One of the benefits of working front of house in the service industry is your level of control over your income. No, you can’t increase your base rate. But when you tie great service to a few simple tricks, you can dramatically increase your tip percentage.
On your next shift, try these six tactics to wow your guest and bring in higher tips.
Introduce Yourself by Name
Add a personal introduction to your greet, if you haven’t already. It helps to humanize you to the guests and create a personal connection. One study showed that this simple step increased tip percentage from 15% to 23.4%!
Another way to improve your greet is to reach the table within seconds of being sat, not minutes. This can be tough when you’re in the middle of a busy shift. If you have full hands, just stop by briefly, smile, and say you’ll be right with them. That way the guest knows that they’ve been spotted and that someone is coming back soon.
People tip people they like. A friendly, smiling face is much more likable than a neutral one! So even if you’re having a tough shift—and of course, they happen—do your best to put that away and keep smiling. One experiment showed that a big, toothy grin increased tips by 140% compared to a small smile!
Eye contact is also key. You shouldn’t be staring people down, but scan the table and try to meet everyone’s eyes when you greet them. It will create a short moment of connection and make you appear more personable. Guests don’t want to be a burden. Make them feel welcome and you’ll do your wallet a big favor.
Work on Your Upsell
The concept of “upselling” customers—encouraging them to purchase additional or more expensive items—can make some hospitality workers uncomfortable. It brings to mind pushy salespeople and insincere claims about what’s good at the bar or restaurant.
Forget all that! Here’s the truth about upselling. Yes, it increases the check total which will increase your tip. But it’s also better customer service. You are the guest’s primary interaction with the restaurant, bar, or café. So it’s up to you to provide guidance toward the best possible experience.
If the $30 bottle of wine is leaps and bounds better than the $25 bottle, you’re not doing the customer any favors by not telling them. If the pan-fried brussels sprouts are the best side on the menu, don’t you think the guest wants to know? Make specific recommendations for the restaurant or bar’s most popular cocktail. At a coffee shop, the barista can suggest a muffin or danish with each coffee they sell.
During your next shift, play a little game. Look for just one upsell opportunity for every group, and track how often they take your suggestion. You might be surprised how often it works, and how pleased your guests are with your recommendations.
What about appetizers and desserts? This can be a bit more complicated since these courses increase the check total and increase the time it takes to turn the table. A good rule of thumb is if the restaurant is on a wait, don’t try to upsell courses that will make the meal longer. You’d rather turn the table and sell a new round of entrées. But if there is no one waiting, you can and should encourage the guests to have appetizers and desserts.
Drop the Check at the First Opportunity
Some people are ready to go the moment they finish the last bite of their entree. Others prefer to relax, sipping the rest of their wine and enjoying the conversation.
But no one likes to sit at the table waiting for the check when they want to leave. Since you’re not a mind reader, you have no idea which groups want to go and which want to linger. Drop the check early, so the guests can pay as soon as they’re ready. Here’s how.
After the entree plates have been cleared, print the check and slip it in your apron pocket with a check presenter. You can now offer coffee and dessert. And if the guests say no, you can drop the check right then and there, without another trip to the POS. Many guests will drop their cards the moment they receive the check, letting you turn the table more quickly.
And there will be no irritating delay waiting for the check, right before they write in that all-important tip amount.
Write “Thank You” on the Check
A 1995 study showed that when servers wrote “thank you” on the back of the check, they saw an increase in their tip percentage. See if it still works! At your next shift, write “thank you” on half of your checks and see if you see a corresponding increase in those tips.
Treat Regulars Like VIPs
Don’t we all want to have a Cheers moment, when we pop into our local pub, restaurant, or coffee shop and everyone is happy to see us? You know that regulars are often your most reliable source of income. And the more they feel like “part of the family,” the more likely they are to take good care of you.
Ask if they’d like “the usual,” whatever that may be. Make personalized recommendations. If they’re a beer drinker, ask if they’d like to try the new IPA that just came in. Inquire after their work or their families. This is their home away from home, so make it a nice one. You’ll both benefit.