Money Saving Tips

Tips vs service charge: What is the difference?


Dylan Mitchell

Tipping in UK restaurants is still a bit of a grey area for many people. Do you tip for excellent service, is it expected of you and how much do you tip? What about service charges? Are they mandatory, or are they basically the same as tips? There are so many questions! Find out about tips and service charges in restaurants with this guide from tastecard.

What is tipping in UK restaurants?

Tipping in UK restaurants is discretionary and not mandatory, although it is customary to leave a tip as a gesture of appreciation for good service in restaurants. Customers can choose to leave a cash tip of around 10% of the total bill if they feel the server provided a good level of service.

Some establishments also allow customers to add a tip to their card payments. Tipping practices can vary, and there is no strict rule on how much to tip. It is important to consider the level of service received and your personal satisfaction. Tipping in cash is common, and if a service charge is already included, it is not necessary to leave an additional tip unless desired. Tipping practices may also differ across different parts of the UK and individual preferences.

In some establishments, tips may actually be shared around amongst the staff. So, whatever tip you leave at the end of your meal may be shared with the entire serving and kitchen staff rather than given directly to your server.

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What is a service charge in restaurants?

A service charge in restaurants is an additional fee or percentage added to the total bill and is typically for the service provided by the staff. This is a mandatory charge that is automatically added to the bill by the restaurant and can often be included for large parties. The service charge is intended to compensate the restaurant for the cost of employing and training the staff and is often distributed among the employees. If you’re looking for a cheaper overall bill, check out tastecard’s restaurant deals for amazing savings and discounts.

The service charge is typically a percentage of the total bill – commonly around 10% – but the specific amount can vary. The restaurant should clearly indicate on the menu or bill if a service charge is included so each paying customer is aware. If a service charge is added to the bill, it is not obligatory to leave an additional tip unless you want to show extra appreciation for the service you received.

It's important to note that the service charge may change from one restaurant to another, so it's always a good idea to check the menu or ask staff if you have any questions about the service charge policy.

What are the differences between service charges and tipping in UK restaurants?

There are a number of key differences between tips and service charges in restaurants, and they are:

  • Voluntary vs mandatory
  • Payment distribution
  • Amount and percentage
  • Transparency

Voluntary vs mandatory.

Tips are voluntary payments given at the customer's discretion to show appreciation for good service. They’re not obligatory and are solely dependent on the customer's choice. On the other hand, a service charge is a mandatory fee added to the bill by the restaurant and is not discretionary.

Payment distribution.

Tips are typically given directly to the service staff. The individual receiving the tip retains it as their personal income. In contrast, service charges are collected by the restaurant and are often distributed among the staff. The distribution may include kitchen staff or other employees.

Amount and percentage

Tips are generally flexible, and customers can decide the amount they wish to give based on their satisfaction with the service. The typical range for a tip is around 10-20% of the total bill. Service charges, however, are usually fixed percentages and commonly range from 10-12.5% of the total bill.


There is a level of difference in terms of transparency between tips and service charges. Tips are typically given in cash while service charges are included on the bill and, most likely, will be paid by card. This transparency helps customers understand that a service charge has already been added, and they can decide whether to leave an additional tip.

Images sourced from Adobe Stock.

Start saving with tastecard.

Now you know the difference between service charges and tips in London and UK restaurants, you’re prepared the next time you dine out. For even greater savings, consider downloading the tastecard app today and save even more cash with 2 for 1 meals, 50% off food, or 25% off food & drink, cinema ticket savings, and discounts on days out.

Images sourced from Adobe stock.