Hampton Inn Concord-Kannapolis
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Should Breakfast Attendants at Hotels Receive Tips and Gratuities From Guests?

Gratuities and tips have long been controversial with regards to travel and dining — to the point of contentiousness from all sides of the issue, as evidenced by the following articles which I wrote for The Gate over the years…

Should Breakfast Attendants at Hotels Receive Tips and Gratuities From Guests?

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Hinton
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…but what if you were a paying guest at a hotel property which offered a free continental breakfast buffet — think Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn or Holiday Inn Express as three examples — and you saw a tip jar displayed prominently in the breakfast area during the hours in the morning when breakfast is available? Would you leave a gratuity?

Thinking that this practice is “very tacky” after noticing tip jars during consecutive stays at two Hampton Inn hotel properties, FlyerTalk member Red Raider LV posted that “Seeing as I serve myself and take out all my trash, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to tip for.”

A policy of guests tipping employees at a hotel property is typically not officially mandated by the lodging company or brand — although Marriott International, Incorporated attempted to encourage customers tipping members of the housekeeping staff at hotel and resort properties by placing envelopes in 160,000 rooms at up to 1,000 hotel properties in the United States and Canada back in the autumn of 2014 — but management at some hotel properties does seem to condone it.

“I probably will never put money in a tip jar, but I travel with $25 gift cards to Walmart and Target, and I have no problem handing those gift cards over to my favorite breakfast ladies as my appreciation for making my day a little bit better” is this suggestion which is offered by FlyerTalk member bitterproffit. “That little gesture makes a huge difference in their week. I don’t feel guilty ignoring a tip jar, nor do I feel I am setting a dangerous precedent by giving one of my Aunties a gift card. Chances are she will spend it on either her kids or her grandkids.”

The attendants at breakfasts where guests serve themselves do set up the area, replenish the food and beverages, clean up the tables, and put everything away when breakfast time is over. Their wages are probably minimum wage — or if more, not much more — and a gratuity or gift card would likely brighten their day…

…but does that start a slippery slope towards an undesirable precedent — or should it be more commonplace?


Hampton Inn Chester
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I generally agree with FlyerTalk member pinniped, who commented that “I don’t like the tip jars. It’s tacky, and tipping is something that developed economies should be trying to eradicate, not encourage.” In fact — with some exceptions — I am against offering gratuities in general.

When a waitperson at a restaurant or a housekeeper at a hotel property is tipped, it is supposed to be in appreciation for good service when doing their jobs — and waiting on customers and cleaning and maintaining hotel rooms are respectively their primary jobs…

…which is why I typically leave a small gratuity when I partake in a breakfast buffet in a hotel property where I sit at a table at which a waiter or waitress brings out the cutlery, brings me items such as a glass of juice, and cleans the table — but I do not leave a tip at a breakfast buffet in a hotel property where I grab my own paper or styrofoam plate, prepare my own waffle, pour my own juice, fetch my own plastic cutlery, and clean up the area at which I sat when I am finished with eating breakfast. Am I wrong?

For the record, I have never seen a tip jar at any of the hotel properties of the aforementioned brands; but I will ask anyway: should attendants at breakfasts where guests serve themselves be included in the growing list of professions through which personnel should be tipped by customers — or, at least, have a tip jar prominently displayed to encourage gratuities?

All photographs ©2016 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Not at all.

    Tipping should be discouraged for someone making up the room or serving you breakfast.

    That is their job in the hotel.

    Where does it stop? Do you tip the guy cleaning the hotel pool? Or the person washing the windows? Or perhaps the check-in person? The person bringing you room service when the hotel adds a delivery charge?

    The price of the room covers all these so no tips should be required UNLESS that person did something special for you over and above their normal role.

    Taking $25 gift cards is plain daft and this person clearly has more money than sense.

  2. You guys in the US and Canada are entitled to do anything you want. I don’t have any problem at all with my American colleagues tip at everything – Starbucks employee, hotel maid, cashiers, etc.

    But please don’t spread this mentality outside your country – not here in Europe or in Asia. The majority of countries outside US has an annual minimum paid leave and minimum wage. I feel that the last 10 – 15 years, many Asian countries are inflicted with this American mentality where tipping is a must!

    Don’t get me wrong, back in late 90’s where I was still in college, I had a several side jobs in hotels and gastronomy. I never expected a tip because I got decent wage, would be thankful if someone did so – but it was NEVER a requirement from my side.

    I did my job and I serve my customers because I was decently paid for that by my employer, and hell no I wouldn’t serve them if my employer didn’t give me the paycheck.

  3. If you’re visiting a typical B&B with a well presented hot, freshly prepared full breakfast included (buffet or not), with friendly concierge styled service you should tip 15-20% of whatever the Inn charges non-guests for breakfast, per plate. Just ask. Most of the time those meals run $20-$25 per person for scale. Keep in mind that with most B&B’s and Inns, there’s normally just one person preparing food, bussing tables, staging the buffet tables, washing dishes AND acting as gracious host/ess, where at a restaraunt/hotel you have one hostess, server, dishwashers, chefs, line cooks, etc who all share the workload.

    Don’t assume gratuity is included, it’s still appropriate to offer a gratuity to especially helpful hotel personnel.

    1. Thank u. You are absolutely right..someone did have to cook your hot food and think about all the other guests that have to eat and that one person that’s usually cleaning tables replenishing food items ..refilling waffle mix and coffee. I could not see myself not giving anyone at least a dollar for their service in a hotel. I’ve experienced hotel staff very pleasant and those are the ones that stand out to me. A blessing is what it is. 🙂

    2. No, that is not true at the hotel where I work. It is a 3 star hotel and we offer a hot buffet breakfast. I come in at 6:00 in the morning and I am expected to prepare eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes, biscuits and gravy, assorted breads fruits, cereal, coffee and an assortment of juices by 6:30 by myself. Yes the guests throw away their plates, sometimes, but who do you think has to wash and clean the pots, pans and restock the kitchen and breakfast room? Me. 6 hours after I arrive making the same salary as housekeepers. Yes we should be tipped

  4. I agree with EV, this gratuity issue has gotten out of hand especially these days where we are seeing union workers total compensation packages rise above national average for similar positions. Witness housekeeping in Hawaii 100K + TOTAL compensation packages, unions don’t advertise their packages. If your job is to come in early and prepare say breakfast then that is your choice its part of the job period. Not withstanding that sure if someone provides exceptional service I would and do tip. But don’t place a tip jar in front of me at a hotel buffet bar that would spoil it

    1. Like fuck you you just dont want to tip,be fucking nice and tip I dont see what the problem is how is seeing a tip jar out messing up your day go fuck yourself. Your obviously not doing anything about union workers your just fat and pissed and behind a computer. If there not saying gove me a tip , how is a little jar on the fuxking side trashing your whole day I guess one little, small little thing makes you and every none tipping person out there a dick

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