Four Strategies for Restaurant Servers to Ensure a Big Tip


Strategies for servers to get a big tip!I spent several teenage years working as a restaurant server and hostess. Now, I travel and eat out a lot. And when it comes to service, I have high expectations. I mentally rate the service I receive, so I decided to put it down on paper and use it when I review restaurants here on the blog. And if you’re in the hospitality industry, read on to find out the four ways to ensure a big tip!

One: Service would have to be downright horrific for me to rate it a one. This might include ignoring me, forgetting my requests, chatting with the bartender or co-workers when I am waiting on something, being blatantly rude or completely clueless.

Two: Service is pretty bad, but at least showed some effort. You bring me the wrong food, but you apologize and rectify it. You’re slow, but you demonstrate you are trying or offer something to placate me.

Three: Service is adequate. Nothing bad happens during the meal, but I’m not left feeling any love.

Four: Good, solid service. Server is friendly and attentive, and makes recommendations and upsells. Drinks are never empty and food is always hot (unless it’s supposed to be cold).

Five: I feel the love! Five-star servers go above and beyond, like the time our server at a Chinese restaurant saw my daughter picking the tasty pork out from her fried rice and brought her a small bowl of pork – minus the rice.

how to get a good tip in a restaurant
Blow-torching our creme brulee table-side and writing “Happy Birthday” on the plate is a five-star service strategy!

Yes, serving nasty, drunk – or even nice – people can test your patience. I’ve done it. But it isn’t that difficult for servers to deliver a stellar, five-star experience and earn a memorable tip. Try these key strategies:

1. Smile. Act like you’re happy to be working. You don’t have to actually be happy, but for this shift, act like it. I want you to be excited that I’ve chosen your restaurant. Make me feel welcome. That’s the most effective way to make customers happy.

2. Upsell. I love it when my server recommends a good wine or beer pairing, a luscious dessert, or an add-on that I might not have thought of. Sell more = bigger check = bigger tip.

3. Get things right. We’ve all had (or been) the person who deconstructs an entree and wants it “just so.” Write down the request and be sure it’s plated perfectly before you bring it out. No cheese means no cheese. This is especially crucial with children and people with allergies.

4. Be attentive. Check in regularly. Be sure the beverage glasses are always filled. Anticipate needs and wants – I should never have to ask for ketchup when fries are on the table. If you see something not being eaten, ask if it’s ok and if you can fix or replace it.

What are your pet peeves or five-star requirements when it comes to restaurant service?


  1. We know that wait staff works hard and relies on tips, so we try to tip well, even if the service is just OK. We really feel the love when the water glass stays full. We also appreciate restaurants and wait staff who meet the specific needs of families with young children. Offering to bring kids’ entrees asap, moving everything along quickly, etc.

    At one restaurant, we received friendly greetings from the staff at least three times on the way to our table and were assigned a very cheerful server. We ordered a meal that included a dessert, and near the end of the meal, I mentioned to my husband that I was looking forward to the dessert. Out came the waiter from the kitchen with the dessert! Made me wonder if there was a hidden mic at our table. We were impressed, and few restaurants have outdone that memorable meal for the service.


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