8 Ways to Improve Tips for Servers

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It’s no secret that one of the keys to a successful restaurant is a great staff. In terms of guaranteeing a great dining experience that will result in repeat business, your servers are particularly important, as they are the ones who have the most direct contact with the customers.

For many servers, tips are a huge part of their take-home pay, sometimes exceeding their hourly rate many times over. Working with servers to help them increase tips is a great way to make them feel appreciated and to enable them to make more money. When their income improves, the overall restaurant sales rise, too, so it pays to help them succeed!

Here are 8 easy ways to help servers earn more tips.

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Make sure that they can describe the food. This might sound achingly obvious, but it’s something that is, confoundingly, overlooked at many a restaurant. If a server is asked about a dish and responds “I’ve never tasted it” or “I’m vegan, so I’ve never tried it”, this is a huge turn-off to the customer. 

Making sure that the staff has tried the food you’re serving is extremely important in helping them sell it. If for dietary reasons they are not able to sample a particular dish, that’s fine, but they should be able to offer some descriptive words or thoughts on the dish so that they can inform the customer rather than dismissing them.  

Make sure that servers know your restaurant’s story. To make sure that servers can “sell”, be sure that they are thoroughly educated on the restaurant’s story. Did the restaurant start out as a food truck and then make the jump to brick and mortar? Or are the recipes based on the chef’s grandma’s cooking? Knowing and being able to share interesting aspects of how the business came to be can be a huge selling point. This is something that you can easily impart to your servers during the training period.

The fact is, your servers are going to be part of your restaurant’s overall story, so let them be part of it. It will give them a sense of pride in the establishment, which in turn will help them be better able to sell and provide service.

Add a personal touch. Have you ever been to a restaurant where the check is delivered with slices of orange, a tiny bonbon, or mints? Or even just a smiley face and a “thanks” handwritten by the server? Then chances are, you know that a small personal touch can make a big difference.

Small, personal touches like this have an impact on customers, making them feel “seen” and appreciated when they come to your restaurant. Usually, the output is quite small, but these small gestures can be the difference between a customer settling on a 20 percent tip versus a smaller amount.

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Make sure your staff looks good. We’re not saying that you have to be staffed by professional models, but rather that to send a good impression, your staff should be clean, well kept and well dressed. A well-dressed staff will convey an air of professionalism which immediately helps customers feel as though they are in good hands. But it can be difficult to enforce a dress code, as different servers will have different ideas of appropriate attire.

In general, uniforms or uniform aprons can be extremely helpful in this regard. They make your staff easy to identify, and instantly make them look polished. When the staff looks good, it makes your establishment feel more “official”, which improves the overall dining experience for customers, which can result in higher tips.

Make a connection. “Hi, my name is…”. For a server, a quick introduction is an easy enough thing for a server to do as they seat and/or greet the customers. Easy, but effective.

From the get-go, this quick introduction reminds the customers that their server is a real, live person (sometimes it can be easy to forget!) and should be treated with respect. It sets a good precedent for the dining experience, allowing customers and server to make a connection. When a connection is forged between customer and diner, the overall experience will be more positive for both parties, and often results in larger tips.

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Repeat the order back to customers. Some people (fine, most people!) can be picky about their food order. To ensure that their food comes out just as they want it, train servers to repeat the order back to customers before submitting it to the kitchen.

It only takes a few moments, but this brief parroting-back of the order has many benefits. For one, it reduces confusion: if the customer requested “no onions” and the server hadn’t noted it, this allows the chance to reduce the possibility of kitchen mistakes. It also helps the customer feel secure in that they are being listened-to and taken care of, which is an important part of the dining-out experience for many. When the orders come out just as the customers want, the tips will absolutely be higher.

Check on customers. After the customers have had the chance to taste the course that has just been delivered to them, it’s a great idea for servers to swoop by for a quick check-in. This allows them to bring the customers anything they may need (salt, pepper, extra cutlery) and tells them that your establishment cares about their enjoyment of the meal.

Be sure that the check-in is well-timed; it should be after they have tasted their food, but not too long after they have been served that they are “left hanging” waiting for something. Also, a brief check-in or two will do: hovering or obsequious service is typically not appreciated by customers.

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Allow your servers some power. Giving your servers a certain amount of responsibility can help result not only in bigger tips, but greater customer satisfaction. For instance, you can give servers permission to comp an appetizer or dessert for customers based on their own judgment. If a customer is cranky, this can help boost their mood and keep them from posting a bad review; if it is for a customer who has just announced that they got engaged or shared some happy news, it can help make their evening extra-special.

Allowing your servers the ability to make decisions like this can really help make your restaurant sparkle and remain positive in people’s minds, and more often than not, it results in higher tips.


Conclusion: Servers often live off of their tips, so it’s important to help them out in making the most income possible. By taking steps like properly training your staff, outfitting them appropriately, and giving them authority and responsibility, you’ll make sure that your staff is positioned to make the best tips they possibly can by providing exceptional service. It will make your servers happy; when your staff feels good, it has the effect of boosting the overall effectiveness and mood of your restaurant, which has a huge impact on boosting sales.
What’s your favorite way to boost customer tips?

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