0-20%: Let’s be clear about this. Tipping this amount is unacceptable. No ifs, no buts.
20-25%: Service was good. Water was refilled without asking, food came promptly, waitstaff was attentive but not pushy, evening passed without a hitch. This should be your standard amount, especially in these uncertain times for the service industry.
25-28%: Good to great service, in spite of possible difficulties. To take a hypothetical example, your 5-year-old child might have climbed onto the restaurant’s restored-wood table, declaring himself “The Table King,” a designation you are forced to accept as your young child is so strong and so powerful. Waitstaff handled the above with grace and patience.
28.5%: Same as above, but waitstaff pleased the King by referring to him only as “my lord” or “my goodly liege.” You were referred to as “some guy” or “that guy sobbing.” Waitstaff did not ask questions, and you did not elaborate further.
28.8%: Hypothetically, you once again returned to this restaurant, as a repeat customer (you love the brick-pressed chicken). Waitstaff recognize you and appear to have grown accustomed to your needs. They have composed a chant for the Table King, and play it on lute and mandolin. It brings tears to your eyes, as you have been living in fear of the King and his temper.
30%: Excellent service. Waitstaff is pleasant and evening is an all-around delight.
30-35%: You had to bring the Table King back as you could not find a babysitter willing to engage with him anymore. The Table King initiated “The Schism.” You were forced to sit with your beautiful and patient wife at a neighboring two-top while the Table King lorded over the four-top you had booked more than three weeks ago. Waitstaff re-ordered the tables at short notice.
36%: As above, but you could not sense in the waitstaff’s eyes how demeaning this was for you.
37%-39%: This is the correct amount to tip if the Table King chose to declare it ‘The Festival of Joys.” He ordered off-menu (a hot dog inside of an onion ring wrapped inside a tortilla) despite the fact that, hypothetically, this was a stylish bistro you had chosen because you and your incredibly beautiful and patient wife had gone there on your first date. Waitstaff and chefs were able to accommodate.
40%: Outstanding service. This varies person to person, but a common indicator is if a waitstaff treats a man sneaking away from his terrifying and powerful toddler to have just one moment of peace and a spring green salad with respect and courtesy.
40-48%: The Table King announced the coming of “The New Dawn.” Halfway through the entrees, the meal had to be completely restarted. You were not allowed to re-order your flavorful and moist brick-pressed chicken, as “with the new dawn comes new ideas.” The Table King ordered it instead, and you watched him with tears in your eyes as you looked down at your vile Cajun Salmon. Waitstaff were in good spirits throughout.
50%: Waitstaff were not distracted by the fact, that despite you trying to spend Valentine’s Day with your ever-beautiful and ever-patient wife, the Table King instituted the “Reign of Terror,” which consists of perpetual screaming at ear-splitting decibels, as well as a belief that he is the reincarnation, supported by the Egyptology classes you thought would look good on the pre-K application, of the god Osiris. Waitstaff comped you a heart-shaped cupcake, and squeezed your hand softly as if to say, “We feel your pain.”
50%-100%: Look at you, Mr. Bigshot!