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What's the "Correct" Tipping Etiquette in Sydney?

Home > Sydney > Restaurants | Misc | Fun Things To Do | Food and Wine | Cafes | Bars | Questions
Writer's Answer:
by Maz Serena Rockers (subscribe)
Nerd, Writer and Author of Test Your Site for Free eBook. Learn more at
Published September 4th 2011
"Tipping" means giving money on top of the asking price of whatever good or service you're purchasing, popular in services industry.

Whether you're a Sydney resident or a tourist, tipping etiquette is an interesting topic to visit because norms differ so much between cities and countries. Whilst as some of us know,
in America if you don't tip at a bar, you're often considered "cheap". In Sydney however, bars might have a tip jar, but drinks can be as expensive as $16 each depending on where you go.
In such a case, do you tip and is it expected of you? Does it depend on the type of establishment you're at, perhaps the suburb or even who you're with?

So folks, I've opened this can of worms in order to get everyone's perspective on tipping in different contexts. Personally, as a Sydneysider, I tip at restaurants (about 10% if the service and food was great, despite the cost price likely including a tip most of the time). I don't tip at restaurants if service was shocking. For me, tips depend more on service. Arguably, food is part of the "service" umbrella at a restaurant. Many people I know don't tip because they feel the price already contains this provision.

So please feel free to post your opinion on this issue. Would you rather tip at a cafe, bar, restaurant, taxi ride, that awesome guy who brought your room service to the 50th floor and even included a free drink because he came 30 seconds later than he was meant to, or nowhere? If you don't tip in Sydney, would you tip in America or is your rule applicable everywhere despite social customs?

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I'm American, and while it's standard in the States to tip, that's because the wait staff are paid minimum wage with the expectation that their tips will bring their hourly wage up to acceptable or even well paid level depending on the venue. Since bartenders and wait staff are paid well in Sydney, I will tip 10-15% for exceptional service and tip taxi's, cafe's, etc to only round up to the nearest dollar or $5. There's also a clear distinction between the level of service you get between Aus and the US. Most wait staff in Aus put in minimum to low efforts since there is little incentive to go the extra mile.
By boyle0 - reader
Thursday, 8th of September @ 04:44 am
I dont belive we should tip in Australia
By kirst34 - reader
Friday, 9th of September @ 05:14 am
I teach English to adult foreign students in Sydney. A lot of them work in restaurants as waiters. Quite often they tell me that the customers give them tips but the manager or owner keeps the tips. I tell my students that this is illegal (the tips money belongs to the waiting staff).
Now, when I go to a restaurant with my wife, I always ask the waiter if he/she gets the tips that customers leave. If the manager/owner gets to keep the tip, we don't leave one.
By chunk1 - reader
Sunday, 11th of September @ 12:45 am
I never tip, I have been in the tyre industry for many years, have employed the best tyre service people in Australia: guess what?
Never a tip. Clive Handley
By davey - reader
Thursday, 8th of September @ 02:40 am
i don't get tipped at work for creating a good online marketing campaign. If waitresses and waiters don't get paid enough they should negotiate it with their boss. The sooner we all stop tipping the better because it causes confusion and insult for all concerned.
By timga - reader
Sunday, 11th of September @ 07:29 am
When I moved to Australia from America, I was told not to tip as the price of your food/ drinks reflects the salary of the waitstaff. In America, the waitstaff are reliant on the tips as they only make $2 to $4 an hour, so tipping is not an decision, its required. So, are the waitstaff in Australia making a decent wage and not reliant on tips on top of the price of the bill?
By djwdj - reader
Thursday, 8th of September @ 07:12 am
In Australia, waitstaff, bartenders etc. do make wages that are decent (this is usually the min. Hospitality Award wage) so tipping isn't expected (nor are the workers reliant on tips). However, feel free to tip when you get great service. For taxis, bars, rounding up to the nearest dollar or two is usual. But for big bills in cafes, restaurants and cocktail bars, somewhere around 5-10% depending on service is usual.

