness or indifference will be covered up by a nice set of double DDs.  Just bring me my god damned drink and keep my glass full.  That’s your job.

If bartender makes me pay for each drink as I go like I’m some kind of checkrunning mook, $1 max.  That’s it.  If he lets me run a tab, usually tip 25-30 percent of tab.  If my team covers the spread, then automatically tip 30 percent.  If my team takes it in the ass and does not cover, automatically tip 20 percent.

Don’t ask.


A final word on seating and hosts.

When I walk in your restaurant I expect to be seated IMMEDIATELY.  Chances are, I made a reservation and am on time.  I kept up my end of the bargain, now keep yours.

Do not try to seat me either:

(1)  Next to the kitchen — I do not want to hear the kitchen door slamming every 15 seconds, the cooks cursing in Spanish, or the waitresses gabbing about their cycles.  I am there to enjoy myself and entertain my guests.  You locate the best real estate in the room and you SIT ME THERE.  Now!

(2)  Next to the bathroom — I do not want to hear the sound of a flushing toilet every 30 seconds while I am savoring my chateaubriand.  Moreover, I do not want to be annoyed by odd odors and then try to decipher if it’s coming from the kitchen or the bathroom.

(2)  Next to any infants — look at me….do I look like I want to be seated next to a fucking toddler?  I demand to not have ANY person younger than 16-years-old within 30 feet of me while I am present.

If the owner or host comes by my table I shall compliment all that I see that is positive.  Since I am very easy to please and have such a laid-back attitude about dining, I am appreciate of hosts and owners taking the time to ask about my experience.

These guidelines should serve you well.

TAG: Restaurant tipping guide


  1. Halfway through I realized I was hearing the voice of Francis from Stripes in my head.

  2. I understand many of your peeves, but please be aware that many servers are REQUIRED by amnagement to do the things you despise, such as introduce themselves by name and describe the dishes in full.

    Much of what you complain about and penalize servers for is completely out of their control—yes, even in “fine dining” establishments. But docking servers for stuff they can’t do anything about when their actual wage (not the sub-minimum wage they’re usually paid no matter what) is pretty harsh.

  3. Nolan, you won’t want to eat at a resort like Walt Disney World, you will Lose. Your. Mind. My only serving experience came in the mid ’90s when Disney opened a new”themed” property. They laid out a set of procedures, which we labeled “The Commandments” because if you broke any of them you got “written up” and were watched like a hawk for a while, and if you received two right-ups in a pay period you were relegated to one of the many jump-through-hoop roles that didn’t have to do with serving for 2 shifts; the higher-ups rationalized it by paying a better base rate than typical servers get (to offset the many Europeans guests that undertipped or didn’t at all). Anyway, one of the Commandments was “Upsell.” Extoll the virtues of the high-priced “specials”. Pitch the higher-end wines. Present the dessert tray and LEAVE IT THERE while taking care of another menial task. The company line? “Let them be the judge. Don’t do it for them.” I lasted a month, I only started there because my then-girlfriend got me the job. While this probably isn’t the type of place you’d eat at, keep in mind that to follow your rules, the server has to break the BOSS’s rules and it could put them out of a job they desperately need. Your beef, in some of the demands (exactly what I think they are) are not with service. It’s with management. Sir, you are an incredible poker writer. Keep your day job.

  4. Shock jock-ism at its best. No one listens to your rants? Throw in a few F-bombs. Or a few dozen.
    Sounds like someone needs to drop a few ‘ludes and maybe buy his own restaurant.
    Make sure there is only one table, otherwise you will be a hypocrite.

  5. You sound like a d-bag. Sound like you should stay home and make your own damn food and not subject the rest of mankind to your d-baggery

  6. Comment

  7. you sir, are a douche. try working once in a restaurant and then come back and make the same statements again.

  8. You should just stay home. I’m definitely glad I don’t have to hang out with such a selfish egotist. I’m just happy to know waiters everywhere will be taking good care of you from now on.

  9. Tip should be based on the pretax bill.

    Tax isn’t equal in all states. In fact some states don’t even have sales tax added on to a food bill. Also, even in certain states tax varies by jurisdiction by several percentage points. Including tax unfairly rewards or penalizes based on jurisdiction and not performance.

  10. “Since I am very easy to please and have such a laid-back attitude about dining”

    LOL, way to scream “I’m a douche” to the world.

  11. Wow. Some of the people commenting need to relax. You may have touched a nerve with food service industry people who are taking your words a little too seriously. If they can get past the parts that are obviously tongue-in-cheek, they should be thankful that you are giving them insight into what sort of things would generate a better tip from someone like yourself who is paying attention.

    “Since I am very easy to please and have such a laid-back attitude about dining…” Just classic.

