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Suggestions On How To Get Better Tips As A Waitress Without Losing Your Dignity

Updated on November 4, 2008

Earn More Tips

Waitresses earn very little in the way of 'wages' and depend upon tips for much of their income. Here are some tips about how to earn more. (no pun intended)

1. Be clean. Nothing turns a customer off than dirty fingernails or food stains on your uniform or clothing. Keep your hair washed, especially if you have dandruff. Brush your teeth before starting work.

2. Be polite and friendly, but not overly chatty. Restaurant patrons like to have a friendly wait staff, but we are usually tired or hungry and really don't want to hear about your sister's divorce or the fact that someone keyed your car in the parking lot.

3. Know what's on the menu. I am amazed when I ask what kind of soup a restaurant has and the waitress has no clue. If you don't know, for gosh sakes find out and tell the customer! Also, be familiar with the foods on the menu and be prepared to make suggestions or answer questions. Food alergies are a big problem and people really need to know what they're eating.

4. Be helpful with misshaps. We were recently at a family dinner in a restaurant and someone accidentally knocked over their large diet cola. The waitress was standing there and said, "Oh, poor you!" and walked away! She didn't even offer extra napkins. You don't have to be a personal servent, but at least try to help out in case of an accident.

5. When customers bring babies or toddlers into the restaurant, ask them if they need a high chair or booster seat and get one for them. I know it seems obvious, but I once had to go into the kitchen to ask for a booster seat for my nephew.

6. Be available. There is a fine line between being attentive and hovering. Check on your customers between courses or at least be nearby if they need something or want the check.

7. If you're sick, please stay home. Nothing says 'no tip' like a waiterss sneezing on your salad. I k now you need the money and it's a tough break if you have a cold, but be considerate and try to keep that cold to yourself .

8. Give patrons their change in small bills. We once paid our check with a fifty-dollar bill and the change was thirty dollars. Our waitress gave us a ten and a twenty. We had no other cash, so what do you think we left for a tip?

9. Pay attention to where you seat people. It's usually a given that a young couple won't want to sit in the booth behind a family with four loud and unruly kids.Probably nobody will, so seat them in the far corner of the room. Elderly people usually prefer to sit away from the door as they want to avoid drafts during the winter and heat blasts during the summer. Try to space people out and not seat them all in a bunch if you can help it.

10. Smile and make eye contact. If you make your customer feel cared for and like a real person, not a 'check', you will definitely earn more in tips.


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    • profile image

      Steve DiGioia 

      5 years ago

      Waiters will always complain that they don’t make the kind of tips that they want. But they fail to realize that only by making your guests feel special, feel as if THEIR enjoyment is YOUR primary concern, will you make the big tips. All else is not important.

    • Pat Merewether profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Merewether 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      I stopped in to a restaurant while traveling (I was in Florida) and noticed that a table of about 12 people (who ate MEALS) left a five dollar tip! That's just CHEAP!

      I noticed that some restaurants are adding a 17% tip - I'm not sure if that's right - it's in find print at the bottom of the menu.

      I sometimes pay with a credit card but leave a cash tip and write (CASH) on the tip line, so they don't think I"m stiffing the waitress when I check out.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I opened this blog thinking it was written by a food-service veteran, unfortunately it was not. The author's guidelines seem reasonable and obvious, but you literally have to walk in our 12-hour shift shoes through the weeds to understand the truth. A six-month mandatory serving stint (for college credit or some other advantage) would open a lot of eyes! And perhaps create empathy where empathy is due. I love my job and nothing makes me happier than NICE customers who smile back at me, make eye contact, and don't turn on me at the end of the meal! Oh, and the 20% tip :) On many occasions, I actually thank people for being nice. It's funny when their response starts with, "I know, I used to be a server..."

      p.s. Thank god spring break is almost over. Parents, teach your kids how to tip...

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      regarding #6.. don't give mixed signals! If you ask questions about myself (what brought you to this town, etc?) or laugh ab something familiar, then don't treat like a weirdo if i'm a little more personable or bring you extra bread (which is against the rules but you asked for)'s not ALL ( half & half ) about the tip.... if your happy, we"re happy...and you come back!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hear ye, hear yee spunk... in some countries and in major US cities, serving is a profession. I happen to work in a betwixted, foodie, college town in the S. East in which server are either supremely respected (depending upon the establishment) or treated like peasants (ppl assume ppl work for pocket change or for expensive vintage flannels). Fine dining, private or bar establishments...I have experienced them all.. working 2 ro 3 jobs at a time at some points...BUT my point is that reguardless of where I was...I have always served alongside of of mothers, students, young professionals, dropouts, partiers....PEOPLE. This is a job that deserves respect! I "wait tables" because it pays well ( mostly) and because I enjoy taking care of people. Please, ask me about the food I'm serving, ask me about the wine and liquors....I will tell you the truth. It's a job...we hate it at times...but most of us take it seriously and really do care! I promise.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I agree with Lulu. Yes. Some waiters/waitresses have a thing or two to learn, but there are a few things that restaurant patrons could do differently (such as interrupting while you are at another table). Also, if you walk into a FULL restaurant, on a busy night, and have to wait for a table, don't expect your food to come out in 10 minutes. The kitchen is obviously slammed. Once i waited on a table, gave immaculate service (on a busy night, mind you) and when i picked up the credit card slip, the guest wrote at the top of the slip "Im sorry, but your tip reflects the 45 minutes i had to wait for a table." The wait is NOT your waitress' fault.

