This Infographic Shows Why You Should Tip More

Your waiter may not be making minimum wage otherwise.

This Infographic Shows Why You Should Tip More
[Photo: Emma Frances Logan Barker via Unsplash] [Photo: Emma Frances Logan Barker via Unsplash]

You’re in a rush. The bill comes, and it’s time to decide how much to leave your server. Double the tax? Ten percent times two?


Whatever it is, your tip is likely to be a significant part of your server’s salary. According to an infographic by FiveThirtyEight that looks at how hard servers at different restaurants have to work to make minimum wage, servers in Washington, D.C. only make $2.88 per hour–the rest comes from tips. That’s called the tipping minimum wage, a much lower amount than normal minimum wage that restaurants and bars in many states are allowed to pay waitstaff because it is assumed that most of their income comes from tips. In the nation’s capital, a server at Denny’s would have to serve six customers per hour to make the $11.50 minimum, assuming each customer tipped 15%.

Explore the interactive graphic here. [Image: FiveThirtyEight]

Using the securities filings of the four publicly traded companies that own these restaurants, the infographic reveals how many customers waiters must serve to make minimum wage from the tipping minimum wage base at different restaurants: the higher end Eddie V’s (customer checks average $91), Joe’s Crab Shack ($25.42), Olive Garden ($17.50), and Denny’s ($9.69).

Each of these four restaurants is represented by a brightly colored line, with dotted lines delineating the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage so you can clearly see how long it would take each server to cross the minimum wage line. The diagram’s default settings are for Washington, D.C., but you can examine the same results in all 50 states (each of which have different laws around minimum wage and tipping). You can also toggle between two-, three-, and four-customer tables and between average tips of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25% to see how that impacts your server’s hourly wage.

While working at Eddie V’s, waiters only need to serve .3 two-person tables of per hour to reach the minimum wage threshold in D.C., while waiters at Denny’s need to serve three two-person tables–one of the most stark situations in the infographic. In California, where there is no tipped minimum wage, all workers’ wages start at $10.50. In New York, tipped minimum wage is $7.50, while minimum wage is $9.70, so the disparity there is much less dramatic than in D.C. or in states like North Carolina or New Mexico, where both the tipped minimum wage is $2.13 and minimum wage is $7.50. For states that do have tipped minimum wage, the infographic demonstrates how much longer it takes servers at lower-end restaurants to make minimum wage. A standalone graph also shows that if everyone at Denny’s is only tipping 5%, waiters will have to work upwards of 10 customers per hour to make minimum wage.

So as you rush to decide how much to give your waiters, remember this: leaving only 5% or 10% can mean they don’t make minimum wage for that hour. Don’t be that person.

About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture.