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Top 10 Tips on Earning Bigger Tips

Updated on October 25, 2012

Where Have All the Good Servers Gone?

It all started the other day when I was at a restaurant with my family. We have been patronizing this particular local restaurant for over 25 years so you can assume that almost every experience our family has shared there has been wonderful. It's just one of those great restaurants. -but today there was a big problem.

It seems we were to serve as the training ground for a new server. This prompted a conversation among those in our lunch party about what makes a great waiter/waitress/server.

10 Characteristics of Great Servers Who Earn BIG Tips

Being in business for more than 40 years, I have visited many eating establishments in my travels. I have seen just about every type of waiter/waitress/server from the not-so-stealthy nose-miner with matching dirty fingernails who to those charismatic angels that I just wanted to take home with me. Here is what I have learned about good servers who get more and bigger tips...

1) Love What You Do

It's a simple truism in business or life - if you love what you do, it's going to show in everything you do. I remember my Granny used to tell me that if I cleaned toilets or dug ditches, I should do it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. You know - she was right. You can always tell the servers who love what they're doing - and those who are just marking time. Enthusiasm, positivity and eagerness translate into bigger tips.

2) Be a Mind Reader

The best servers have the unique ability to know what a guest wants or needs before that guest knows.

3) You Gotta Look and Smell Great

Clean is as clean does - or vice-versa. Those servers who get the big tips make sure they look good and don't have unpleasant odors like cigarette smoke or other off-putting aromas. Great servers always look sharp and have a clean apron no matter what.

4) Learn the Names of Everyone at the Table

This has always amazed me. I don't know how they do it, but great servers always speak to you by name. It's just a seemingly minor personal touch that makes people feel better. - and tip better. Good servers also introduce themselves by name. Even better are the servers who remember your name on the next visit.

5) Know the Menu

The best servers not only know the menu, they have eaten everything on it. I am more likely to listen to a recommendation from a server who has partaken of the restaurant's fare. Add to that his or her ability to anticipate what I want and it's a winning combination - and a big tip.

6) Repeat the Order Back to Customers Exactly

One of my own personal bug-a-boos with poor servers is taking my order and not repeating it back to me. Don't you always wonder if the server has your order right? Even worse is when they come back with the order and it's incorrect! Good servers know it takes just a few seconds to repeat back an order and assure it is right the first time.

7) Offer Suggestions

I had a waiter that I really liked in Chicago a few years back. this guy was a master at the upsell AND he had sampled everything on the menu. He knew what would go well as an addition to what his customers ordered. He wasn't pushy, he just made the slightest, subtle suggestion. Guess what, he got a good tip because he was a good waiter AND he made a bigger tip due to the extra food ordered. He also suggested cappucino to one person at our table whom he heard talking about coffee earlier in the evening. This prompted all the other guests at the table to order the same. Smart man.

8) Dry Glass Means Less Tip

I have this rule. If I have to shake the ice in my glass to get my server's attention, that server is not going to get a tip from me. I mean it is so basic, isn't it? The great ones are always there anticipating the level of your drink and respond quickly.

9) Reach Out and Touch People

Studies show that servers who touch their customers made bigger tips. A study called "The Midas Touch," conducted by Christopher Wetzel and April Crusco demonstrated that those who touched their customers on the palm (typically when returning change) regularly received tips averaging around 17%, while those who did not touch a customer averaged around 12%. That 5% difference could really make a big difference to most servers.

10) Take Home Boxes

This is just a simple courtesy extended. This tells me the server is still actively serving my needs even after we have finished the meal.

In your opinion, what are the qualities that make a great waiter/waitress/server?

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