Bigger Tips for Waiters and Waitresses

1 May

by Stu Leventhal

Welcome new waiters and waitresses as well as seasoned professional food and beverage servers to the fantastic, dynamic, multi-billion dollar Hospitality Industry. Whether you have a part time or full time waiting gig, are paying your way through college or covering the bills until you get discovered by Hollywood agents or perhaps you are seriously preparing for a challenging yet satisfying life long career in the; restaurant, bar, catering, tourism, cruise ship, casino, entertainment, industry. If your job is service oriented, we’ve got some basic serving advice that will help you endear yourself to your guests and in return get the best thank you possible, bigger tips!

*If you are in management, clip this article out and post it in the crew break room. You’ll be pleasing your customers, your staff and your bosses when they see the spike in sales and revenue that results.


Food servers’ attitudes represent and reflect the whole dining establishment they are employed by. This is because they are on the front lines, addressing customers personally. Waiters and waitresses are the number one part of a restaurant’s ambiance. Customers rank service as more important than décor or menu selection. How the wait staff conducts themselves sets the tone for the entire dining experience

The most important thing for new service personnel to learn in order to be successful is how to think like a customer. Let’s face the music, most of our customers could have stayed home and made themselves a sandwich for a lot less money than they are going to spend dining out with you. They came to your place of employ because it makes them feel better. They have time on their hands and money to burn! They’ve chosen you to spend it with, out of all their other many, many choices. Shouldn’t you feel honored and privileged? That alone should make you want to prove to them you are worthy of their patronage.

Common sense goes a long way towards knowing what to do and how to act. Think about how you like to be treated. Be polite, courteous, respectful and attentive. It’s not rocket science. Just put yourself in your customers’ shoes. There are plenty of behind the scenes jobs in a restaurant. Once you make the choice to go into the service end of the business, paste on your smile and concentrate on making your customers happy! The size of your tips is your report card!

Let’s start at the beginning:

The customer’s first impression of an eating venue starts outside in the parking lot and on the sidewalk. If the outside isn’t enticing the customers will keep driving or walking past. Therefore, as a waiter or waitress it is in your best interest to help make sure the outside of your place of employ looks its very best at all times. If you are on your way into the restaurant or on your way out, look around. If you see something off such as; trash, light bulbs burnt out, letters missing on the marque, fix it right away, if you can. For something more major, be sure to tell a manager immediately, before you start working and it slips your mind.

When you step onto the business property, you should already be in full uniform and have your game face on. Appearance is everything! So, make sure your uniform is clean and you are well groomed. Look and act like you deserve a bigger tip and you will get bigger tips. Look like a slob and you will be tipped accordingly. If you meet customers coming or going, greet them hospitably even if you haven’t punched in yet. Regardless of your company’s policy or if there is no formal policy towards breaks and your off time, always remember customers don’t want to see the staff huddled outside talking or smoking. Whenever you enter the building, make a show out of going to wash your hands. Never start work, even to help a co-worker in dire need, without first washing up. It is against the health code and leaves a very poor impression with diners.

If one of your friends arrive early and they wish to wait for you to get off work, make sure they know not to hang around the restaurant’s lobby or even outside in the parking lot. And they definitely can’t sit at the counter or a table unless they are ordering something.

When you are working your shift, you are the authority. Everyone else’s paycheck is relying on you. You are the liaison between your customer and everyone else. Act the part! Take control. Communicate whatever you need to whoever you need and do it clearly and with authority. Your customers’ satisfaction comes first, above your coworkers’ feelings. Tell the cooks what you need done to make the customer happy. If the customer asks for something you are not comfortable with, run it by your manager. Management almost always bends the rules to please customers. Never just assume. Always allow the manager the choice to okay or turn down even the most outrageous requests. Management will generally bend over backwards for a customer and that means a huge tip for you!

