5 Exceptions to Tipping in Montreal

How to tip in Montreal?

Tipping culture in Montreal

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Montreal tips

The tipping culture

Tipping culture in Montreal is similar to elsewhere across Canada. It is technically optional, but is customary, expected and considered quite rude and inconsiderate to skip the tip (unless, of course, the service you receive is absolutely terrible). After all, many people in the service industry rely on tips as part of their salary. And whatever your position may be on that fact, it does still remain a fact. For now, at least.

How much should I tip in Montreal?

Standard tipping in a restaurant is 15-20%, for hairdressers, estheticians, etc, it’s typically 15-18%, and 10-15% for cabs. Then there’s the ‘exceptional service’ tip where you might go above and beyond, but that’s entirely up to your discretion.

Tipping culture in Montreal (and throughout Quebec) is similar to elsewhere across Canada.

Do you have to tip in Montreal?

Do you need to tip in Canada?

Technically, no. There’s no law that says you are required to tip (see #1 below for the exception to that rule). However, it is customary, expected and considered quite rude and inconsiderate to skip the tip (unless, of course, the service you receive is absolutely terrible). After all, many people in the service industry rely on tips as part of their salary. And whatever your position may be on that fact, it does still remain a fact. For now, at least.

How much do I tip in Quebec?

Standard tipping in a restaurant is 15-20%, for hairdressers, estheticians, etc, it’s typically 15-18%, in bars it’s more about the dollar amount than a percentage (see #3 below), and do you tip a taxi in Montreal? Yes! Typically 10-15% for cabs. Then there’s the ‘exceptional service’ tip where you might go above and beyond, but that’s entirely up to your discretion.

But of course, it’s not always as simple as that. There are exceptions. Here are 5 important exceptions to know about when tipping in Montreal.

1. When it isn’t optional

Many people will argue that we have almost an ethical obligation to tip since people do rely on tips for things like rent and food.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about when a restaurant or bar adds an automatic tip to your bill. Usually it’s between 15-18% and is most often applied to large groups (usually 8+) or sometimes at establishments primarily frequented by tourists, as some tourists come from countries that don’t have a tipping culture and they wouldn’t be aware of the custom.

A mandatory tip is… mandatory. It will (or at least, should) be noted on the menu or drinks list so that you’re aware of it beforehand. However, do make a point of always checking your bill before adding a tip, just in case one has already been added.

You obviously do not have to add another tip on top of that, but if you received truly exceptional service, or were part of a particularly rowdy group, you might consider adding a little something extra.

2. Crap weather tax

Don’t worry. This isn’t a real tax. Yet. But it’s something you might consider adopting as a general practice when tipping delivery people.

We experience some seriously crap weather in Montreal. Whether it’s a 20cm snowfall, a mini (or major) ice storm, or a 40-degree-with-the-humidex-heatwave, it gets bad. And what do many of us do when the weather’s bad? Order delivery!

But keep in mind that while that St Hubert family meal may mean you don’t have to fire up a hot stove, or trudge out to your local Intermarche, it does mean the person delivering your food has to be out there. Tack a few extra dollars onto whatever you would normally tip. They deserve it.

3. “Let it go” is the best mantra for bars

Most bartenders and drinks servers in Montreal hand you your change and whether you tip or not is up to you. If you’re just having one drink, leave $2-3. If you’re staying a while, $1-2 per drink is plenty… unless you order complicated cocktails every time. In that case, bump the tip up.

If you don’t tip, that’s your prerogative, but expect a nasty look. If it’s your fourth time ordering, the bartender recognizes you and you know you’ll be back for a fifth and sixth trip, you can skip the odd tip and get them next time. Or consider running a tab and tip only on your final bill.

That said, you may run into situations where your drink is $8, you hand over a ten and… that’s it. End of transaction. Your $10 is gone and the bartender has moved onto the next customer in the loud, crowded club. This is illegal and you have a right to demand your change. But talk to anyone who has attempted this and you’ll find it never turns out well for the customer.

Although the bartender or server is in the wrong here, it’s probably best to just let it go. If it really bothers you, ask to speak to a manager, or send management an email the following day.

4. The brunch exception

Ah, brunch. Love it or hate it, it’s a tradition firmly embedded in the food culture of Montreal. Depending on where you go and what you eat, the price for brunch in Montreal varies greatly and can get pretty low if you stick with a classic bacon and eggs combo.

Brunch is where you might want to abandon percentages and tip based on service. Think about it. You order 2 eggs, over easy, sausages and whole wheat toast. Your server takes your order, brings you water and coffee, your meal, often a second plate or basket for toast, refills your coffee two, three, seven times, refills the creamer basket, clears all your plates and at the end of the meal asks, “Would you like anything else?” But no, you’re good.

Your bill comes. It’s $9.75. Even at 20% that’s a tip of less than $2. For all that service! Tip at least $5. That’s still under $15 for someone to essentially help you through your hangover.

5. When your food is late… or terrible

If you get exceptionally bad or rude service, absolutely forgo a tip. But if the problem is slow service or even terrible food, take a moment before leaving off that tip.

Slow service and bad food are usually not a server’s fault. Maybe it is and they forgot to put your order in. Or maybe the kitchen is running behind, or is understaffed. Maybe half the wait staff called in sick. Maybe the restaurant overall is poorly staffed or organized. But a lot of that isn’t your server’s fault. And if the food is bad, well, that definitely isn’t your server’s fault.

Were they polite? Did they apologize for the wait? Did they do their best to correct any problems? Tips are part of a server’s wages. If they did their best, consider at least the minimum 15% tip. Any other issues you have can be discussed with management. Forgoing a tip only punishes your server, so make sure you’re directing your dissatisfaction at the right party.

At the end of the day, remember that we’re all just trying to pay our bills and live our lives. Very few servers are in it for the pure joy of refilling coffee cups. Be kind.