Cha-ching! Ways to Earn More Tips

Nancy Anderson
Posted by in Tourism & Hospitality

Food servers traditionally earn low hourly wages, but can earn more than their salaried managers by scoring big on tips. People go out to eat for a variety of reasons—don’t feel like cooking, don’t know how to cook, no time to cook, nothing to cook at home, or just to get away from the kitchen, enjoy a favorite cuisine, or just relax. Nothing spoils a night out than poor service, and customers will let you know their satisfaction level by the amount of tip they leave.

Here are some ways to increase your tips by showing great hospitality.

1. Own your space. If you are assigned certain tables or an area of the restaurant, that space is yours. Make sure it is clean, crumb free, straightened, and clear of any telltale signs of the last guests. If the bus person hasn’t cleared, do it yourself. Never bring a guest to a table in your area that isn’t clean with everything in place.

2. Make sure the table is stocked. The guest that only uses the sweetener in the yellow packet isn’t going to be happy if there is only sugar and the “blue stuff.” It may be a little thing, but the meter just dropped from “excellent” to “good.” Salt and pepper shakers should be filled and free flowing, ketchup filled and clean. No one likes to pick up the ketchup bottle when it is slimy with dried ketchup on the rim.

3. Check under the table. Old napkins, French fries or flatware under the table makes a guest wonder how long it has been since someone swept under there.

4. Always greet the guests with a smile. Make eye contact, smile, and pretend you are addressing your best friends, your favorite celebrity, or the boss. It may seem trite, but a smile sets the stage for the rest of a pleasant experience.

5. Know the menu and the specials. Memorize them, or write them down. Having to go back and check with the kitchen makes you look uninformed and your recommendations suspect. Taste or at least take a look at the specials so you can accurately describe the look and taste.

6. Nail the order! You may have another “Harry Met Sally” who likes to personalize every part of their meal. Make notes and remember to put the dressing on the side, bring the extra au jus, and substitute the rice for the fries. A missed order pulls the meter down even further, not just on satisfaction but on the tip percentage as well.

7. Keep the drinks coming. Again, be observant, and offer to refresh drinks before the glasses are empty. Pay attention to any variations from the norm—no salt on the margaritas, soda instead of ginger ale, or shaken—not stirred.

8. Pay attention to the children. Parents think their little darlings are special, and giving them extra care will go a long way. Take their orders first, bring the crayons and coloring papers out right away, and be complimentary. When the kids are happy, the parents are happy, too.

If you are interested in a hospitality career, please see

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," "Pulse" and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at, and on the web at

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