Waiting tables is no joke, and securing tips can be challenging, even for a really good server. In the United States, a waiter makes the majority of his money from tips, with their base pay being less than minimum wage. In order to have the money you need to live, you'll want to maximize the number of higher tips you receive on any given shift.
It might feel like you can't control if patrons tip you well or not, but studies have shown that there are a few easy tricks that can ultimately lead you to get a bigger tip. Humans are more predictable than you think. That being said, you might still come across an occasional Scrooge. For the most part, however, these tips are foolproof. They work whether you're a bartender or a waiter. You'll definitely want to share a few with your coworkers, so everyone can get a little pay boost whether you work at a diner or a five-star restaurant. Although your motives may be money-driven, these six tricks will ultimately make you a better server, in addition to garnering you higher tips.
1. Personalize each guest experience.
Patrons like to feel special, so personalizing their experience is a great way to get their attention and hopefully a better tip. You don't even have to think outside of the box to make your guests feel special. For example, when you collect someone's card at the end of their meal, you'll be able to see the name of the person who's paying right on their credit card. When you return their receipt, thank them personally using the formal version of the name.
Try to remember the names of your repeat customers, so you can address them personally for the entirety of the meal. It doesn't have to be overkill, but they'll appreciate that you remembered them from the last time. It makes them feel important. Regulars like to be treated with extra personalization, because they feel that they're helping out the establishment, and really, they are! If they have a favorite meal or menu item, memorize it and ask if they'd like to order it again. It's important not to just assume they'll want their usual, but they'll be impressed that you remembered what they prefer.
2. Transparency is key.
Sometimes things go wrong with orders. Even if you give your table's order correctly, the kitchen staff may forget to remove an ingredient for someone's meal. With that said, you don't want to constantly blame the kitchen for everything that happens. Instead, apologize for the mistake without assigning blame.
After all, everyone makes mistakes, and transparency about a given situation could still get you the gratuity you want. At any given moment, a kitchen is swamped with food and drink orders. Even if you're giving the highest level of service, some situations are out of your hands. Tell the truth to your customers, make sure they know they're a priority, and give them a little extra attention to make up for it.
By writing down items using a pen and notepad and then reading back entree orders to your customers, you'll show that you're competent, that you care about good service. This is particularly important if anyone at your table has a food allergy.
3. Put your game face on.
When you're going to work, you're putting on a performance for your customers. They can't know if you're having a terrible day. No matter what's happening with your own life, you need to provide good service. Putting a smile on your face when you're acting as a waitress or waiter has been known to make server tips higher. Make eye contact with your table and strike up a light conversation if they're not in the middle of something while you refill their water glasses. Smile when you're clearing their empty plates. If you have nothing to smile about except the end of your shift, use that to get you through your shift. Friendliness always brings higher tips.
4. Dress to impress.
It's not very radical to say that waitresses and the hostess should wear makeup while on their shift, but according to Forbes, your appearance, especially as a woman can get you higher tips. Patrons respond better to people that they think look more presentable. It's a frustrating preference, but as a female restaurant server, it may be necessary.
Depending on the dress code policy of your restaurant or diner, it's also helpful to wear something that makes you stand out. It can be subtle, like a flower in your hair or a brightly colored tie for men. It gives you more of a personality to your patrons and makes you more human. If they can see you as a person, they're more likely to take the time to think about how you pay your bills when they're signing the check after dessert. Wear something that makes you pop, keep your apron clean, and take a few minutes to think about your appearance on your break. The gratuity is worth it.
5. Boost their dining experience with a compliment.
It can be difficult to remember that you're able to compliment strangers as a restaurant server. In fact, a good server takes the time to compliment diners on their strong choices when it comes to picking food. If a table orders your favorite appetizer, tell them that's an excellent appetizer to have chosen. It boosts their ego just a little bit and can boost your paycheck at the same time. You don't have to be disingenuous either. Figure out some of your favorite dishes or know what the hot plate is in terms of popularity, so you can complement their order. Your compliments will be received better if they're genuine anyway.
6. A little extra work goes a long way.
Even if being a waiter is your day job, you should still strive to give great service. You're not just laying out silverware, folding napkins, or setting place settings. A cook's art is cooking and your art is interacting with people well. If you do You want customers to have a great time, in the hopes that they come back as regulars, and get that sweet gratuity that comes with building a relationship with customers.
Putting in the extra work to memorize the specials each night makes you look prepared. For example, if you know that swapping an ingredient or protein may result in a service charge, be sure to let your guest know this. That way, they won't be surprised or upset when the bill arrives. Not every diner will want your menu items as described, and being able to adjust condiments like mustard, ketchup, or mayonnaise can go a surprisingly long way towards making your guests happy campers.
Central to earning higher tips is providing good service. Many people will tip 20% regardless of the service level, but for the others, you'll need to be on your game. Remember your steps of service, keep a smile on your face, and grab a mint from the hostess stand when you return your guest's credit card. Only when people feel cared for will you earn higher tips.