Of COURSE you should tip overseas where it is customary - especially in places like America where it is required for your server to make a living.

For the $16-drinks-in-Sydney issue, you should consider how much effort the bartender went to making your drink. Are you in a fancy venue and that's the cost of the house wine? Or did the bartender put some flair and effort into creating a delicious cocktail? (If you can afford to pay $16 for a drink, you can probably afford a 50c tip)
By fairi - reader
Friday, 9th of September @ 01:09 am
I tip where ever I go. It's a bit rude not to, unless they mess stuff up.
By Anonymous
Sunday, 4th of September @ 05:49 pm
If the service has been really really good and the food was tasty and good value for money then I would probably leave a bit of a tip, especially if it was a big group of people. It's just a way to show you appreciate the good service and good food, but definately not obligatory. If it's crap, don't tip!
By Bec Ninness - senior reviewer
Tuesday, 13th of September @ 04:09 am
like you, i tip in sydney based on great service and a great experience.. (having spent 6 years in the hospitality industry, this is very important to me as a consumer) if the service is not up to standard, or the staff are rude and/or obnoxious, i never tip. having been to the US, the standards and definition of 'great customer service' varies greatly, even though tips are expected. One experience at a pancake house for breakfast was one i'll never forget.. the most miserable, obnoxious, arrogant staff i've had the dubious pleasure of encountering. everything, even taking our order was a hassle and imposition, the rudeness incredible. we decided not to tip and the waiter actually chased us out of the restaurant, demanding in no uncertain terms he be given his tip - as he deserved it!! Unbelievable. Needless to say he received a verbal serving and NO TIP!!
By deeez - reader
Friday, 9th of September @ 08:45 am
i've been living in sydney for more than 10 years and i can count how many times i've tipped with my fingers. all of the times are when we went to the restaurant as a group and made a group payment.
By amy7 - reader
Friday, 9th of September @ 11:45 am
I think tipping is an old fashioned condescending custom that dates back to British colonial days where the "Sahib" would tip the servant. I think that we have come far from those days and that people should all be paid a decent wage to a decent job and tipping should become a thing of the past. We don't tip doctors, dentists and nurses who also provide a service so why other service people? I do round my bills up when I pay but I do it as a convenience. Instead of tipping, I treat the service person with respect and as an equal and they seem to appreciate that too.
By debi. - reader
Saturday, 10th of September @ 05:26 am
I would rather tip the person who gave me great service than add it to a tip jar. I would hate a tip to be expected as some places charge too much for what they present to you on the plate, make you wait too long for your dinner or have surly staff.
By aka_i - reader
Monday, 12th of September @ 09:28 am
Thanks for your answers so far guys, they've been great. I love the different perspectives on this topic. In response to some of the answers:

Boyle0 - I couldn't agree more, I tend to tip if someone is very nice. I don't know what service in America is like, as I haven't been there since I was little, but I imagine if you're working for tips you'd want to be extra nice.

Djwdj - I agree somewhat, except when it's exceptional service. It's also customary to tip in some places, even if it's not exactly a necessity. I think a lot of American culture spills over into Australia and that's one of the things which has partially spilled, but not entirely because of the wage policies here.

Fairi - I agree with the overseas tipping customs etc. I do wonder with the $16 drinks though, a lot of them don't seem to be special. For me personally, I think that wealthy people don't stay that way by throwing money everywhere. In fact most wealthy people I know are actually quite the opposite and while $16 might be steep for a drink, if they're willing to pay for it - it depends on the circumstances for the tipping.

Thank you for the comments guys :)
By Maz Serena Rockers - senior reviewer
Friday, 9th of September @ 01:24 am
I will tip if the food, service etc is clearly better than I would normally expect.

I tip in America because their wage system depends on it, and in some cases, "employees" are not paid at all but live on their tips. In Australia, we have wages standards and do not need to follow blindly this extra Americanisation of our culture.

