A recent post on our Facebook group Crowdsauce stirred up a topic that is evergreen for debate among the international community: tipping practices in Prague restaurants.
The post described a Vršovice dining experience in which a diner’s change was returned in small coins after tipping 20 CZK on a 460 CZK tab.
Perceived hostility on the waiter’s part led the original poster to ask the online community if the neighborhood was a becoming a “little Brooklyn” where rapid gentrification has led to mandatory generous tipping and an entitled wait staff.
The ensuing flood of responses ranged from supportive to slanderous; the thread quickly became a battle of the nations (Americans are ruining it for everyone! Czechs are cheap!) revealing vastly different attitudes toward tipping etiquette in the Czech Republic.
Is tipping in Prague a matter of simply rounding up? Giving 10 percent? Is it still a symbolic gesture of politeness or have tips become expected by local waiters increasingly accustomed to serving foreigners?
The Experts Weigh In
Food blogger and local Instagram favorite Czech Please, author of our annual Prague burgers survey, has been dining out in the Czech capital for over a decade. An American, he says that his tipping habits have remained unchanged throughout the years.
“I almost always leave 10% or round up something close to that. It’d be interesting to explore whether Czechs have changed over the years as affluence spread and restaurants have become more sophisticated.”
Pavel Maurer is the founder of the Prague Food Festival and Maurer’s Selection Grand Restaurant, a dining guide compiled by independent reviewers. The public face of those sophisticated diners, Maurer says he tips according to all-around experience, not standard practice:
“There is a custom in this country to round the amount upwards, whether several crowns or to tens of crowns. But the usual 10%, which is a pan-European custom, is given by me to very few waiters…because it is not deserved. Food, atmosphere, interior and the level of service affect my mood and the desire to tip more.”
In general, Maurer sides with the original poster, saying: “Restaurants who have kind, quick and gastronomically skilled and educated staff are as rare as saffron. Why should we spoil them for offering unprofessional services?”
The Worst Paid Job In the Czech Republic
According to a 2018 report from Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, being a waiter is among the worst paid jobs in the Czech Republic with an average monthly salary of 15,000 CZK. The findings did indicate, however, that in this field actual earnings are often higher than employers officially claim.
Václav Stárek, head of the Association of Restaurants and Hotels told us: “There is no general policy for handling tips in restaurants. It is fully on the decision of each operation. However, as with any other income, there is a tax obligation based on the fact whether the tip is shared directly among the staff or part of the restaurant revenue income. In any case, VAT should also be applied on the tips.”
We informally polled Prague waitstaff, including one young male waiter from Karlín wine and small plates venue Veltlin who said that he does not rely on tips to make ends meet and is generally satisfied with whatever customers leave.
A bartender from Cash Only bar, an Old Town bistro serving craft cocktails and hot dogs said that he expects 10 CZK per drink.
The restaurant mentioned in the original post, pastrami joint La Bibiche Verte, recently closed its doors.
Tipping Habits Differ Between Cultures
If this heated Facebook exchange proved anything it’s that tipping is largely influenced by nationality. One waitress from a Malá Strana cafe with a largely tourist clientele told us that Russians and Americans tend to be the best tippers. The worst? Czechs, she says.
“Give them a 35-CZK coffee for and they’ll give you 40 CZK and ask for the change.”
While a number of users from various background weighed in on their tipping policies, Daniel Toniolo a native of Turin, Italy and the Prague-based owner of a company specializing in gourmet travel tours had some sensible tipping advice.
“As usual the best practice is to ask the locals. No one tips in Italy since there is already a couvert in restaurants, but small tips and rounding up to around 10% [is expected] in Czech restaurants and bars.”