Often when you eat at a Japanese Steakhouse (or, Teppanyaki Steakhouse), a chef comes to your table and makes the exprience special by slicing, grilling and serving steak, seafood and vegetables right in front of you at your table. If the chef does a good job, and you want to show your appreciation, what is the proper tipping etiquette in these situations?
We contacted two of the largest chains of Japanese Steakhouses and we received different answers.
At Benihana, which is the nation's leading chain of Japanese steakhouses, we were told that the waitstaff already shares their tips with the chefs, but that you can additionally tip the chef if he did an especially good job. Some customers first tip the chef and deduct the tip from the waitstaff's checks, but we do not recommend this policy. Because chefs usually receive a share of the waiters' tips, we recommend tipping the waitstaff first, then tipping the chef if you believe an additional tip is appropriate. If you give an additional tip directly to the chef, he will often keep that entire tip. At Benihana, sometimes the chef will have a tip jar in front of him.
According to the website for Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, another national chain, you should tip your waiter only, and these tips are properly distributed and shared among all the employees -- waiters, busboys, and yes, the teppanyaki chefs
In general, we believe it's a safe course to tip only the wait staff at any Japanese steakhouse, as the tips are generally shared and the chef will get his share from that amount. If you are at Benihana or if you see a tip jar in front of the chef, you can consider giving him an additional tip for especially good service.
One of our readers writes:
Comments: I work in a Japanese Steakhouse where the tipping policy is the same as Benihana. I have no problem with sharing the tips with the chef, after all, they are performers as well as chef's. However, what many people do not realize is that the chef's recieve a set amount, namely, $1.35 per head. For a server, this can be a sizable amount, and poses a challenge. Particularly when the customer is led to think that that "tip sharing" means that the chef will also share their tips with the waitstaff.
One other thing that is easily forgotten is that chef's also earn a living wage, while the server does not.
These are just a few things to keep in mind when visiting a Japanese steakhouse.
View a list of All Tipping Articles on iTipping