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It’s You: Three Reasons for Losing Tips

Server TipsThere are many servers and the occasional manager who believe that your tips are based on your clientele.  To them it’s all about the people you have.  Through my experience,  I have found this to be untrue.  Recently, I thought of some things a server could be doing wrong.  With that, I have some information on why a server may be losing tips.

1.    Missing Details

All restaurants have protocols and specifications for restaurant service.  Most restaurants have a specific protocol for front of the house service which is often labled “steps of service.”  It is simple.

A generic outline would read as follows:

  • Greet
  • Take Drink and/ or Appetizer Order
  • Take Order and then Place Food Order
  • Deliver Apps / Salads
  • Clear Plates
  • Deliver Entrees
  • Check Back
  • Clear
  • Offer Dessert / After Dinner Drinks
  • Deliver Check
  • Process Payment Promptly

According to this outline, it is 11 steps.  If you execute these steps effectively, service will go well.  If not, you will create problems that can eat up time and some problems that you cannot resolve, which result in lost revenue or losing future business.  How you prioritize and execute the steps of service is a separate issue, but nonetheless you need to do it.

When problems arise, they are a matter of two things.  They either don’t like you or your work habits and/or you missed steps of service.  More will follow on why they might not like you or your work habits.  As for the missed steps of service, it helps to know why they are important.

The two biggest things that upset patrons are long ticket times and incorrect or unsatisfactory orders.  Should you follow protocol properly, these things are less likely to happen.  If you greet someone on time, and take and place their order promptly, you are less likely to have a long ticket time.  If you perform check backs, specifically within 1 – 3 minutes of delivering a meal, you can resolve any issues with the meal, whether it is an undercooked steak, an incomplete meal, or the dish is incorrect in some way.

2.    Not Knowing the Art of Interaction

Interacting with guests is an art form.  How you execute your interaction rests squarely on you the server.  Most importantly, you should observe and read the cues of the guest and tailor interaction according.

Observe the appearance and makeup of the party

Most communication is non-verbal.  Likewise, good observation is a crucial skill for a server, particularly when it comes to interacting with guests.  The makeup of the party will often give clues as to what kind of interaction.  A business lunch, romantic evening, and birthday celebration will all be treated differently.  The manner in which people speak and the clothing people wear is also important.  By reading the guest, you should get information on how to mold your communication to them.

Mirror the Guests and Tailor Interaction to Their Wants and Needs.

While working in sales, I was instructed to “mirror the client.”  This was the best sales advice I have received.  To do this you mirror their tone.  If they are serious be serious, if they are lighthearted be lighthearted, and if they are quiet keep things to a minimum.  While everyone has their own personality and style, mirroring the guest and adapting your tone is still necessary.

Guests will always dictate the kind of interaction and how much interaction they want. Their experience is what matters.  If they have a good time, you will be taken care of.  I have watched amateurs try and win everyone over and fail.  There is a basic framework for being cordial and polite and there are some instances where you will treat everyone the same.  Everything after that will be dictated by the guest.

3.    The Server Does Not Put Their Best Foot Forward

Lack of Energy, Enthusiasm

When people dine out they expect their server to be coridial, energetic and enthusiastic.  They expect you to make eye contact and smile, have a hospitable attitude, and use hospitable language.  Without this, the patron may feel like they are the burden.  If you look and speak like you do not want to be at the restaurant, the patron will think you do not want to wait on them.  This will hurt your tips at the end of the night.

Volume of Business

Everyone ends up slammed and in the weeds from time to time.  There are also times when the restaurant is running on a skeleton crew or gets overwhelmed with business.  When this happens, the server must be graceful under pressure.  The business is about taking care of as many people as possible.  Lunch and dinner rushes happen within small windows of time.  When the business is there, you need to have a sense of urgency.  Do not miss details or lose business under pressure.

Not Adhering to Grooming and Appearance Standards

This should be obvious.  You must come to work prepared.  You must display a neat and clean uniform, appearance and hygiene.  But anyone who dines out can tell the story of the waiter with the dirty shirt or apron, scruffy beard, or wild hair.  Patrons want the people around their food to be clean.  If you’re not, don’t expect for those same people to tip you.

Guests See You Not Working

This one also should be obvious.   Patrons do not want to see you chatting with friends, watching TV, eating or standing around.  Even if there is nothing else to do.  While this often happens when business is slow or late at night, it does not look good.


Should your tips be less than you would like, fixing the problem could be simple.  While there are many reasons why you could lose a tip, this article provides some basic reasons as to why.  This information can be helpful to servers and also manager’s looking to develop new or inexperienced servers.

Erik Bullman is a Writer and a Waiter.  He has over six years experience in Hospitality and Sales.  His blog is Writer, Salesman, Waiter.

About Erik Bullman

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