Inn at Little Washington pro tips
December 3, 2011 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Looking for tipping protocol and other pro tips from people who have been to the Inn at Little Washington.

(Anon because this experience is a surprise for my spouse.)

In a couple of weeks, we are going to the Inn on a "holiday package" that includes (language from them):

Room Rate plus tax, Afternoon tea, Dinner for two including tax and gratuity, our Hot Breakfast including tax and gratuity, a $100 gift certificate to our gift shop and a Christmas gift from the Inn. Beverage and tax/gratuity on beverage is not included. Valet and Housekeeping gratuity is not included, along with other orders from our bar or room service menu.

I asked a follow-up question about tipping and they said:

With the package your tax and gratuity is included for your dinner and hot breakfast at a rate of 20% for gratuity and a 7 ½% tax rate. The gratuity is divided between all of the wait staff. This does not include housekeeping, front desk/valet. If you wish to add additional gratuities it is permitted.

So I'm really looking for people who have been there and can let me know what the norm is for valet (unless we don't use that -- would that be lame of us?), the tea, the breakfast, housekeeping, and beverages. We are not big drinkers, but we may each drink one or two glasses of wine if we feel like it, or we may both want to have Cokes. Or water.

Anything you can tell me on recommended amounts, procedures (Do I tip in the restaurant? Do I add it to my bill at the end of our stay?? Do I need cash?), etc. would be great. This will be our first time there and, obviously, we don't want to do it wrong.

Any other suggestions for making the most of our short (1 night) experience would be welcome, too!

Am really looking for folks who have experience with this particular Inn, rather than general tipping tips. Thanks everyone.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've never been (and I'm pretty sure I'd be totally lost if I did go,) and it seems to me (given just how expensive this place is) that you ought to message some of the people on Yelp who've gone. I'd be surprised if more than half a dozen MeFites have been, at $500+ for dinner for two.
posted by SMPA at 8:37 PM on December 3, 2011

You would tip beverage - so 20% at the bar. You should tip on the beverage at dinner but there isn't a rule of thumb - partially because a $500 bottle of wine takes as much effort to serve as a $50 bottle of wine - but really it is up to you. If you get a fancy bottle of wine at dinner you don't tip 20% on that, but if you get a glass or two sure 20% , You tip housekeeping and the valet. You don't tip the front desk unless they do something unusual/special for you. Valet - few bucks a bag and car - you probably have to use the valet for the car BTW. Housekeeping? IDK 10 bucks or something like that?

You need cash to tip the valets and housekeeping. The rest can be put on the bill. You'll be given a check at the end of your dinner that will be just for your beverage tab. Just like in most other hotel restaurants you can put it on your room or you can pay right there.

But at the end of the day relax. Everyone had to have their "Ohmigod what do I do" who goes to places like the Inn at Little Washington. If you don't feel comfortable then its their fault - not yours, and you should say something.

I think SMPA forgets it is a pretty big tent around here.
posted by JPD at 9:07 PM on December 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have been. If I recall, we received a separate bill at the end of the meal for the drinks. The rest of the meal, we never saw a bill as it was part of the package like yours. My then wife and I drank a decent amount. Drinks were not cheap. Between the two of us, drinking beer and mixed drinks, we ran up a $60 or so bill. I left $80 because I was drunk, I wanted to make sure the waiter got his due and because the service was outstanding. The only other tips I recall leaving were for the maid in the room which I do wherever I go away which I left $10 a night although when I am at a Holiday Inn type I leave about half that. I do not recall if we parked the car ourselves, but if there was a valet parker, I would tip him or her $5 every time they got my car. I have no idea if what I tipped was appropriate, low or high, but it felt right to me.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:41 PM on December 3, 2011

Our weekend at the Inn was one of my favorite anniversaries ever. I tipped the valet $5 whenever I got the car back and nothing when I dropped it off. I think that is on the high side of normal, based on his reaction and what my friends tell me. I think $1 is the minimum tip, but I know a lot of people who insist that anything more than that is too much. Their cars have never been vandalized nor do they seem to get angry reactions.

We had a slightly different package, but with similar terms. We bought a fairly expensive bottle of wine that was something like $250 and received a check in the usual way at the end of the meal with just the wine on the tab and I added a tip in the space provided. I tipped 20% on it, but JohnnyGunn is right that most people just tip a "standard" amount on wine. However, we had great service and really good rapport with our server and I was feeling happy and tipsy and "you only live once" so I just did a standard 20% tip. For less expensive beverages like coke, I tend to just round up to the nearest even number that is over 20%.

