Do you Tip in Paris? A Guide to Restaurant Tipping Etiquette
Tipping in Europe: a never-ending labyrinth of concern, confusion, and contradictions.
When traveling, it’s always a good idea to inform yourself on the customs surrounding tipping in the respective destination. This includes customs of tipping after services like taxi rides, housekeeping, free guided walking tours and even sometimes tattoos.
Each country in Europe views the act very differently, so don’t assume you can apply the same practice throughout your Eurotour. Here’s everything you need to know about tipping etiquette while in Paris.
Tipping in Paris
Essentially, tipping in Paris is a welcome event, but by no means a financial obligation. There is extreme neutrality when it comes to those in the service industry; those that choose not to leave a tip are not looked down upon or compared to those that do.
This applies to hospitality situations across the country. Not tipping won’t harm anyone’s day, the same way promising to tip won’t get you better service. In the western world, there is the common practice of waving large bills of money over a crowded bar which is intended to show the server you’ll reward he or she handsomely should they choose to give you serving preference.
It’s not like this in France. You’ll be served with the same attitude no matter the situation. Workers in hospitality get paid a salary, and don’t actually rely on the tips to survive the way service workers in America and Africa do.
Something that the French, however, do that Africa and America do not, is add a 15% service fee to most bills for sit down dining. This is part of French law, and it has to be followed by all establishments operating within regulation.
So this begs the question: if you are going to tip, how much is too much? And when is the most appropriate situation to do so?
Grabbing Coffee or Food to go
Of course, since tipping in Paris is not obligatory, it will be left to your discretion to decided when and where to do this deed.
For the most part, tipping when ordering small items over the counter, or grabbing food to go, is not necessary. This kind of service in restaurants is seen no differently to paying for items at a grocery store; and have you ever tipped your grocery cashier for ringing you up?
Grabbing a cup of coffee, or baguette from a bakery, one can safely pay just the stipulated fee and be done with it. It is really only when we move on to more formal dining situations that the opportunity to tip presents itself.
With this in mind, ordering a drink at a bar is not the same as ordering a coffee to go. There is an unspoken expectation in Parisian bars that customers tip at least a euro on each drink that they order, provided the service you received was worth it.
This can vary depending on the establishment in question. If you’re ordering a €2 beer that took three seconds for the barman to pickup, open and place in front of you, then an extra euro seems unnecessary.
If, however, you’ve come for drinks at a cocktail lounge and a skilled mixologist has made you something very special based off of your preferences, it would be a nice gesture to give them a little something for the effort.
Tipping etiquette in Parisian bars is vastly different to the etiquette of restaurants.
Cafes or Casual Dining
For some, tipping is a way of giving thanks or showing great appreciation for the service that was provided for the duration of a meal. Even people who customarily never tip might, on occasion, feel compelled to do so purely because of an encounter with an incredible waitress combined with outstanding food and ambiance.
If this is how you show appreciation, go right ahead,. Your contribution will be well received by any waiter in Paris even though it was not at all expected.
When it comes to restaurants in which the bill is always going to be considered “affordable”, tipping is usually just some spare change or the total bill rounded up to the nearest 5 or 0.
For example, if you and a friend have brunch in a Parisian cafe and your bill comes out to €18.60, one might put a €20 on the table and leave before the waiter has to think about organizing the €1.40 change.
If you’re having lunch with a big family in a bistro and your bill comes €41, you could leave €45 and make someone’s day.
That being said, should you receive even forty cents back from a paid bill, is is not insulting to leave this change as a tip as well. Because there is no obligation around tipping in Paris, there is no amount that is “too small”.
When it comes to fine dining restaurants in Paris, the same rule applies. Tipping is absolutely not obligatory, especially since you’re paying so much as it is for the food and experience.
That being said, in Europe there is a certain assumption that people who can afford fine dining can afford to tip regardless. So when the bill for €400 comes, it’s not uncommon for diners to leave an extra €20 note on the table as an ode to the server.
I would say you should leave this decision entirely to the experience that was had throughout the evening. If you were genuinely made to feel like every cent you spent on the evening was worth it, then leaving the extra €20 won’t feel like anything at all.
If you feel you were somewhat neglected in certain periods, and you feel zero completion to pay more than absolutely necessary, then simply pay the bill provided.