How to Be a Good Waitress and Make Excellent Tips

by Ruth Mayhew - Updated June 27, 2018
Waitress taking an order from a couple at a restaurant

In many jurisdictions, tipped employees are paid hourly wages that are lower than the federal or state minimum wage, under U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division regulations. The majority of tipped employees earn just $2.13 per hour, which means that tips for employees such as waitresses are crucial to make what's called a "living wage," or the level of income required to maintain a reasonable standard of living. To earn excellent tips as a waitress, consider factors such as on-the-job training, personality and communication skills as paramount to providing high-quality customer service.

Product Knowledge

Sales workers often rely on product knowledge as the key to being successful. In your job as a waitress, you're selling both a product and service, and in many cases, you learn about the menu selections through on-the-job training and experience. Customers often ask their waitress what's good and it's up to you to know what types of plates the restaurant serves, which are the most popular and, in some case, which ones are your personal favorites. Describing the restaurant's appetizers, entrees and desserts so they appeal to the customer's senses can potentially increase your tips, because you're providing a perspective that cannot be gleaned from simply reading what's on the menu. Even if your customers don't like the dish they ordered, it's unlikely they will hold you personally responsible for the disappointment – they know you don't have control of the menu or the kitchen personnel. According to Toast, a restaurant management blog, the combination of product knowledge and service can be considered selling the customer an experience, and not just a meal.

A Pleasant Disposition Is Worth More Money

Avoid carrying your personal problems into the workplace, because when you're serving customers, they want the dining experience to be a positive one. Even if it means that you have to play a role throughout your shift, smile and greet your customers in a friendly manner. Politeness – a smile and personal introduction, for example – exudes a personable and pleasant disposition that customers appreciate. According to Psychology Today, waitresses who do this have earned, on average, a tip that's $2.00 more than waitresses who merely arrived at the customer's table to hurriedly acknowledge them.

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Improve Your Memory

Many waitresses jot down customer orders; however, it may be seen as unprofessional to keep referring to your notes when you have to recite back to the customer what he ordered or keep asking the customer to remind you what he ordered. In some restaurants, the servers don't even write down the customer's initial order, they commit it to memory. Memorizing your customers' orders is akin to taking a personal interest in them by making it seem like their orders are the most important among your assigned tables. A seasoned, high-earning waitress once reported that her customers were astounded that she remembered their orders and who gave her which credit card for a table with several separately paid checks. She says this level of service makes customers feel important and appreciated. This holds true for repeat customers because people like recognition, and if you remember your regular customer's drink order, that can also translate into better tips.

The Closing Act

Asking your customers if they would like anything else such as coffee or another drink after they've finished a meal can improve their rating of your service, which often results in a better tip. Also, writing a simple "thank you" on the check, handling the customer's payment on an embossed tray and referring to the customer by name when you return a credit card are ways to increase your tips, according to the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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