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How to Tip Your Waitstaff

Updated on April 4, 2017
jimmyglaughlin profile image

In my younger days, I was a food server and have worked in restaurants and banquet halls. I know first hand how difficult waiting tables is.


A host/hostess/greeter are the first faces customers see when they walk into a dining establishment and must greet customers warmly and make them feel welcome and steer them towards their table. Once seated, the next person to greet the guests are the waitstaff. The waiter or waitress are there to guarantee the diners or guests get their orders in a timely fashion, make them feel welcome and important and ensure that their dining experience was worth the cost of their bill. This is not an easy task, for dining guests are a finicky bunch. Wait staff need to be patient, friendly, pleasant, knowledgeable, firm, sincere, caring, quick and must be able to handle any guest request and get it done speedily.

Waiting tables is very difficult and proper training is key to the success of any restaurant and no position comes in contact with the public as much as the waiter or waitress. Great training and hard work can help anyone waiting tables, but to become a great server takes the right type of person. The organization, multitasking, attentiveness, positive attitude in all situations, knowledge, friendliness are all very important to serving tables as well as server etiquette, be able to upsell and make suggestions, and of course, have a spring in your step.

The larger chain restaurants have even cut down the number of tables any one waitstaff can have, to ensure the experienced or inexperienced are on the same playing field and training can be streamlined and concentrate on selling drinks. Training The server personality is trimmed down to be a robotic seller of random drink specials and all individuality is lost. The server is now just a salesperson, even your food is brought to the table by someone you haven't seen before.

The grand design is to make a restaurant that can hire almost anyone to wait tables and even then have you ever noticed your server with only four tables can get flustered? The experienced servers will usually get bored, do not make enough money and possibly quit to seek out better money making possibilities. This type of set up ensures that only the inexperienced servers stick around and then, in turn, become the standard, in which the customers get accustomed to. The chain restaurants just perpetuate this cycle and it goes on and on.

15% tip should be left as a bare minimum. Good or bad, they have to make a living.



Waiters and waitresses do work at a restaurant for the paycheck because usually, restaurants pay them $2-3 per hour. This is practically getting free work for the establishment. There are only seven states that require for the employer to pay their tipped employees as much as non-tipped which is $7.25 per hour. As it stands, the minimum wage for tipped workers has remained the same since 1997, $2.13 per hour. If the worker's tips do not average out to $7.25 then the employer makes up the rest.

Tipped employees work for tips, plain and simple. The minimum wage is benefiting the employers, not the employees. They survive and live on tips. Any customer that believes that leaving a waiter or waitress no tip is ok, they should reconsider their tipping minimums. Generally speaking, if you receive your drinks and food, that is enough to tip at least 15%. Some may disagree with this, but we need to remember that as a customer it is essentially your responsibility to pay the waitstaff. This policy has been around for a long time, and it may actually seem unfair to the customer and the servers, but that is things are.

You may think that the cost of the meal will pay the waitstaff, but you would be wrong because remember they are only getting $7.25 per hour which is not a living wage.

You may think that if your food quality is low, you should leave a low tip, but the food quality has nothing to do with the waitstaff, they are only bringing that food to you, not cooking it.

These things need to be taken into consideration when leaving a tip and it is customary to leave 15%, no matter the quality of the service. The minimum of 15% is enough to communicate to a waiter or waitress that the service they provided was a bare minimum. Leaving anything more than 15% will inform them that they did a good job and went above and beyond what is expected.

Basically, no waiter or waitress should be getting tipped only 15%, but it is their responsibility to get a higher percentage than that. They need to prove to the customer that they not only got the minimum amount of service but got more than is expected. A server who only gets 15% on a regular basis, should be reevaluated by their manager or owner, because they should be always shooting for fantastic, way above board service to keep customers returning not just for good food, but great service. It is also their responsibility that they do not hire 'par' servers, they need to be hiring 'superstar' above average employees.

Hiring a server should be done with a more careful approach than what some restaurant managers are willing or pressured to do. Have you ever ate at a restaurant and noticed all the servers are good looking? How does that happen? It's not by accident, it is by design. Sex sells. Good looking people are easy on the eyes and are make for a more pleasant dining experience or so the corporate bigwigs would have you think. Going back to what was said earlier, if the restaurant can hire anyone to wait tables, why not just hire good looking people? Not all good looking people can do well as food servers. I would rather have an ugly food server with great service, than a good looking one with bad service.

Do you leave 15% gratuity even if the service was bad?

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If you receive great service, leave a little extra tip or give a shout out the manager that their food server deserves a pay raise!


Great Service

A great server is a person who can make a customer feel welcome and enjoy their dining experience. Utilizing their experience, training, personality and showing some hustle to make this happen is what defines a great server. Paying attention to every single little detail about your tables and deciding what your customer may need even before they need it. A half eaten plate may mean they were not happy with the food, for example. Going above and beyond for every customer, displaying a real concern for the happiness of the paying patron. Understanding that your tips are based on the entire dining experience and if the customer isn't leaving happy, you may not get any tip at all!

Of course, not all restaurants or restaurant chains are like this, there are many great servers out there waiting tables at all types of establishments. The waitstaff of any restaurant is an important part of that business and should be treated with the respect they deserve and most work very hard for their gratuity.


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      Nan 10 months ago

      Having been a waitress for many years, I know what a tiring job it is. My reason behind leaving fifteen percent gratuity is, the person waiting your table is on their feet all day, a hard working individual. I feel the reason they are not doing a good job is because of poor training or poor management. I want the server to know I appreciate their hard work.

      If the service is good, I see that the server has been well trained and does a good job, I will tip more. That is my thank you for a job well done and to show my appreciation.

      Any responses on this?