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These Tricks Boost a Waiter’s Tip by More Than 20%

Your servers can use a few more bucks. Help them get that welcome bump.

Happy waiters and satisfied customers mean higher tips

When it comes to achieving success in the food service industry, every restaurant has its secret sauce. It’s not some quirky mix of condiments, and it most certainly doesn’t involve pickle relish.

Believe it or not, the secret sauce is the job satisfaction of the wait staff. Try getting that out of a jar!

Restaurant owners see this up close and personal on a daily basis: servers up and about on their feet for hours on end, taking awfully intricate orders one minute and dispensing piping-hot dishes the next. Their heads are on a swivel as they scout the venue for additional requests or—God forbid!—violent reactions over a steak that someone else cooked.

All this for a minimum two-dollar cash wage? Something stinks there, and it’s not the rotten tomatoes.

Tips for Better Tips

If you’re running a restaurant and want your wait staff to stand on their own two feet (literally and figuratively), you should consider ways to help them earn better tips.

Restaurant Engine, a website for independent restaurant owners, offers some clever strategies for achieving this. To be clear, these strategies are backed by research, not some obscure book by a wannabe restaurateur or a former server. 

Personal touch = Midas touch

One point of emphasis in these strategies is the personal touch. Something as simple as offering mints to guests upon delivery of the check made a marked difference to the tips received by the wait staff. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, waiters received 21% more tips when they handed two mints per guest, along with an offer for more should a customer want extra. 

Another way to ramp up the personal touch is by tweaking the introduction. Apparently, the very first words uttered by a waiter can make or break their tipping prospects. Another research study published in the same journal found that waiters who mentioned their name at the very start (as in, “Hi, my name is Simon”) earned $2 more in tips than those who omitted that detail.

Courtesy might be the best policy

Displays of courtesy also boded well for wait staff’s tipping prospects. Restaurant Engine cited a New Jersey-based study where a waitress wrote optimistic weather forecasts (like, “The weather is supposed to be really good tomorrow”) on the back of some checks. She found that her tips improved when she handed out checks with a sunny disposition (pun fully intended).

The practice of repeating the customer’s order has also been found to increase the likelihood of getting a tip. As per The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University, waiters who repeat customers’ orders get a tip 78% of the time versus only 52% for those who don’t.

Unique flavor

Wait staff are familiar with signature dishes, but what about a signature appearance? In a study published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research, six waitresses adorned their hair with flowers on two of four nights while serving their customers. 

No surprises here: each waitress got a 17% uptick in her tips when she sported the floral ornament. This suggests that even as the guests munched and imbibed, the flowers caught their attention. The distinct appearance of the wait staff then compelled them to tip more.

Win-Win Situation

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Notice how none of these strategies requires much effort to adopt? 

The message to restaurant owners is clear: if their wait staff can earn more tips by tweaking just a few details, they should be encouraged to implement such strategies to supplement their income.

It’s a win-win situation: the servers stay motivated and perform reliably well, helping their employer grow the business. 

So maybe—just maybe—these tip-improving strategies won’t have to stay secret for long.

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