How waiters increase their tips

How waiters increase their tips

You wouldn’t think may waiters or servers have the time to think about ways of earning more money from their paying customers but these ‘sneaky’ tricks (that are actually pretty amazing) are becoming more common knowledge:

  • In US research elbow touching female servers made 36% more tips from male customers than non-touching female servers and also in other research males would drink more alcohol when this happens which in-turn increases the bill and therefore the tip.
  • While male servers increased their earnings by 22% regardless of the sex of the customer.
  • The higher up the arm the touch, the more friendly it is considered to be – so go carefully unless you want to freak them out
  • Any touch longer than 3 seconds will massively ruin this effect, people will think you’re weird

  • Be extremely careful being flirtatious or dominating as this could reduce the amount of tips rather than increase them, also if a couple are obviously on a romantic date this could cause jealousy from the partner, guess you could try and do it to both parties, however one wrong move and it might go horribly wrong. Maybe wait until you’ve perfected the technique or focus on the other ideas of this list.
  • Hand touching when done discretely increases your influence over others as well, makes you more memorable and creates positive impressions on everyone, however this is difficult to pull off.
  • You will often see (photo below) politicians shake with their right hand and touch the upper arm with the left hand – this instantly gives an influential, memorable & positive impression. It’s almost like a mini professional hug/embrace.


  • Increase the total spend on the table equals a large standard tip

Some of the next points were from a study in Holland and give an estimated increase in tip size in percentages alongside.

  • Wear something unusual so that you are perceived as an individual and not just a faceless member of staff (+17%) – Something like a flower or barrette in your hair, this is supposedly due to the fact more attractive staff generally get larger tips and this small item enhances this.
  • Introduce yourself by name when greeting customers (+50%)
  • Squat next to the table (clearly not for fine dining), builds rapport due to increased congruence (+23%)
  • Repeat customers’ orders (briefly), apparently +100% but the study was done in Holland
  • Smile at customers, preferably a real smile (+100%)
  • Generally making feel special, one-off treats/freebies/advice

  • Entertain customers – apparently even lame jokes work (+50% though possibly higher for a funnier joke)
  • Forecast good weather, we all like sunshine, it puts us in a good mood (+19%)
  • Writing ‘thank you’ on the bill (+12%)
  • Drawing smiley faces on the bill (+17%)
  • Possibly look at combining both a thank you + a personalised drawing, as an example if you have children at the table maybe ask them their favourite animal or ask if they have a pet, ask the name. Get good at drawing the main household animals like dog, cat, hamster etc and draw it quick (remember it must be a quick drawing but a good one).
  • Giving sweets with the bill such as take away bon-bons / chocolates etc (+20%)
  • Call customers by name (+10%)


The more customers spend the more your tip will be (generally)

The more customers spend the more your tip will be (generally)

This story from Robert B. Cialdini, PhD, author of the book Influence proves a more technical approach, he relates the story of one waiter who did the following for large parties in his restaurant:

When it was time to take the order, the waiter would start with one of the ladies at the table, and when she ordered, no matter what she selected, he would furrow his brow, lean toward the table and say “I’m afraid that is not as good tonight as it normally is. Might I recommend instead the X or the Y”. The genius here is that the both X and the Y would be dishes that cost LESS than the original order. The waiter would then follow up with ‘They are both excellent tonight’.

This works on so many levels:

  • The table feels the waiter has done them a favour by offering valuable information to help them order
  • People feel gratitude and people reciprocate their gratitude by leaving a higher percentage tip
  • It establishes the waiter as an authority on the offerings of the restaurant, knowing what’s good and what’s bad and therefore to be listened to on recommendations
  • Since he suggested a lower priced menu item, he is seen to put the customer first, establishing the waiter as ‘a trustworthy informant’

The waiter is now considered by all to be honest and knowledgeable. Of course, when the food was ordered, the waiter would ask ‘would you like me to recommend some wine to go with that?’ The table now trusts that the waiter i) knows what he’s talking about, and ii) will put the table’s interest first. This allows the waiter an easy opportunity to sell the table excellent, but expensive wine.


It sounds obvious but helping customers make decisions will make them like you which should increase your chances of them leaving a larger tip

As Cialdini reports:

By combining the factors of reciprocity and credible authority into a single, elegant maneuver, the waiter is able to inflate substantially both the percentage of his tip and the base charge on which it is figured.

See what happens when someone tips £130 ($200)


Sources + more reading:


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Important things to remember with everything we post:

  • If you earn over your personal allowance (currently £12,570 a year) HMRC need to get their % cut (even if the money is in cash or from another country)
  • If you’re working for yourself / earning an income on the side you need to let HMRC know – There are numerous benefits but also some drawbacks
  • You need to always ensure whatever you’re doing is legal and not hurting anyone else – be careful and always think twice
  • Some income streams may require you to have DBS check, licence, insurance or qualifications before you can start to profit from it, do your research.
  • Be careful that any additional income doesn’t compromise your studies or main income/job
  • If you work for a company check your contract, if you don’t inform them you’re working on other side projects outside of work they may have grounds to ownership on this work

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