Visitors to Paris will be pleased to learn that in France, the price you see on a restaurant menu is what you’ll ultimately pay. Sales tax is already included in the price, whether you’re ordering a steak-frites at a restaurant or a glass of wine at your favorite bar.
Even better? You won’t need to calculate a tip. Not a major one, anyway.
As opposed to the U.S., where most waiters make their living from tips, servers in Paris are paid a living wage. And since service is already included in the price, no one is expecting you to tack on an additional 20 to 25 percent at the end of the meal.
“You should never feel obliged to leave a tip in France,” explains Korus sommelier Vincent Glaymann. “In the States, the tip is an important part of the server’s wage. In France, it’s a bonus.”
But that isn’t to say that you should never tip!
It’s customary to leave a small something – known in French as a pourboire (literally – “to drink”). This is especially true when the team goes above and beyond.
“I see a tip as a sign of successful service,” says Le Saint-Sébastien server Camille Aldon. “I understand when people don’t leave tips if something went wrong, but it also means that the service is being called into question.”
As for how much to leave, the answer is, “It depends.” In a smaller spot like a café or bar with table service, a few coins will do. If service was good, round up to the closest euro (if your espresso was 1.40€, leave 2€). If it was surly, ten or twenty centimes is fine. Aldon notes that she feels “a bit dumb” when someone just leaves copper five-cent pieces, so take note: this may be perceived as a bit of an insult by your server.
At restaurants, meanwhile, local Parisians will rarely leave more than 10 percent in tip. My colleague Meg Zimbeck notes that tips are rarely calculated as a percentage of the bill. In practice, a 5 euro note is often left for two people at dinner, and a 10 euro note is often left for a group of four. “It’s often a function of what cash people have on them,” she says (more on that below). When reviewing fine dining restaurants where the bills are more substation, she’ll often leave a crisp 50 euro note.
So you’re not obliged to leave anything, and modest tips are perfectly acceptable. However, might consider rewarding servers who went out of their way to help you translate the menu or kitchens who handled special requests, especially since tips are usually pooled by the entire team.
Since Parisians almost never ask for accommodation or substitutions, a team that helps you to navigate a dietary issue or a French menu is going beyond the usual call of duty. Tip extra and pay it forward for the next traveller in need.
One final and important point: you won’t be able to add gratuity onto a credit card receipt – there’s no line to write in an extra amount. It might be possible to ask the server before they run your card to increase the overall amount of the bill to include a tip (for example, asking them to process a 45€ bill as 50€), but they’ll usually say no to this request. Your best bet is to carry coins and small bills at all times when you’re in Paris, or to ask your server to make change for you so that you can leave a gratuity.
Overall, the absence of sales tax and “required” tipping makes the cost of dining out in Paris much cheaper than you might initially have realized. Something to celebrate!