Do You Tip at Golden Corral? Complete Guide


Founded in 1973, Golden Corral is one of the most popular buffets and all-you-can-eat restaurants in the USA with nearly 500 restaurants countrywide.

If you’ve just finished your meal at Golden Corral or have a meal planned there, you might be wondering whether you need to tip.

Tipping can be an essential part of managing a budget. If you go overboard and are too generous your wallet is likely to feel the pinch. If you fail to tip when you should, you might end up red-faced.

As a buffet-type restaurant, you might be wondering whether the same tipping etiquettes apply as with normal restaurants.

To help you out with that, we’ve done some digging and have looked at what the customary practice is at Golden Corral, what servers’ salaries are there, how much food will cost you, and a bunch of other useful factors.

Keep reading to see what we discovered…

Do You Tip at Golden Corral? The Short Answer

It is customary to tip at Golden Corral. The usual tip in restaurants is 15-20% of the bill but this can be reduced to, say, 10% of the bill at all-you-can-eat restaurants because the service is less demanding for the server than in a normal restaurant.

What Do Golden Corral Servers Earn?

You might be wondering what servers at Golden Corral earn before deciding whether to part with your hard-earned cash in tips.

The general rule is that you tip in most restaurants across the USA, even some fast food joints like Sonic.

It’s common knowledge that workers in restaurants/cafes, especially at the front of house, rely on tips to subsidize their income as we discovered when we looked at whether to tip at Starbucks and Chipotle.

But what about at Golden Corral?

First, let’s take a look at Golden Corral servers’ hourly rate.

According to Indeed, servers at Golden Corral earn $14.58 per hour which is pretty much close to the minimum wage in most states:

Because of the low wages received by Golden Corral servers, they are expected to make up their income with tips as in most restaurants.

Given the all-you-can-eat, self-service type setup at Golden Corral, you might be wondering what their servers actually have to do.

While they don’t serve food like at a normal restaurant, they will bring drinks, clear away plates and provide assistance – so they are still very much involved in catering for you.

How Much to Tip at Golden Corral?

The standard restaurant tipping rate in the US is 15% – 20% of the total cost of the bill and this is what we’d propose when tipping at diners like Denny’s or other restaurants.

This can be reduced slightly in buffet-style restaurants because of the reduced level of service and we’d suggest 10% is more appropriate. We say the same when you’re ordering at a counter like at Nando’s.

At Golden Corral you normally pay before you eat, so you’ll need to decide whether to provide a tip then or alternatively you can leave the cash on the table at the end as usual.

If you’d rather not pay a percentage tip then you can leave a few dollars per server on the table as a fixed amount.

What Do Golden Corral Employees Say about Tipping?

To get the inside scoop we spoke to a server who used to work at Golden Corral in 2016.

Caroline said:

I worked at Golden Corral for a year in 2019. I received roughly $30 – $50 per shift in tips (sometimes more sometimes less) which is less than non-buffet style restaurants I have worked at previous to that.

Caroline, former Golden Corral employee

Indeed, this is quite a bit less than you would expect at other restaurants with Atlantic saying that $15 per hour is typical to earn in tips in most restaurants.

How Much Does Food Cost at Golden Corral?

Another key consideration when deciding whether to tip is how much the goods or services are going to cost you.

This is important if you’re applying the 10-20% rate to your tip.

We’ve checked the prices and expect to pay around $10 for the lunch menu per person and $12 for the dinner menu with an extra couple of dollars for refill drinks.

If you apply 10% to that then you’re going to be looking at around $1-2 per head for your tip.

When and When Not to Tip at Golden Corral?

There will be times when dining at Golden Corral when you might want to go that bit further and tip a bit more than usual.

For example:

  • If you’ve received exceptional service;
  • If the server has gone beyond the call of duty. For example, making good food recommendations or helping with seating etc…
  • If the server was polite and professional;
  • Around the holidays;
  • If there are many of you eating.

You might decide to not tip if:

  • The service is slow or inefficient;
  • The server was rude or discourteous;
  • You’re not happy with the food or drink.

Final Thoughts

The catering and restaurant business is one where tipping is second nature and there’s no reason to depart from that when it comes to Golden Corral.

Although the service at Golden Corral is less involved than in normal restaurants, servers are still rushed off their feet to make your experience as good as it can be and they rely on tips to bolster their measly hourly rate.

We suggest tipping 10% of the bill at Golden Corral which isn’t going to break the bank given the all-you-can-eat menu is only around $10-12.

You might decide to be a bit more generous than this if there are only a couple of people eating as leaving a $2 tip is a bit stingy in our view.

About the author

Oliver graduated from law school in 2008 and has practiced exclusively in the field of civil litigation for the last 10 years. He has a wealth of experience and expertise in litigation involving large financial losses and a special interest in consumer law. He has achieved numerous 7 figure settlements and has been involved in multi-billion dollar class-action consumer lawsuits against companies such as the Volkswagen Group. Away from the law, he is a consumer information and personal finance writer, having been featured in key publications such as Yahoo Finance, GO Banking Rates, NewsBreak, MEL Magazine, and many more.

-Chief Editor and Founder

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