To tip at a bar to ensure better service (not in return for better service already received) is a demeaning form of bribery. When I worked casually as a bartender, I was offended by this seeking of better service at the expense of those who simply and cheerfully paid for their drinks.
By strid - reader
Friday, 9th of September @ 07:38 am
My test is: was the service and food good and do I want to come back here? If the answers are all yes, I tip. 15-20% for awesome service at a place that I love; 10% at others. If the service was woeful then I think it speaks volumes NOT to tip. We all understand that sometimes things go wrong (like a chef calls in sick, someone forgets something) but I think it is the lack of communication that most people hate. I view a tip as a statement. Tip and you did well. No tip: ahem.... might need to review what happened on the night. Or quit.
By lisa6 - reader
Monday, 12th of September @ 07:41 am
Bartender/Barmanager 9 years
Always tip as a general rule. Why? Because i know hospitality and i know that all this talk about a "fair wage" is utter nonsense. I have worked in bars where you get paid 15$ an hour cash in hand but the tips were fantastic. I didn't have to make fancy cocktails or anything. Then i went and worked for 22$ an hour legit and the tight asses didn't tip anything. Its very subjective from place to place. If you are in doubt and your round of drinks cost 14.50 are you really concerned about 50cents? I feel really sorry for you.

Restaurants is a general 15% rule just because these people have to put up with garbage from idiots who don't know nothing about food or drink.

I think it comes down to aesthetics also...a shitty pub in the boondocks: no tip needed.

Swanky cocktail bar in Darlinghurst: tip or die!

Never once will i tip because i think i have money so i can throw it away...i make 53K a year....hardly a decent salary but still i'd rather show my appreciation than be a tight ass. Who know you may even get the cute bartedners phone number :)
By Anonymous
Saturday, 3rd of March @ 04:32 pm
I generally tip if I'm with a big group at a restaurant, I believe the waiter has worked hard to provide the service, more so then if I go out for dinner with just one friend. Also we all throw in a dollar or more and usually ends up a decent tip. I never tip at bars, the drinks are expensive enough. I get VERY annoyed in cabs, when they tip themselves, as in the fare was $18 and they give you change like you paid them $20.
By jayboy - reader
Monday, 16th of July @ 11:10 pm
When it comes to drinks and if I am somewhere in Sydney they will be expensive, so I tip $10.00 at the beginning or the night and nothing else: I get a VIP treatment and depending on the amount of "shouts" it could be as cheap as $1.00 - $2.00 a "shout"
With regards to a restaurant this is a different story alltogether: if the food and the service was good I would probably leave about 20 bucks (regardless of the $ of the bill), however if the food was so-so only and the service was good I would leave them $5.00 and tell them why. Another trick it to tell them upfront that you are a "very good tipper" and for them to look after you.
By enriquito2005 - reader
Friday, 9th of September @ 07:14 am
For a public service - zero. For a political favour oop's sorry party donation - thousands!

By gs.pi - reader
Friday, 9th of September @ 12:32 pm
@Timga - What confusion does it cause? I'm curious, perhaps I misunderstand something.
By Maz Serena Rockers - senior reviewer
Monday, 12th of September @ 01:06 am
Tipping in Australia, sometimes you feel it would be demeaning to the person you want to tip, specially if you are at the hairdressers, and then if you tip once do you have to tip always?
I have left many tips in restaurants where the service and food have been great
By medi_ - reader
Tuesday, 31st of July @ 07:10 am
in Australia for the most part we don't and should not tip unless it is well beyond normal service. If we start tipping this will hurt the very worker that you try to help making wage and eba agreement harder to improve. As it stand Australian wages are fairly good and any tips that are made are not taxed, if it becomes the norm a tax will be put on presumed wages and the increases in minimal and other wages. Dont tip its not how we do it here, other then beyond normal service and strippers which do pay tax on presumed earnings.
By Anonymous
Tuesday, 28th of August @ 07:15 am

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