waitressing tips - serving food to guests

While serving is sometimes viewed as not a “real” job (usually by people who have never worked in the restaurant industry), the opposite is true. The gig has a reputation for being temporary, but there are plenty of people who make a career out of it and do well for themselves. There just as many who put themselves through school by serving—and we all know how expensive college is these days, which clearly shows that the earning potential of serving jobs is no joke.

While working for tips can sometimes be frustrating, overall the amount you make is largely in your control since there are proven things you can do to earn more.

The key to a lucrative serving career is figuring out how to make the best tips possible, and here’s how to do it.

server taking a guests order

Establish Connections With Your Customers

According to a Forbes article by Laura Shin, crafting a connection with your customers is one way to get better tips. “If servers can establish a social connection with their customers, they’ll get better tips,” explained Michael Lynn, a professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration who specializes in studying tips. He continued to note that people are more likely to want to help someone they’re connected to.

Speak Up

Old tricks like introducing yourself and reading orders back to customers can go a long way. A restaurant in California found that tips increased by 56% for servers who introduced themselves when greeting their tables. Studies in Holland found that repeating an order back was associated with higher tipping rates in general, but higher tipped amounts as well. Severs who repeated orders enjoyed tip amounts that were close to double that of servers who didn’t repeat the order.

You can control the conversation and change the way guest communication is handled with proper staff training.

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Tipping is based on the amount of the check, so the higher you drive up the ticket price, the higher your tip will naturally be. Offer your guests beverage options that they can choose from in addition to water and offer coffee after a meal. Don’t forget to mention dessert and let your customers know all of the options you have for sides, giving them the chance to opt for something at a higher price point.

Tips increased by 56% for servers who introduced themselves when greeting their tables.

However, there’s an important caveat. “When it’s busy,” explains a Penny Hoarder article by Steve Gillman, “you’ll make more time income with faster customer turnover.” Because entrées are the most expensive part of the dining process, the faster you can turn tables over to seat more customers who are ready to order entrées, the more money you’ll make at the end of the night.

Write On The Receipt

Whether it’s a thank you or a random drawing of a flower, receipts with a personal touch written on them correlate to higher tips. The Penny Hoarder explains that studies have shown that “a happy face or picture of the sun on the customer’s bill resulted in bigger tips.” Forbes noted an experiment at a restaurant in Philadelphia that found that receipts with a “thank you” written on them averaged tips in the 18% range while those that didn’t land closer to the 16% mark.

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Cinnamon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and journalist who paid a large part of her way through college and graduate school by serving. Her work has been published with outlets like National Geographic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. You can read more about her at www.cinnamon-janzer.com.