The first rule to tipping in London and the UK overall is simply this: if you did not receive satisfactory service, do not leave a tip.
Tips are not always expected in bars. British culture attaches a ‘homely’ feel to the standard pub. If you receive good service and have a great time, show your appreciation by offering the barman or barmaid a drink.
This also applies to those bars and pubs that serve ‘pub grub’.
London’s restaurants vary. Look first for a service charge on the bill. If there’s a service charge, a tip is generally not expected but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes employees don’t get a penny, so it’s best to ask.
If you enjoyed your meal and staff do not receive anything, leave at least 10%. This seems the general rule around London, but it can go to 25% for an exceptional meal. Again, if service is below average, don’t leave a tip.
There are a few (rare) restaurants that get a bit aggressive about tips. They may try to convince you that tipping is not optional. These tend to be in tourist areas. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground.
For a delivery service, it’s unusual to tip the establishment. You can tip the delivery person but this may not reach those who prepared the meal.
So, how do you leave a tip? The answer is discreetly. Leaving it under your bill when you leave is common practice. Credit card payments often have an in-built ‘gratuity’ facility, which offers another chance to be subtle.
Taxis and bellboys are other London employees that may warrant a tip. It is common to round up the taxi fare to the nearest pound or two and most bellboys will be pleased with one or several pound coins.
When tipping in hotels, try to remember staff “behind the scenes” who may also have contributed to a great stay. Leave something under the cushion with a note for the maid if your room is always in good condition.
The UK has a solid minimum wage and employees are therefore not generally relying on tips to get by. But I do hope you receive the type of service that encourages you to tip generously!