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How To Earn More Tips As A Waiter

By Edited Dec 6, 2015 4 7

By Florian Plag (Flickr: Serve chilled.) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


A nice grin will go a long way.  Have you ever tried walking down the sidewalk intentionally smiling at people?  If you catch their eye, chance are they will smile back.  It's instinctive. Once you get someone smiling, the good juices in their brain start flowing and their mood improves. Having your clients in a good mood is one of the best things you can to do to earn more tips. 


Let's not kid ourselves, the more attractive someone is, the more likely they are to get tips. If you weren't gifted with assets that could grace the cover of men's magazines, or if you're a far cry from George Clooney, don't worry.   Just don't be a slob.  Take time to wear wrinkle free, clean clothes. Do your hair.  Put on some makeup and you'll be on your way. 

Know the Menu

A major dilemma for many diners is figuring out what to eat. Have your favorites ready and be able to talk about the specials being offered. Also, be aware of dietary substitutions.  Which items can be made gluten-free?  What items are low fat? Other dietary considerations include: lactose intolerance, shellfish or nut allergies, and vegetarian/vegan diets.  If the place you work has a happy hour menu, know that as well.  Finally, commit the draft beer list to memory and a few of the basic wines.

Keep the Drinks Full

Whether water, wine, soda, coffee or beer, the longer a glass sits empty, the more money you will lose.  Even if you can't get to it right away, checking in and being aware of the drink status is crucial. 

Pay Attention to Picky Orders

Even though you are not the cook, you are the liaison between the client and the food.  If something is messed up, you get the honor of the responsibility, even if it isn't your fault.  Make sure that special orders, substitutions and other nitpicked items are written clearly and even verbally communicated to the cooking staff.  Double check it before you serve it.  If it's wrong you'll be paying for it.  If it's right, you'll be rewarded. 

Make the Kids Laugh

Many families are going out to dinner for a little break.  They are tired of cooking and cleaning and are looking for a break.  Kids are squirmy, impatient, hungry little monsters.  By being able to keep the kids satisfied, you will earn the parent's admiration.  Be silly, be overly enthusiastic, and have a fun imagination.  

Make the Adults Laugh

You don't have to be a comedian, but a sense of humor can go a long way.  Try to gauge your client.  A group of college kids going out for a good time will be very receptive to some light teasing.  A serious looking couple may be less tolerant of jests.  Know a couple easy one-liners or humorous anecdotes.  Again, it's all about the atmosphere you create.

Ask About Special Occasions

Do something special for birthdays, anniversaries, and any other reason for a celebration.  Restaurants may have different policies for how to recognize special events, but as the waiter you have some role in managing that.  You may need to pay in a little if nothing is offered.  By putting a drink or small dessert item on your tab, you'll build a strong repoire with the diners.

Try to Sell a Little More Expensive Items

Many people just follow simple percent rules for tipping.  10% on the low end to 25% on the high end.  Simple math shows that no matter what the percentage, the higher the bill, the more tips you will get.  Now, you don't want to come off as a used car salesman, but a friendly nudge to a $12 burger from the $7 is worth a full $1 at 20%.  

Check in Often, but Not Too Much

Engagement is crucial.  Sometimes you will want to linger.  Sometimes you just want to say hello as you pass by to see if something else is needed.  It seems like waiters always ask how the food is tasting while people have their mouths full.  Be extra alert for customers that look like they are glancing around and trying to find you.

Have a Personal Story

Maybe you are a collge kid working to get a little more money to pay your way through school.  You are hoping to get a degree in biology so you can go to med school and become a pediatrician.  Look for an opportunity to share a litle about yourself.  You build a little more intimacy that way, and you can encourage people to be more generous as they know a littel about your situation.  You don't want to dump all your burdens on folks, but if the opportunity presents itself, flash them a picture of your beautiful babies and work that emotion.

Give Advanced Notice if Things are Busy or Behind

By managing expectations you will avoid apologies.  That said, even if you tell someone there food will be late, still apologize for the lateness of the food.  Rushes are super stressful for everyone involved, but the cooler and calmer you can be, the less stress you'll experience.

Imitate Your Favorite Servers

Next time you go out to eat, pay attention to how your server acts.  What do they do that you like/dislike?  How can you incorporate that into your own job?  Be sure to let them know if they do something particularly wonderful.

Dump Stingy Tippers on Others

As you gain experience, you will be able to identify certain people that just don't tip well.  Offer that table to a coworker you don't like, or maybe the new kid on staff.  Now, occasionally you'll want to "take one for the team", but strategic serving can benefit you.

Know Your Regulars

If the same guy comes in every Tuesday at 4:00 and orders a club sandwich and an ice tea, take note.  Get to know him by his first name, and when he arrives, ask if he'll have "the usual."

Know The Best Shifts To Work

"Best" is a subjective term.  It could mean when you earn the most.  It could mean when there is the least amount of stress.  It could be somewhere in between.  Business doesn't always translate to high tips.  However, generally speaking the more people you can serve, the more you can earn.

Try To Get To Higher Rated Restaurants

As mentioned earlier, most tips are a percent of the total bill.  The more premium of a restaurant you can get to, the higher the checks are and the bigger the tips are. 

Work The Parties - Minimum Gratuity Rules!

If you don't want to put in a lot of effort for creating atmosphere, or you are more of an introvert by nature, then consider working the groups that come in.  Many restaurants charge minimum gratuity for groups of 8 or more. They take a little more time and energy to serve, but at least you don't have to worry about getting stiffed.

Keep The Flow Going

The more people you can see, the more tips you will earn.  It's a fine line to not rush folks, but if there is a line out the door, you want to keep things moving.  The longer someone waits for their food, the more irritable they will be.  Get those plates cleared and food served as fast as you can.



Jul 31, 2013 10:35am
I like your tips a lot. I work in a restaurant part time once in a while and you have some great insight. I especially like when you notify the guest that in fact it is a little busy and you are behind. Also remembering peoples orders..... Great article.
Aug 16, 2013 5:56am
I feel the worst for busy servers. People love to complain, but rarely praise.
Aug 15, 2013 8:03pm
I agree with with thoughts. In every field you need to be presentable and a notch above your peers to get special attention and compensation. Well written.
Aug 15, 2013 9:09pm
Aw man, never liked working with the guy who tried to slip off a table on me because I was new. (He's *not* whose shift I would be picking up, anytime soon, just sayin'). Instead, I got that table out fast, and factored it into my higher sales=higher tips. I actually made that table the priority to get in. and get out ;)
Aug 16, 2013 5:59am
Great technique TeeJay, with the right attitude, you can make lemonade from lemons. If you have the gumption and ambition to handle the tables nobody wants and you can do it effectively, you could definitely rake in some more dough.
Aug 20, 2013 5:49am
This is a damn fine list of things, tools, and to be committed to the mental toolbox. While I've never been a waiter, I can certainly relate for having been a steady customer at places, and for having worked a lot in customer service heavy fields. You're clearly a pro. CHEERS!
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