How to Be a Better Waiter or Waitress and Earn More Tips
Being a waiter or a waitress can be as financially rewarding as it is flexible. It’s no surprise it’s possible to see such a variety of people in the role of wait staff – from college students, single parents, artists to older hospitality veterans. What all waiters and waitresses have in common is the wish to create a great guest experience in exchange for a tip.
If you’re a waiter or a waitress looking to maximize your potential, you may be wondering if there tried and tested ways of earning more tips. We’ll share a few that have worked for other servers:
Introduce Yourself by Name
It seems simple, but it’s been proven to work. When you introduce yourself by name, you’ll appear friendlier and set the stage for positive interactions with your customers. If there’s something you can write your name on for your customer to refer to, do it.
Make it Personal
True and excitement about your restaurant’s food and drinks can create a genuine point of connection between you and your guests, especially if you listen to their needs and cater to their curiosity.
Explain in detail the features of a specific main dish you love. Highlight its taste points and flavor profiles. Your customer will appreciate the authenticity of your recommendation, and you can (later) appreciate a bigger tip.
Upsell a Bigger Total Bill
Ever heard the phrase, “work smarter, not harder?” As a waiter or waitress, the easiest way to “work smarter” and secure more tips is to upsell. Since it can be tough to upsell without feeling a little sleazy, try upselling an experience rather than an item.
Serving a couple celebrating an anniversary? Offer a bottle of bubbly, rather than an individual glass and suggest the perfect pairing. A large group of hungry teenagers, on the other hand, may go wild over plates of shareable appetizers.
Repeat the Customer’s Order
Repeating your customer’s order has a couple of different benefits. It builds trust, since it shows that you’re a great listener (and note-taker). It helps ensure that you actually do understand everything they’re asking of you, since even the best servers will miss some details on occasion.
But the more subtle, psychological effect of parroting back a customer’s order is that people tend to like others who mirror their gestures and speech. When servers repeat orders, even if the order has been written down, customers subconsciously feel that the server is more like them than not. They experience a sense of “sameness” with their servers, resulting in bigger tips.
Although your restaurant may require a uniform, if you’re allowed to accessorize, do so tastefully. Small jewelry, hair accessories, sports teams and other discrete forms of self-expression give your guests the opportunity to see you as an individual rather than a cog in a machine. The more opportunities to bond with your guests, the better.
When people receive something from someone, they are predisposed to reciprocate. Customers who receive special treatment, however small, will typically reciprocate by leaving a larger tip.
Plenty of waiters report having received higher tips when they write “thank you” or add another small, personal touch to the check. The reason? Customers feel as if they’ve been given extra attention, and in an effort to reciprocate, tend to be more generous.
Reciprocity can also be brought about by anticipating needs: bringing extra napkins for a messy starter, offering toys or colouring pens for smaller children, or bringing mints or other goodies along with the check.
Read the Room
Each customer is different and the best servers are great speed readers. Some customers require lots of attention and interaction, some customers prefer minimal service and some customers just want to be left alone completely to enjoy their meal. The quicker servers learn to read their customers, the higher their tips will be.
If a table is deep in intimate conversion, keep interruptions to a minimum. If they’re excited to talk to you, indulge them and perhaps even make a few appropriate joking comments. No matter your level of involvement, stay positive and smile as often as possible.
Always Provide Excellent Service
Customers expect good service, so you’ve got to go above and beyond their expectations to land a stellar tip. Although there will always be some customers who can’t be impressed, a well-tipped server is almost always one who thinks creatively about their guests’ problems and relates to them as humans.
Here are a few simple ways to improve your service right now:
- Greet customers with a warm, friendly smile.
- If you have a booking system, check if there are any notes about your table
- Ask if they’re celebrating anything, or how their day has been.
- Refill drink glasses without being asked.
- Anticipate needs for condiments, silverware, and napkins.
- Slow down. It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced world of food service, but this results in mistakes and an impersonal experience for your guests.
- Periodically check on the customers discretely to see if they need anything.
Research shows that servers can increase their tips if they employ a few simple techniques. These techniques have no downside. If they’re ineffective, customers won’t be any worse off. The upside, however, is more money for you, and a memorable experience for your guests. And who knows? You may start cultivating a group of regulars – guests who come in just to see you.