I'm generally tipping valets $2 a bag rounded up to the nearest $5, but I went with $10 for two bags here. Housekeeping I usually try to do $2 a day at most places, but the room was vast and I forgot the first night, so I just did $10 on the bed when I checked out the second day. I might have done $5, but I didn't have one. I can't really imagine a situation where I'd tip the front desk guy unless he did something special for me. Its a very small place, so perhaps if you used him as a concierge and had him make some special arrangements for you, then tip accordingly, but in general I think there would be no reason to tip him.

They do a pretty good job of making you feel comfortable. Its understandable to feel anxious about "doing it right" but I'm quite confident you'll feel totally at ease once you are there. Overnight guests get better service than folks who just come to dinner, because you get to know the staff pretty quickly. Get there early, they'll give you a tour of the place and a complementary cocktail. If you ask, they will show you the kitchen, which is pretty stunning if you are into that sort of thing -- its pretty amazing. The whole experience is over-the-top, it costs more than anyone should rationally spend, but its likely to be something that you'll never forget. Its very old-school Continental food, not necessarily the most inventive menu you can find, but staying at the Inn is very romantic and it is so much better to ascend the stairs at the end of a long meal and chill in your room than to get in a car and drive an hour. I'm no longer easily intimidated by snooty service, but that was so much not an issue here. They take their cues from you, but I thought the service was nearly perfect and warm and friendly. If I had to pick the thing they do best it is service. You will have a wonderful time and I'm sure your spouse will be thrilled.

The Inn was really set up for valet service on a quaint little street, but I believe that you could park in the church parking lot across the street if you wanted to avoid the valet situation. However, you'll almost certainly not need your car until you check out, so I think doing the valet will fit into the whole crazy splurge of the experience and for $5 is probably worth it (and kind of a drop in the bucket when you think about the bottom line). There are a couple of little shops in the "town" you can walk around and check out before dinner around tea time. Don't eat any breakfast that day, because you are going to be buried by food between tea, dinner and breakfast the next morning. The only bad thing I can remember was that the water pressure wasn't very good. I've heard some the rooms are smallish, but we were in a suite that was fairly enormous.
posted by Lame_username at 4:51 AM on December 4, 2011

We stayed down the street at the Foster Harris House, but had a lovely dinner at the Inn a couple of years ago. We drove to dinner, and didn't tip when we parked the car--it was whisked away before we got the chance. We had a late dinner, and were pretty much the last folks in the restaurant--when we left, our car was waiting for us, keys in ignition, no valet in sight, so, again, no opportunity to tip.

In general, the whole intent of the place is to make you comfortable. I never felt any push to tip, or that it'd make any difference. The place is remarkably casual (the cheese cart MOOOOOs), so you will not ever feel awkward about anything, I bet.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:39 AM on December 4, 2011

I've also been although I didn't spend the night. I second what's been stated here - if a bellhop helps you with your bags, that guy gets tipped. If you leave an outsized mess, you should leave a $10 in the bill for housekeeping.

I went the night I proposed to my wife. It's one of the best meals I'll ever eat. They present you the menus at the end and it's something you'll want to keep. Enjoy!
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:55 AM on December 4, 2011

If either of you have any dietary particulars, tell them in advance. And if it's a birthday or special occasion, tell them that too. I took my wife, who's a vegetarian, there a few years ago for her birthday. Told them as such when I made the reservation...

When we arrived, they greeted her with a "happy birthday", and the little amuse-bouche that magically appears soon after you sit down was rendered in a vegetarian version for her without us even having to ask.

Best meal ever. Enjoy.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 7:57 AM on December 4, 2011

Wow, I didn't get a menu when I was there, but I got the little basket with the porcelain plaque thing.

Yes, the cheese cart moos -- it's a cow. Her name (no, really) was Fahira (don't really know how to spell it) when I was there.

And, yes, tell them it's a special occasion; they'll be happy to take photos of you at your table.
posted by jgirl at 10:02 AM on December 4, 2011

My wife and I only went for dinner. Funny story we don't spend much on car (our car was worth probably only twice the cost of our dinner was). We had a dent in the car that had been on our car for a year before our trip to the Inn and the valet asked if we would like it fixed and he popped it out for us. I gave him $20 normally I would have tipped $5.

We didn't get one, but I heard if you ask you can get a kitchen tour.

As for tipping the advice above sound good. Its such a nice place and the staff makes you feel welcome and not like you are spending way too much on dinner. Bring some cash a tip (some ones and fives) for the maid, the valet, and maybe for coat check. In a place with so much class it, feels good to be able to hand out a feel bills for what I'm sure you will find is excellent service.
posted by akabobo at 10:16 AM on December 4, 2011

We didn't get one, but I heard if you ask you can get a kitchen tour.

Yes. It is modeled after the Dairy Room at Windsor Castle.
posted by jgirl at 3:31 PM on December 4, 2011

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