One of the main pros of being a server, and perhaps the best of them all, is that you’ll always have some cash on hand. You’ll make most of this money in tips, so you can count on pocketing something small or big after every shift, depending on how good you are at your job. Before we get started with our tips on how to earn more tips as a server, it’s important to mention that not all shifts are the same - there are times when your diners will feel extremely generous, and then there are those times when you will encounter the worst tippers. Tip - always be ready for the worst but hope for the best, but most importantly, remember that if your customers enjoy your service, they are likely to tip well.
1. Connect With Your Customers
Diners tend to leave larger tips to servers they like, in comparison to those they don’t feel a connection to. So, how do you get customers to like you, and even remember you during future visits? Greeting them and introducing yourself is a good start.
Don’t be a robot; yes, do your work, fulfill orders, but show customers you care about their well-being without getting personal. Greet them with a smile, introduce yourself, ask how they are doing, and if you are good at it, crack a joke or two. One particular study showed servers’ tips increasing by 40% just by telling jokes. At the end of their visit, don’t forget to say thank you and to wish them well too.
2. Complement Their Food Choices
Believe it or not, one of the easiest ways to get into your customers’ good books is to compliment their food choices. Say things like, “Wow! That’s a good choice!” or “You've all made excellent choices; I’m impressed!” You’ll see that this will boost your chances of getting a nice tip.
3. Upsell Passionately
Upselling is a selling strategy servers and other front-of-house employees use to promote sales. To upsell successfully, the first thing you must do is connect with your customers as it’s how you are going to discover their likes, wants, and preferences, without sounding vague or uninterested.
So, instead of, “Would you like a salad?” a friendlier approach would be, “Oh, you adore our salads? I bet you’ll love the frisee! I had it earlier today and it was good. I promise it won’t fill you up.”
Also, learn to ask discovery questions in a friendly way. By doing so, you will learn something about your guests, and you can then respond with an appropriate recommendation.
4. Don’t Assume Your Guests Aren’t Interested
One of the main reasons why people dine in different restaurants is that they like to experiment; otherwise, they’d be contented eating at home or at their local diner. Diners are always curious to know if you have new menu items. They want to enhance their dining experience and will appreciate any recommendations.
Don’t be shy to practice your upselling skills, even when your guests happen to be regulars. The more normal an item sounds, the more likely they will try it out. Therefore, never assume that your customers aren't interested in your suggestions until their order has been entered in the POS.
At the end of the day, the happier you make your guests, the higher the potential of you pocketing a tip.
5. Don’t Rush Your Guests’ Dining Experience
True, turning tables equals making more money; however, that doesn’t permit you to rush your guests. Below is an example of the steps of service, though specifics usually vary by restaurant.
a. Ninety-seconds seated - greet the table, introduce yourself, and take drink orders.
b. Four-Five minutes seated - drinks already delivered, take meal orders.
c. Nine minutes seated - cutlery, napkins, condiments, etc. are already on the table. Ask if refills are needed.
d. Ten-twelve minutes seated - food already on the table. Ask if they need anything else.
e. Two-four minutes after food has been delivered - ask how the food is and ask about refills.
By following these steps, you are more likely to stay on par with the average turnaround time of your employer and less likely to lose out on tables and potential tips.
6. Calling Your Diners by Name Could Increase Tips
When they hand you their credit card, call them by name in a respectful way. For example, “Thank you, Ms. Smith.” Calling customers by name has been associated with a 10% higher tip.
7. Offer a Little After-Dinner Treat
Candies and dinner mints make excellent after dinner treats. People love to be treated well and often feel obliged to reciprocate.
8. Be Kind to Campers
Campers are customers who tend to linger on their tables long after the payment process has been finished, without realizing other people may be needing the table. Use your charm to handle campers, and you are very likely to land a faithful tipper or two. Use your creativity and say something like, “Hey guys, you are the best party I have interacted with all evening, and I hate to see you leave, but I need this table for another party.”
9. Politely Decline Drink Offers
If you work at a bar, your customers may offer to buy you drinks from time-to-time or invite you to sit with them. Find ways to decline their offers in a polite way, even if your employer allows drinking on the job. Imagine walking into an appointment with your doctor or attorney only to find him or her drinking. Do you think such a scenario is acceptable? Of course not! The same holds true for restaurant workers.