Many servers in restaurants rely on tips to secure their financial well-being. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, establishments like restaurants are only legally required to pay wages of $2.13 per hour unless the person’s tips don’t cover the difference to get them to the regular minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. As a result, many servers need to know how to earn a bigger tip if they want to earn more than the mandated minimum. Even though some states do set higher minimum wage standards for servers, tips are often a vital part of a server’s income.
What You Can Do to Earn More Tips
While it may seem that how much a customer tips is out of a server’s control, there are things you can do that might increase the likelihood that the customer will be generous. Since dining out is mostly about the experience, any effort to make the occasion happier is worth exploring. This is especially true if they aren’t a major disruption for the server, allowing them to move quickly between their tables while still upping their odds of landing a larger tip.
With that in mind, here are five things servers can do to increase their odds of scoring a big tip while keeping the workplace flowing optimally.
1. Greet Each Table ASAP
Even if a server is struggling to keep up with all of their tables, taking a moment to greet any party that just sat down can make a big difference. When you pause to welcome the table and introduce yourself by name, you are letting those customers know that you see them and that they are important. A long delay in introducing yourself could make the table assume that you either don’t notice them or can’t be bothered to acknowledge them, both of which could prompt them to leave without dining or substantial harm your tip.
Plus, with a quick greeting, you are buying yourself some additional time to handle your other tables. It only takes a moment to say hello, welcome them to the establishment, share your name, and let them know you will be with them in a moment.
2. Repeat the Order Back
While this may seem like an unnecessary step, repeating an order back can lead to a higher tip. First, it gives you a chance to discover errors or find out if a customer may change their mind, allowing you to ensure they are getting what they want. Second, it is another effort that establishes that you care about having everything correct. It is reassuring to the party, and that is beneficial.
Additionally, if you doubt at any point that you have the order right or forget an aspect of it, don’t hesitate to ask. Asking doesn’t make you seem forgetful if it happens only once. Instead, it shows that you care about handling their needs properly.
3. Don’t Forget to Smile
A warm smile and a welcoming demeanor make the dining experience more pleasant for customers. Maintaining a positive attitude and keeping your spirits up is important if you want big tips, particularly if the establishment is busy and the customers may have to wait longer than average.
If a server comes off as grumpy or bored, it usually concerns customers. They may doubt you can handle their table successfully or you might be seen as rude. Then, even if you do your job well, that feeling can impact their tipping behavior.
4. Upsell When Possible
Most customers tip based on the dollar amount of the check. By increasing the total, your tip will usually grow too.
Whether this is being vigilant about drinks that don’t come with free refills, asking about appetizer orders before entrees, mentioning add-ons, or bringing up dessert options, attempting to reach a higher price point is a smart move.
The only exception tends to be when the establishment is incredibly busy, and the upsells would increase the time that the table is held. In those scenarios, faster turnover may be a better approach, giving you the ability to get more in tips overall.
5. Add a Note to the Ticket
When you prepare to bring the bill to the table, take a moment to add a little note. Quickly writing “thank you,” adding a smiley face, drawing a flower or sun, or otherwise giving the ticket a personal touch can lead to higher tips.
Additionally, if your restaurant offers mints after the meal with the bill, consider asking if the guests would like a few more. This small free gift can lead to larger tips, so it is worth asking unless it goes against the company’s policy.
Ultimately, all five of the things above can help servers earn more while on the job. Often, they take just a few moments to handle properly and can ensure that the guests have the best experience possible without interrupting the flow of your workday.
Are you a server who knows a secret that can help others earn more tips? Are you a customer who has given an amazing tip after a particular experience? Tell us about it in the comments below.