Whether you're working at an upscale dining establishment or a casual restaurant, being a server is tough work. Servers have a number of jobs. Not only do they actually serve the food, but they're required to take orders, offer menu information and provide diners with a comfortable eating experience. Servers are the ambassadors between the restaurant and customers. Often, being a server can be stressful, with multiple tables forcing you to multitask, testing your memory and sometimes your patience.
Despite these tough tasks, many servers aren't paid particularly well. In early 2014, NPR discussed how a potential hike in the federal minimum wage could benefit servers and other tip workers. The news organization pointed out that there's a lot of misinformation surrounding the amount of money that servers actually make. The federal minimum wage for servers is only $2.13 per hour.
Many people assume that number grows significantly after tips, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics explained that when tips are accounted for, the average hourly wage for food and beverage servers in 2012 was only $8.84 an hour and $18,400 a year – comparable to many states' minimum wages for non-tip workers.
Most servers have little influence over what state and federal minimum wage laws are, so the best way that they can improve their income is by getting better tips. Although there's no guaranteed way to increase the amount that your customers tip you, there are a number of ways that have been found to be beneficial in getting a higher percentage. Here are a few of the best ways servers can improve the amount they're tipped.
1. Dress the part
Many restaurants have specific uniforms or dress codes that help make servers look more authoritative and part of the team. Often, slip-resistant shoes are an important aspect of what a waiter or waitress wears to improve safety for frequent trips in and out of the kitchen.
Psychology Today magazine advised that in addition to other clothing requirements, female servers wear something personal in their hair to add uniqueness.
"Female servers who wear ornamentation in their hair such as flowers, real or fake, barrettes, or other similar objects receive higher tips from both male and female customers," the magazine explained.
The magazine speculated that these hair decorations may make female servers more attractive, which correlates to higher tips, although there's no evidence to support that attractive men get higher tips from males or females.
2. Tell customers your name
Introducing yourself is basic politeness, but many experts agree that for servers, it can translate to better tips. Not only does it show you're polite, but you've also established a personal bond, which can make customers feel more connected to you. The Chicago Tribune also explained that a simple introduction can make servers seem friendlier. The newspaper explained that tips have been found to increase by nearly $2 on average when servers introduce themselves.
3. Repeat the order
In addition to saying your own name, repeat the order back to the customers. This isn't just a good trick to help imprint the order in your memory. CNN Money magazine told servers that this also gives customers confidence that you heard their entire order. This type of thoroughness is rewarded when it's time to pay the bill.
4. Make eye contact and work hard
Bending down to make eye contact with customers can help establish a further line of connection between yourself and the customers that can help improve the amount you receive in tips. But the simplest tip, Psychology Today explained, is to simply work hard and provide the best service. Not everyone will notice you going the extra mile, but those who do are likely to reward your hard work.
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