      Also, if you want to take out a date, do not try to impress her by ordering the most expensive things on the menu, rack up a $80-100 bill, then leave a $3 tip. Keep in mind that in SOME states waitress' make minimum wage, but but in most states waitress' make below minimum wage. Their paychecks usually only cover state and federal taxes, which means they only make $10-20 paychecks. In my state, waitresses make $2.13/hour. I do not come to work for my $2.13/hr, i come to work for my tips. So, when you are planning on going out for dinner, and you are on a budget, you need to factor tip into what you are planning on spending.

      Waitresses are "selling their selves" to each and every one of their tables. If we know for a fact that we have worked the best that we can to make your meal a pleasurable experience, and you still leave a shitty tip, it ruins our day.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Sounds like your a pretty great waitress! I definitely agree with all the points you have made. One tactic I used to use was to tell the customers they were getting a deal or maybe something extra for free. People love deals, free stuff, and discounts. Getting people to buy the special of the day helps them save money and they would be more willing to share of the savings onto you!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Numbers 1 & 2 I totally agree with.

      Number 3: Yes, we should know what is on the menu, what is in what, and what the specials are. However, don't ask me what the soups are when there is a section titled 'SOUPS' that lists all of our soups and that you are looking directly at when you're asking me. That just seems like you're lazy or can't read or like you think you're too important to read it yourself.

      Numbers 4 & 5, agree.

      Number 6: this one is a little tricky. Yes, there is definitely a fine line and as a server it is sometimes hard to gauge. What may be hovering to one table may be not attentive enough for another. As for your suggestion of being nearby...well, we DO have other tables to attend to; not just yours. I know I try to make eye contact whenever I walk by one of my tables while I'm attending to my others, that way if you need something you can nod or give me some kind of motion to let me know you need me. *And a note for you Patrons: When I am at another of my tables and you do need something, DO NOT INTERRUPT ME AT THEIR TABLE TO ASK FOR THINGS! You are not more important than they are. It is extremely rude! And don't touch me! Don't pull my arm or my apron! Didn't your mother teach you any manners?!

      Number 7: should be a no brainer, right? However, many restaurants won't let you call in sick. I mean, they say they allow it, of course. But just try it on a Friday or Saturday night; or any busy shift for that matter. Their first response will be that you need to find another server to cover your shift; which you try. And if you don't succeed and call back to tell them you can't...they pretty much tell you that you have to come in. If you don't and say you're calling in sick anyways, you'll most likely get written up and possibly suspended. So now instead of missing just the one shift at work, you're missing 3-5..and hundreds of dollars...and then maybe there goes your rent for the month....what a dilemma!

      Number 8: well duh!!

      Number 9: you'd think it'd be easy, but rarely do people sit where you take them. I'd say 75% of people will look around and ask, "can we sit there instead?"...what am I going to say? No? Yeah, right. You'd even be surprised at how many people will pick the only table, in a restaurant of empty, open, clean tables, that hasn't been bussed yet and ask to 'sit there'....sigh.

      Number 10: definitely! Service should always be with a smile. However, if you are unpleasant, rude or disrespectful to me, or demeaning I will not smile at you. It's my job to serve you your food and be courteous, but it is not be job to be abused and pretend I like it.

    • MadWhiteWaitress profile image


      9 years ago

      Another one to add which fits in the 'polite' category probably would be SMILE. 1st of all it takes less muscles than frowning, and second of all noone wants a miserable puckerface hovering over them, depressing people are depressing!

    • bcook profile image


      9 years ago from Where dreams still live

      very helpful thanks!

    • Pat Merewether profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Merewether 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for your comment - I hope more waitstaff read it too!

    • profile image

      Simon Brown 

      9 years ago

      Goodness I wish some of waitresses and waiters at restaurants where I've eaten in the past knew some of this stuff. And you're right, it's not rocket science but as you say could mean the difference between a hefty tip and nothing. My partner worked as a waitress and whenever we eat out she always insists we leave a good tip. To be honest when staff have earned it I'm always more than happy to do so - it's often a thankless task and a good waiter or waitress can transform a good meal into a stunning meal at a restaurant you recommend to all your friends.

      Great hub :) this is one of those win-win topics, you get paid more for waiting tables and those of us eating in your restaurant have a nicer meal. I just hope more your checklist gets into the hands of more waiters and waitresses.


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