Restaurants 101: Paying the Bill and Tipping

Welcome to the fourth installment in our “Restaurant 101” series. I know this may seem like pretty straight-forward information, but there are a few differences and some tips and tricks which can make your dining experience in Geneva easier and better. I thought I’d share everything I’ve learned about dining out in Switzerland to help you out.

Our first three posts in this series are all about restaurant hours, reservations, and ordering food and drink. This post is all about asking and paying for the bill and tipping.

Getting the Bill

As I mentioned in my post about ordering food and drink, you may find the service slow at restaurants. This is because the waitstaff don’t want to intrude on your meal. Because of this, your waiter won’t automatically bring you the check at the end of the meal, they will let you stay as long as you like. To ask for the bill, flag your waiter down and say “l’addition s’il vous plait” which means “the check please.”

Sharing the Bill

Often, people pay in cash and if multiple people are splitting the bill, everyone just chips in some cash. What if you are paying in cash, but don’t have change? Simply tell your waiter “Nous voulons partager l’addition” which means “We would like to share the bill.” Your waiter will likely bring the change purse to the table so you can each pay separately. But, you will need to tell him the amount you will each pay. You can also say “Nous voulons partager l’addition moitié-moitié” which means “We would like to split the bill fifty-fifty.

Paying with a Credit Card

If you want to pay with a credit card, make sure you check the door for the Visa or Mastercard logo to see if the restaurant accepts them. You can also ask “Acceptez-vous les cartes credits?” which means “Do you accept credit cards?”

When asking for the check, you can tell your waiter you would like to pay with a credit card so they know to bring out the machine. Just say “Je voudrais payer avec une carte credit” which means “I would like to pay with a credit card.” And as I alluded to, your waiter will bring a credit card machine to the table. On some machines, a card without a chip will work just fine in the bottom part where you put it part-way in, but most of the time, it will need to be swiped down the side of the machine. Most waiters in Geneva know how to charge to a magnetic stripe only card, but sometimes you have to show them how to swipe the card.

Often, after swiping your card, the waiter will key in a few things and then hand you the credit card machine. This is when you might have to select what currency you want to pay in and enter your pin code. You may even have the option to add a tip now, but this depends on the machine.

Getting a Receipt

What if you need the receipt? At a sit-down restaurant, this isn’t a problem because they typically bring you the receipt when you ask for the bill. At a smaller place or a food stand, you can ask for the “ticket” or the “quittance” to get the receipt.


Unfortunately, tipping is a bit nebulous in Switzerland compared to the US. Service is included in the bill, but people often leave a bit extra. I’ve asked a lot of people who are either Swiss or have lived in Switzerland for a number of years and found tipping to be highly subjective.

Tipping is usually accomplished by rounding up your bill. So, if your total is CHF 12.61, you might leave between CHF 13 and CHF 15 and that would cover your bill and the tip. Most people I’ve asked say they don’t leave more than CHF 5 for a bill under about CHF 80 or CHF 90. If your bill is closer to CHF 100, most people I’ve asked say they leave CHF 5 to CHF 10. In general, tip up to 10% since the service is included.

This is still one area I have yet to get the hang of and I think I always err on the side of caution and tip too much because I’m used to leaving 20% in the US.

Want to know more? Read our previous posts about when restaurants are open, how to make reservations, and how to order food and drinks.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/