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How to Earn More Tips as a Waiter or Waitress

Three Methods:Being the Best ServerMaking a Connection with CustomersEncouraging Bigger Bills

Getting great tips may feel like it comes down to the mood of the table, but in reality the amount of tips you earn is entirely up to you. Getting higher tips, on average, is all about having good customer service skills. If you can keep a smile on, learn the menu, and remember that "the customer always comes first," you'll quickly increase your tip income.

Method 1
Being the Best Server

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    Assist guests before they even get to your tables. Opening the door and greeting a guest also gives you a chance to check them in with the hostess. Knowing and using a guest's name is an important first step in creating a valuable repeat customer who may request your station when they return, and they usually tip much higher.
    • This might not be possible on busy shifts. That said, you can still help your guests by having waters ready and at the table, for example, right before they sit down.[1]
    • Checking in quickly to say "hello" or "welcome, as they sit down is a quick, small way to make a connection before the meal begins.[2]
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    Anticipate your guest's needs. If your table orders fries, you might be wise to bring ketchup (these are often called pre-sets or pre-drops). If your table orders messy food, bring extra napkins. Be a great waiter and anticipate their needs, don’t make them ask. Keep an eye on the table whenever you pass by, and make a mental note of any pressing needs -- empty water glasses, dropped forks, etc. -- and step in when needed.
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    Do not pester your guests. Checking on them verbally every time you visit your section may backfire and become irritating. Your guest will let you know if they need anything when you are walking through. Providing refills, napkins, etc. will ensure that the only thing they should ask you for is the check.
    • There is a fine line between anticipating needs and annoying your guests. To help, imagine that your guests are always in the middle of a very important conversation. They don't want this conversation to be broken up or interrupted unless completely necessary. Refilling waters quietly, placing silverware, etc. are fine, but stopping them to ask "if they need anything?" every 5 minutes will quickly grow old.
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    Make yourself seem approachable when taking orders. People will have questions, want to make substitutions, and may even want recommendations. When taking orders, stand close to the table, and even consider crouching slightly so that you're nearer to eye-level. In some studies the closer a waiter gets to the table, the higher their tips became.
    • Ask kids and women for their orders first. This is basic, but most waiters and waitresses miss it. When you follow this basic cultural rule you will be amazed how the tips just seem to roll in.
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    Repeat the order exactly. Several studies have discovered that you earn more tips if you repeat the order of each guest exactly - not paraphrased. Your guests will then (unconsciously) think that you are similar to them and it will help to make a connection.
    • This also shows lets them feel like they are being paid attention to, and assures them that they will be taken care.
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    Never let their drinks run out. This is so basic, but when not done well it can really hurt you financially. If you know they suck those things down, you might consider bringing them two at once. Don't feel the need to ask them for refills: if it gets low, bring another. When the whole table orders water, bringing extra doesn't hurt either.[3]
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    Have the check ready to deliver once you've sent for dessert, coffee, etc. Print their checks after you send the order, desserts, coffees, etc. and place in a check presenter. No guest wants to wait for their server to return with their check so it helps to always have it on the ready. One minute to a server may feel like five to a guest.
    • Once the check is presented, don't disappear. When people get the check they're ready to leave, so you need to get it processed and finished to move them out the door.
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    Offer to box up their meal. Instead of bringing your guest a box, offer to do it for them. Some will say no, in which case you may bring a box for them, but this will really be going the extra mile and will help your case when it comes time to tip.
    • Note: this is illegal in some states. - Make sure you know your employer's policies beforehand.
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    Be courteous and helpful to the bussers and cooks. You cannot earn your tips alone, and a chef with a grudge could always wait a little longer to cook your food if you've been rude to them. As a result, your table will be left to wait, and they'll likely pay you less in tips as a result.
    • This is not just for restaurants where the entire staff splits tips. You should always be kind, courteous, and helpful with your staff -- as neither of you would have jobs without the other.