Waiter and waitressing basics (101)

  1. Always take the time to politely introduce yourself and inquire how everyone at the table is doing today, no matter how busy the dining room is. Block out all distractions and give your guests your total attention. Make at least one dining suggestion before you even lift your order pad as if you are ready to take the order. It is simply just rude to jump right in with, “Okay, What can I get you guys?” It all starts with showing common courtesy and creating a rapport.
  2. Study your menu and know it backwards, forwards, upside down and inside out. You can’t represent your guests’ best interests if you don’t know what each menu item tastes like, how it is prepared and what goes into making it. You need to be able to answer your guests’ questions with confidence. You need to know how to offer suggestions and additions to whatever they order that will enhance their experience and meal, as well as enhance your tip! If they order the salmon steak you should be quick to suggest. “Baked with dill seasoning is my personal favorite but the Blackened salmon fillet is our most popular. You can also order that pan seared topped with our chef’s lemon, pepper and garlic sauce or broiled and topped with sweet curry peach sauce or perhaps lightly brushed with olive oil.”
  3. Take a course in short hand or develop your own way of using symbols and abbreviating things in a way you’ll understand and be able to recall what you write quickly. It takes too long and is exhausting to write everything all the way out for a table of eight. While we are on the subject of taking orders, always carry extra pens, a backup order pad and some scratch paper. If your pen runs out of ink and you are forced to leave the table in the midst of taking a large complicated order, it will be brutal for you to remember where you left off as well as it being a much unwanted distraction for your guests.
  4. Never refill drinks over the table. You are tempting fate and deserve a disastrous, embarrassing spill. Never reach over one guest to serve another. Again, risking fate.
  5. Check your order over thoroughly before you bringing it out to the table and are embarrassingly informed by your guests that something was made wrong or something is missing.
  6. Once the order is delivered, ask if there is anything else you can get them. Then allow your guests to get situated and adjusted to start digging in. After just a minute or two, stop back and check if everything is to everyone’s approval.
  7. Never prejudge guests! Don’t worry about your fellow servers who roll their eyes at you or cackle in reference to the haggard looking couple who just got seated in your section. Every dinning guest deserves your utmost attention and deepest courtesy. With experience you’ll realize it is impossible to distinguish, with a glance, who the big tippers are going to be. Even attempting to figure that out is waste of time and counterproductive.
  8. Always be professional and keep your cool when confronted by angry customers. Mind your manners. Remember, other customers may be watching and you represent the restaurant. Serving can be very stressful. Hang in there and be polite

Remember, the waitresses and waiters who make the most tips have put the time and effort into cultivating a slew of regulars who routinely request to be seated in their station. Do something special, over and above the call and you will quickly gain customer loyalty too.

More Tips For Bigger Tips

Besides basing the amount of a tip on the quality of the service, most people also decide how much they are going to leave you based on a percentage of their total bill. Thus, the bigger their bill, the bigger your tip will be. Therefore, it is in your best interest to suggest high end, pairings to go along with every order. Again, this goes along with knowing your menu. Don’t just suggest add-ons, “How about broccoli with that?” You have to describe the complimentary flavors that gets their mouths watering. This goes double for suggesting specialty beverages and desserts.

Act like an expert, carry yourself like a pro and you’ll be tipped appropriately. Talk and act with confidence. It’s all in your demeanor. You are the most influential ingredient to the ambiance of your guests dining experience. Set the tone, set the mood for a fantastic meal!

Be personable, read your guests, figure out what the occasion is that brought them here. Trying to oversell to a table full of businessmen stressing to catch a quick lunch break is pointless and can be annoying. On the other hand, suggesting and pointing out the menu items which your kitchen excels at preparing fast, is quite informative and helpful and will be appreciated in the size of the gratuity they reward you for your quick thinking and understanding. If your guests are obviously celebrating a special occasion, you need to recognize that, make a fuss. Perhaps this is a good time to suggest a bottle of your best champagne.

There is a big difference between being an order taker and being a salesperson. High earning waiters and waitresses promote food and drinks. They are enthusiastic about adding to their customers’ experience. They are ambassadors for their chef’s newest creations and the specialties of the house. They push for add on soup, appetizer and dessert orders because they are passionate about assuring their customers have a memorable time.


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