So, you’re working in the service industry and you realized that the hourly portion of your salary won’t take you very far.
Now you don’t really know if you made the right move or if you’ll be able to make the money you were expecting.
Or maybe you’re an experienced server and you’re still trying to hustle for a few extra dollars, you know, keeping yourself sharp.
I’m going to give you 5 tips on how you can get more tips:
- Be genuine: This is the most important of the five. I’ve been preaching this to all my servers and trainees over the years. Be genuine and be yourself.
Most restaurants today have “fail-proof” way for you to maximize your revenue opportunities. It’s usually a step by step guide they use to train new team members on how to “conduct” their customer’s experience. Generally, the hit the same “points”: greeting, drinks, appetizer, mains, drink with main, dessert, after meal beverage.
The issue with this type of training is that the new employee is trying so hard to remember what to say and when, plus taking the orders, considering modifications and preferences, etc. that they become very robotic. “Welcome to Bla Bla, every Tuesday we have Drink Special, can I get you a drink?”.
The difference between service, good service and great service (service = tips) is making it personal. You have to be recognized as more than “our server” and become Dean or Anna or whoever you are. Become a real person! When you stop being a generic server you’ll get more than generic tips.
2. Control the pacing: this is a more advanced technique and I understand that if you’re a newbie, you’re probably already “in the weeds” just by going through your motions. But controlling the pacing is the best way to customize a dinner’s experience (and therefore making customers “tip happy”).
Once you’re used to the pacing of your restaurant it’s as easy as pie. All you really have to do is notice who you’re serving.
Example: if it’s lunchtime and you have a table of professional-looking individuals, chances are they only have 45 min to one hour to eat and go back to the office. Here’s how you find out: ask them! “How are you on time today? Quick lunch or a relaxed lunch?”
If it’s quick lunch, make sure you’re suggesting fast meals. Be a little more efficient taking orders, maybe get apps, mains and dessert at the same time. Consider the kitchen when you’re doing that. If they know what’s coming ahead of time, chances of their dishes being delayed are minimal.
If it’s a date or a meeting, be sure to take your time. Keep refills coming and so on, but don’t interrupt your customer’s all the time. And if you have to interrupt make sure you say “I’m sorry, but I needed to confirm…”.
3. Suggest appropriate upgrades/upselling: serving is selling don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s not. And if you have a manager you’ll be hearing a lot of, “upsell this, and upsell that”.
Upselling is the art of suggesting a charged item to accompany or complement one meal. A good example, here in Ontario at least, is the sweet potato fries (SPFs as I call them) or yam fries. People are crazy about them and they add at least $3 to your bill.
Make sure it’s appropriate though. Don’t go suggesting garlic mayo with a dessert (duh!). But if you do it well enough, you’re actually complementing you costumers experience with something that probably makes your restaurant unique as well.
Here are some that are always winners:
- SPFs or garlic fries to complement a burger or sandwich.
- An espresso or cappuccino instead of a regular coffee.
- A Baileys coffee or specialty (alcoholic) coffee with a dessert.
- “House Dip” or gravy with an appetizer or with regular fries.
- An “extra” (or double) shot on their drink, such as Rye and Ginger, Rum and Coke, etc.
You’ll be surprised how much those dollars add up at the end of the day.
4. Bill them right: bringing the bill or pushing for the bill is the time when a lot of good servers miss out. Sometimes because they get uncomfortable when it comes to money, and other times by “pushing” too hard (like at the end of a shift) to get the table to close.
When the experience comes to an end, like at a play or a movie, you have to make sure you bring on a memorable finale, and not on the bad side.
Be aware of the cues, like a wallet or credit card on the table. Also be aware of who’s paying: presenting a bill to a business table to the “guest” can be a very uncomfortable situation for the ‘host” (and seriously affect your tip).
Don’t be pushy and do things like keep coming back at annoying rates or repeatedly asking if they want the bill. If they want it they’ll ask for it.
Make sure you clarify that the experience is coming to an end. A good exercise is to do a checkup: “Is there anything else I can do for you?” and when they answer “no”, be polite and say “please let me know when you’d like the bill”. And walk away, but keep a sharp eye for that hand gesture (you know that one, the signing in the air).
When the bill arrives, make sure you’re quick taking payment. A friend manager used to say that delaying on bringing the change or the machine was holding people hostage. Although aggressive is a very good analogy, you are holding people against their will. They are ready to go do whatever they have to do, just set them free.
5. Have a lot of change: This isn’t a hustle per se, but it’s close to one. A fact of life is “people hate small change”, even the Scrooges hate a pocket rattling with small coins. So a trick I sometimes used was to have as part of my float a bunch of small coins.
This only works for cash payments. When you get a cash payment, especially one with large bills over a small value, break the change into some bills and a bunch of coins. The trick is not to be too greedy and give twenty dollars in ten cents coins, but to have a good mix, calculate what 15-20% of the bill would be and give that quantity away in smaller change.
Chances are, if your customer is feeling lazy after a good meal, that they don’t want to do the hard math and just let you keep those coins. It’s not 100% accurate, but in my experience, it works quite often.
And again those cents really add up. I kept track of all my tips and sometimes I would end the day with more money in coins than bills.
I hope this helps you to improve your skills and fatten your wallet.
At the end of the day though, there are no short-cuts. If you know your product, and take the time to “listen to your customers” (verbal and non verbal cues), you’ll be a better server than average and make better tips than average.