  12. Bravo! I laughed the whole way through. Most of your pet peeves as a customer are my pet peeves as a server. Unless you’re going to sit and occupy my space (or Bar) for the remainder of eternity (or until closing time, whichever comes first), engaging in conversation is like pulling teeth to some people. I just keep quiet until I’m spoken to if I don’t get anything beyond “Miller Light” when I say hello. I’ve worked mostly in nicer places. Even when I worked at Dave & Busters, I never say my name. Who cares? I only tell people my name when they ask. If they can’t read my name tag propped on my DD under my buttoned up shirt to the collar, you shouldn’t care either. I shouldn’t have to scream your name or my name screamed for across the dining room anyway. “The girl with the black shirt and high ponytail — that’s her. Tell her to bring her ass cuz she hasn’t come by in 10 min and I’m thirsty.” Unless you’re working at a family-style restaurant (say… Olive Garden), where corporate sends in secret shoppers, you can get away with mostly anything as a server bypassing “corporate commandements” — such as saying your name and leaving the dessert tray. For the most part, I’ll ask if you’d like another glass of wine/beer/cocktail, some coffee/tea service and/or dessert. If the answer is “no,” drop off the check, silently and keep refilling water until they either blow up full of water or put their hand up to signal “no” or hand you back the check book when they finally notice your presence. I’ve learned the sly trick of slipping away the check and slipping it back un-noticed for you to sign or retrieve your check. NEVER assume the customer doesn’t need change. Count down to the penny. Some people are odd about that. Unless they say “no change” when they pick it up or hand it back to you.

    My biggest peeve is when said host of party is telling a joke and going on with his guests and I’m standing there — and NO ONE has ordered a drink b/c the fool just keeps going on. Don’t keep others from drinking. Usually I just walk away and bring the victims held at hostage some water, at least, as they sit there grinning insincerely waiting for you to shut up so they can hydrate. Or eat. Starving? Shrug. Guess not. You came here to eat or hold stand-up. Cater your own dinner parties. Wait a few seconds, politely, and if no one turns their attention to you, leave. Come back a few seconds later. Go refill someone else’s drink. NEVER interrupt if a guest from another table is talking to your table.

    I watch my fellow servers and cringe A LOT. Most of them haven’t worked anywhere nicer than Red Lobster. Funny, though, D&B taught me an unlimited amount of steps-of-service compared to anywhere I worked. Made my life 100% easier. Most of my manager’s pet peeves are mine, even though she sticks me in the worst sections (I’m new) and she doesn’t know what I’m capable of (yet).

    And I’m NOT letting you fill up on bread unless you ask for it. You ordered a 16oz Cowboy Ribeye medium rare with a bottle of Graffigna malbec, a sweet potato with cinnamon and butter, and a side of green beans — grilled and salted. I’m not policing your stomach, but I’m not trying to have you throw up all over my floor or get two bites in and not ask for a box. I’m working for your lousy $5, imma need you to not be a fat-cat and disrespect food like that. Jerk. 9 times out of 10 in this gluten-free-no-carbs revolutionary day, no one eats the shit anyway. And your food, honestly, shouldn’t take that long. Unless I just took your order and found out that someone in the private dining area with a 15 top just took their order and put it in a second before mine. Then, figure it out from there. Free dessert for you! Woo!

    Fine dining service requires filling everyone’s glass of wine and NEVER letting the guest touch the bottle, if you want to get a decent tip, unless waved away by the table. And it’s absolutely apalling somene tried to share your Pellegrino with the rest of the table. Or offer ice. I’ve stared in wonder at servers who do that. Worked in a country club where one fellow server filled the white wine glass with red wine to the top, one angry member poured her coffee into her side bowl b/c the previous server refilled her coffee instead of bringing her a new cup. People are finicky. While serving wine, I’ve had the cork split on me and I am 9/10 times always rushed away for a new bottle. How uncivilized!

    Anyway, yes. Brilliant! I’ll make sure to keep these in mind. People ARE too sensitive. Burger King has instilled “have it YOUR way” and Chefs bend over backwards to keep a guest coming back every Monday night.

    PS: I WILL make you uncomfortable by thanking you using your last name on your American Express black card. I wanna make sure it’s actually yours and that $300+ tab doesn’t come back disputed. Not classy.

  13. Without any comment on the myriad strengths and weaknesses of your writing, this article would provide a veritable field day for a post doc in psychology; it’s be nice for them to practice a little “applied psychoanalysis”. I don’t know what the end result would be, but, I believe there’s no doubt whatsoever that you have some rather deep seated, uh… um…….. “issues”.

    And, as a small coda, I note you never answered ny question in a previous column about what, if any, relationship you have with Russ Peterson. That’s interesting in itself, to me.

    • Nolan Replies: Who is Russ Peterson?


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