Bar talk: Tipping
By Lisa Variano
Remember when an icy cold mug of mainstream American lager cost you a buck
and a half and was all you needed to satisfy your thirst? The idea of
paying four or five dollars a pint for a beer was unthinkable. Yet here you
are today in one of the thousands of specialty beer bars and brewpubs in
the United States, eager to pay any price for a pint and you can't get
close enough to the bar to order one.
Craft beer is here to stay. The discriminating consumer is paying more for
his or her pleasure, but how do the barkeeps view this? Does the average
tip reflect increased prices? What's the right amount to pay for attentive
service? Many people recall leaving a single on the bar for that mug of
American mainstream, that translates to about thirty percent, a much higher
gratuity than they'd pay for a meal or service such as a cab ride. Apply
this rate to a pint of what you now drink and you'd be leaving tips of more
than a dollar thirty.
In Philadelphia, a survey of three of the most popular bars reveals some
interesting tipping averages. At Copa Too! where micros and Belgian imports
flow from fourteen taps, tips usually reflect fifteen or twenty percent of
the bar bill. Based on a four dollar pint, that's nearly twice as much as
Joe Morris of The Khyber Pass Pub pulls in for his services but
considerably less than the dollar per three dollar glass the big spenders
over at Dock Street customarily leave for bartender Andrew Baxter.
Joe's observation is that The Khyber Pass Pub is frequented by European
tourists who rarely leave more than fifty cents a beer. Local beer savvy
customers are a little better. At Dock Street, Andrew believes the secret
to higher tips is to be the consummate bartender, know the regular's names,
tell a few jokes, and provide fast and efficient service.
Tipping rates are about the same in Chicago where the average tip at Goose
Island Brewing Company ranges from a dollar a pint to one-fifty every other
round. At the Clark Street Ale House, which offers a wide selection from
it's two dozen taps, patrons often pay with a fiver and leave the change.
At some of New York City's most frequented watering holes like the Ginger
Man, bartender Tara Zanghi says tips for a five dollar pint are usually
about a dollar but can average much less if one customer is fetching a
round for a group. Sam Barbeiri, owner of Manhattan Waterfront Ale House
feels that a dollar a beer or round is average or fifteen percent of the
total when customers also order food. At DBA on First Avenue the amount of
the tip seems to vary greatly depending on the number of pints consumed.
Customers tend to leave a higher percentage of the total when they've
enjoyed three or four pints from the fine menu of craft brewed and
specialty beer menu.
From the other side of the bar, customers claim that they tip depending on
a variety of factors. In addition to fast, friendly and efficient service
many beer enthusiasts say that a knowledgeable bartender should be familiar
with various brands and style profiles, the correct serving temperature and
appropriate glass ware. Then there's the appearance factor and we're not
talking about beer here. Both men and women state they tend to leave
larger tips for attractive bartenders, particularly if the attentive server
engages in a little casual flirting.
Though willing to pay more for what's in our glasses these days many of us
are actually paying less for service, yet expecting our bartenders to be a
cross between Michael Jackson (not Lisa Marie's ex, the other one) and
Claudia Schiffer. The next time you order a pint of your favorite beer take
a moment to assess the overall quality of the service and tip accordingly.
A properly dispensed pint served to you at the right temperature and in the
right glass should merit at least as large a tip as that mug of cheap suds
we used to tip for generously.