The tipping culture in the US is unique in the world and can be a very confusing set of cultural expectations to follow for a visitor or foreign resident. Below is a general guide on tipping with a link to a more detailed website depending on the situation.
Restaurants with table service
Restaurants with table service are one of the most frequent places where Americans tip a service provider (waiter/waitress). The general expectation is that you tip between 10-20% of your total bill. People normally decide between those amounts based on how they judge the quality of the service such as: was your meal served timely; was the food correct to what you ordered; did the waiter/waitress check on you about drink refills, etc. You are not expected to tip staff cleaning your table or the host/hostess who seats you at your table.
Don't forget that if you are in a large group of people at your table (5 or more), the tip will be automatically added to your bill and you are not expected to give an additional tip unless you want to be extra generous based on your experience. You can check this policy normally by reading the menu.
Restaurants without table service
Coffee Shops: You may see tip jars near a cash register when you order your coffee. If you are very pleased with how your coffee is made, such as if you make special requests, feel free to put a dollar in the tip jar. The social expectations for tipping at a coffee shops aren’t as high as those at restaurants with table service. If you are just purchasing merchandise, you do not need to tip anything.
Fast Casual or Fast Food: You are not expected to tip anyone at these types of restaurants, however you are normally expected to clean your table when you are finished with your meal. Staff at some of these places offer to clean your table or refill your drink, but this is not very common and tips are not expected.
Restaurants with carry out and/or home delivery service
Some restaurants provide carry out and/or home delivery service. The most common restaurant that provides this service are pizza restaurants such as Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's and Little Caesar's. However, you will find other full-service restaurants like Applebee's or many Chinese places offer these services, too. If you are ordering food for carry out (you are picking up the food at the restaurant), you are not expected to tip anything. If you are ordering food for delivery to your home, that is considered a "service" and it is customary to tip the driver 10-20% of your bill. Although home delivery is a great convenience, it is also more expensive and many restaurants add a delivery charge to your bill to cover those costs. Even with this added charge, it is still customary to tip the driver 10-20% of your total bill.
Bars and restaurants with a bar area also have special tipping expectations for the staff providing you alcoholic drinks (bartenders). Most people tip $1 or $2 for each drink.
Tipping culture also exists for other services such as when you are traveling (airports, taxis, hotels, shuttles) for pleasure or business, beauty salons, and moving companies. For a more detailed review of tipping for these services, visit www.itipping.com