Help a Member Out: How Much Should I Tip at a Buffet?

In this new Restaurant Club feature, we answer a question that you’ve sent us, then ask other Restaurant Club members to weigh in. This week, after a Mother’s Day brunch buffet, Restaurant Club member Alex told us that a family debate on tipping ensued. It is quite the conundrum: Should you tip a server on the entire bill even though he really didn’t serve you food? See our expert answer from Four Seasons general manager Harry Gorstayn — and let us know what you think — after the jump.

How much should you tip a server at a buffet?

We called up Harry Gorstayn, general manager at the Four Seasons Hotel, for his professional opinion. “My personal rule of thumb for tipping at a buffet is to follow the same guidelines as you would for regular restaurant service,” Harry says. “Tip your server in accordance with how attentive the service was — on the same percentage scale as if you were dining à la carte.”

However, when we polled our Philly Mag officemates on Harry’s advice, the majority of them agreed that a standard tip when eating at a buffet is 10 percent (pre-tax, of course). Our thinking: If your server simply clears plates and takes drink orders — essentially only half the work — is the 15 to 18 percent tip really necessary? Let us know your take in the comments.