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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 l.jpg

Increasing Servers’ Tips

Ben Dewald

The Collins College of Hospitality Management

Cal Poly, Pomona

Introduction l.jpg

  • 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.

Background l.jpg

  • 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

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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

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Attributes Affecting Tips

Controllable & Uncontrollable

  • Related to service quality

  • Questionable service quality

  • Gender specific

  • Customer

  • Payment

  • Weather

  • Culture Specific

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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

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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

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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!

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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).

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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%

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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).

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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.