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Increasing Servers’ Tips. Ben Dewald The Collins College of Hospitality Management Cal Poly, Pomona. Introduction. Whether or not customers tip depends a lot on the service received, as well as whether or not they think they will be returning to the same establishment.

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increasing servers tips

Increasing Servers’ Tips

Ben Dewald

The Collins College of Hospitality Management

Cal Poly, Pomona

  • Whether or not customers tip depends a lot on the service received, as well as whether or not they think they will be returning to the same establishment.
  • Sometimes guests leave tips simply because it is expected.
  • Believe it or not, a lot of research has gone into why restaurant patrons tip and what makes them tip more or less for similar service. Tipping is not always simply a sign of a job well done.
  • This presentation will reveal some interesting facts about server habits that can boost tip percentages.
  • In theory customers reward good service with money (Schein et al. 84; Lynn et al. 93)


  • Bill size prominent variable affecting tip (Lynn & Grassman 1990; Lynn, 1988; Freeman et al. 1975)
  • Servers tend to work for a 15 - 20% commission
the global perspective
The Global Perspective
  • People from around the world give voluntary sums of money, called tips, to service workers
  • Most service worker are tipped in America and Southern Europe
  • Hardly practiced in Asia & Down under
attributes affecting tips
Attributes Affecting Tips

Controllable & Uncontrollable

  • Related to service quality
  • Questionable service quality
  • Gender specific
  • Customer
  • Payment
  • Weather
  • Culture Specific
related to service quality
Related to Service Quality
  • Server smiling at guests(Tidd & Lockhard, 1978)
  • Making extra visits to the table(Fitzsimmons & Maurer, 1991)
  • Introducing oneself (Garrity & Degelman, 1990)
server smiling at guests tidd lockhard 1978
Server Smiling at Guests(Tidd & Lockhard, 1978)
  • Tested in a Seattle cocktail lounge
  • Randomly assigned half to receive
    • Large, open-mouth smile
    • Small, closed mouth smile
    • Small smile average tip of 20 cents
    • Big small average tip of 48 cents
  • Increase of 140%
  • Encourage your staff to flash big smiles
server introduction garrity degelman 1990
Server Introduction(Garrity & Degelman, 1990)
  • Good morning. My name is Kim & I’ll be serving you this morning. Have you ever been to Charlie Brown’s for brunch before?
  • Large effect on tip
    • $3.49 (15%) with no name
    • $5.44 (23%) with name
  • Earned $2 more
  • Suggest your staff to introduce themselves professionally
service better tips
Service ? Better Tips
  • Casually touching guests(Lynn et al., 1998; Lynn, 1996; Hornik, 1992; Stephen & Zweigenhaft, 1986; Crusco & Wetsel, 1984).
  • Squatting at the table by servers resulted in larger tips (Lynn, 1996; Lynn & Mynier, 1993).
  • Credit-card insignia on tip trays increased tips even when paying cash (Feinberg, 1986; Lynn, 1996)
  • writing “Thank You” on checks also resulted in larger tips (Rind & Bordia, 1995).
  • Giving candies
  • Servers experienced a tip increase from 11.8% to 14.8% of the check total when they briefly touched the shoulder of the customer.
  • Both men and women left higher tips when touched, and although younger customers increased their tip amount more, all ages increased the tip by some amount.
  • Two studies showed that serers who squatted next to the table when taking orders and talking with customers increased their tips from 14.9% of the bill to 17.5% of the bill in one study, and from 12% to 15% in another study.
  • Apparently, the eye contact and closer interaction creates a more intimate connection and makes us want to give the server more money.
credit card insignia on tip trays
Credit-Card Insignia on Tip Trays
  • Tested in 2 establishments
  • When presenting bill on a tip tray with a credit-card emblem
    • Tips increased from 16 to 20% in the restaurant
    • and from 18 to 22% in the café
  • Not due to increased credit card use all café customers paid in cash
  • Start using tip tray w/ credit-card emblems
writing thank you on checks
Writing “Thank You” on Checks
  • Tested at upscale restaurant in Philadelphia
  • Randomly assigned lunch customers into 3 groups
    • On the back of the check she wrote
    • Nothing, thank you, thank you & name
    • Average tip 16-18% w/ Thank You
  • Encourage servers to write
giving candy
Giving Candy
  • A study that involved giving customers a piece of candy with their bill showed an increase in tip percentage from 15.1% to 17.8%. Another study in which servers gave each customer two pieces of candy with the bill increased the tip from 19% to 21.6% of the bill.
  • Still another study showed that the way the server gave the customer the candy had the largest impact on the increase of the tip: This study had the server initially give each member of the customer's party one piece of candy and then "spontaneously" offer a second piece of candy. This method increased the tip to 23% of the bill!
gender specific
Gender Specific
  • Waitress’s tips increased by drawing a happy face on checks but did the opposite for waiters(Lynn, 1996),
  • Flowers in a waitress’s hair increased her tips (Stillman & Hensley, 1980) and
  • Good looking waiters made more tips (Lynn & Latané, 1984; Lynn et al., 1993).
  • Male customers tipped more (Lynn & Bond, 1992; Crusco & Wetsel, 1984; Lynn & Latane, 1984; Stillman & Hensley, 1980).
drawing on checks
Drawing on Checks
  • Some waitresses draw a “happy face” on the back of their checks.
    • Personalize serve to customer
    • Communicate to customer server is happy to have served them
    • Make customer smile themselves
  • Waitress 28-33%= +18%
  • Waiter 21-18%= -14%
payment customer weather specific
Payment/Customer/Weather Specific

Tips were higher:

  • Paying by credit card(Lynn & Mynier, 1993; Garrity & Dengelman, 1990; Lynn & Latané, 1984),
  • People that have been drinking(Lynn, 1988)
  • Regular guests(Lynn & Grassman, 1990).
  • on sunny days(Crusco & Wetzel, 1984: Cunningham, 1979).
actions not additive
Actions Not Additive
  • More research needed to be certain but
  • Likely that as tip goes up, so does resistance to further increases
  • Combining actions that separately increase tips will probably not produce an even larger effect.
  • Managers can maximize their servers’ incomes without encouraging them to do all the things discussed.
  • Pick the ones you feel will work for you.