Method 2
Making a Connection with Customers

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    Fall in love with your job. When you truly love being a server, it shows. You will become infectious with your good attitude and earn larger tips. People are proven to tip higher when they feel a social connection with their server, as if they could be friends. The best way to cultivate this attitude is to enjoy your work and interactions with others.
    • A big, open-lipped smile can increase tips up to 140%.[4]
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    Look good and smell nice. Take some time to get presentable before arriving to work. A dirty waiter or waitress is unpleasant to look at and reflects poorly on you and the restaurant. Wash your apron and uniform, and make an effort to wear nice clothes when at work. While attractiveness hasn't been proven to increase tips for male waiters, effort and cleanliness definitely does.
    • Women should wear a little basic make-up to earn more tips, as a French study showed that 50% more men left tips to waitresses wearing make-up than those wearing none. Unfortunately, more attractive women have been proven to get higher tips than less, but you should exploit this fact for your own benefit as well.[5]
    • The same study found that adding a bit of personality to your outfit, like a flower or button, increased tips by roughly 15%. For women, this is particularly noticeable when wearing something in your hair.[6]
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    Introduce yourself. In order to build connections with customers, and thus increase your tips, be sure to let the table know your name. When you arrive, say hello and let them know your name before launching into the specials. Waitstaff who introduced themselves earned roughly $2 more per bill.[7]
    • If the table offers you their names, be sure to remember them and use them. The best way to do this is when you get the check. When returning a credit or debit card, be sure to thank the name on the card when handing over the check -- it's been shown to increase tips.[8]
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    Give the customers a little something extra, like a mint or simple drawing. When people feel treated or gifted upon, they generally try to "pay back" the person being generous to them. Even writing a simple "Thank You" on the back of a check was shown to increase tips, and simple smiley faces and pictures help as well.[9]
    • Being kind and generous during the meal can create the same effect. If someone spills something, or an order doesn't come out perfectly, you should offer to rectify the situation for them as best you can.
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    Learn to turn tables over. This is especially crucial when it is busy or the restaurant is filling up. While you should always be kind and courteous, you want people to eat, pay, and move on so that you can get a new table, and thus a new tip. To do this, come collect the dishes once everyone has finished eating, and ask about further courses (like dessert) instead of waiting for them to ask you.[10]

Method 3
Encouraging Bigger Bills

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    Become a product expert by knowing your menu back to front. Notice that when you meet a waiter or waitress that has tried everything on the menu, you tend to listen to their recommendations a lot more. If you want to earn more tips, make a decision to eat everything on the menu and then tell your tables what you enjoyed. They will appreciate it and tip you more.
    • You should, at a minimum, be able to recommend 3-5 dishes that you've sampled and enjoy. You should also know any common allergens in each dish, as well as basic dietary restrictions (vegetarian or not, gluten-free, etc.)[11]
    • Talk to the chefs about their recipes and food. They can offer you great little bits of information, such as drink pairings and where ingredients come from, that will make you seem all the more knowledgeable.
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    Sell more food. When you have higher check totals you get bigger tips. Offer appetizers, drinks and deserts by name. Use enticing and descriptive words like rich, creamy, smooth, spicy, etc. Offer your guest an after dinner espresso or cappuccino. This will warm them up and give them time to think about how great you are and what a giant tip they are going to leave you.
    • You should always, at the very least, offer your guests dessert and/or coffee.
    • Be politely assertive about the food, saying "let me bring you the dessert menu?" instead of "would you guys like to consider dessert?[12]
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    Use "suggestive selling" to help your guests make decisions. To up-sell, suggest an add on item, like a side of shrimp to accompany a steak or chicken in a salad. Helping a group pair food and wine is a great way to suggest that they get an expensive bottle with their meal.
    • Be assertive with your suggestions. For example, it might cost extra to get cheese on a hamburger -- but you don't need to explain that. When someone orders a burger, simply ask, "and you'd like cheese on that?"
    • This may be less productive for you during busy shifts. Adding $5 to a bill results in a small bump in tips, but getting a whole new group to sit down and spend $55 on dinner will result in higher tips overall.[13]
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    Manicure the table as people eat. When the beverage napkins get soggy, replace them. When they are finished with dishes, take them away. If they make a mess, politely help them clean it. People feel better in a clean, tidy environment, and are more likely to get more food if they don't see the scraps from their last course.
    • If a dish is empty, politely ask if you can take it for them. Do not, however, take plates from anyone if someone is still eating. This makes the people still eating feel rushed.
    • Get rid of small things quietly and efficiently. Try and sweep by and avoid distracting the group from their discussion as much as possible.


  • Having a positive attitude is everything, so always keep a smile when on the job.
  • Look your customers in the eyes when they are speaking and focus on what is being said as well as how they are saying it.
  • Add a little flair to your personality to make sure the guests remember you
  • Be friendly. When you come out and introduce yourself, always smile and be nice.
  • If there are kids there, tell them jokes and interact with them. If your restaurant gives away things like balloons or other merchandise, make sure that they get one!
  • If there are more than three or more, serve from left to right. If there are only two, serve the lady or child first.
  • Make lots of suggestions, and reinforce their meal decisions.


  • Do not criticize anyone.
  • The customer is always right!

Things You'll Need

  • A server pad (waiter wallet works amazingly well)
  • Pens
  • Wine opener (optional)
  • Lighter

Article Info

Categories: Hospitality