Ask The Salty Waitress: Should I Tip The Hibachi Chef?

Hi Salty, My question is simply this: Should we tip the hibachi chef? If so, how much? Do the server and chef split tips (I've read they do, so I tip extra when dining around a hibachi)...would you clarify this gray area for me?

Thanks, Eileen

Dear Eileen,

Well, you did it. You stumped Salty.

I read your question, blinked twice, adjusted my pantyhose, and still didn't know the answer. Dammit. I've never worked in one of those Benihana places, so I don't have any first-hand experience with this. But I put in a few phone calls.

The two hibachi/teppanyaki restaurants I got a hold of said that the chefs are part of the pooled tips that are split between servers, chefs, and bartenders. One of the restaurants also said it's pretty common that people tip the chefs in cash directly in addition to the gratuity they leave on the check. (I guess they were extra impressed with the onion volcano display that day.)

If the servers and chefs are pooling tips, I think you could leave a standard 18- 20 percent, and here's why: At the hibachi restaurants I've been to, there aren't as many servers on the floor as there would be at a standard restaurant, because the chefs basically serve your food as well as cook it. Mostly the servers run drinks from the bar and handle the check. So when the servers and hibachi chefs and bartenders split up the tips, it should all even out to something pretty fair.

If you want to throw in a few extra bucks for the "dinner and a show" aspect of things, I'll never tell you not to. But judging by the menu prices at some of these hibachi chains, they've already factored that in.

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