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Gifted Gourmet

Waiter tip tricks: shouldn't you be aware?

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article from CNN Money

Just read this article in CNN Money and I was quite surprised by some of the information I learned here about how wait staff have their own methods of encouraging their customers to tip more than they might have desired originally.

if some of these techniques were employed at more formal, refi-your-house-to-pay-for-dinner restaurants, they might actually decrease tips.  But in the restaurants they were tested in, each of the moves below had the effect of raising the average tip by anywhere from 10 percent to over 100 percent.
Here's a sampling of the techniques employed:

Squat next to the table... read on ... 

Repeat customers' orders. ....

Upsell...

Give customers candy.....

Call customers by name.....

Draw smiley faces on checks

Forecast good weather

You'll probably come away feeling that you now have some depth of knowledge on how these affect your tip size .. I did! :rolleyes:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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"Most of the studies Lynn cites were all conducted in low- to mid-priced casual dining restaurants such as Applebee's, Cracker Barrel, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse." (Emphasis added by me.)

So, which is it, most or all?

If the writer were hustling for a tip, she'd have lost 50% right there for not caring about her writing.

Still, not a bad little piece. I'll confess that those smiley faces have worked on me at times, if I'm already feeling pleased with the service; if I'm not, they make me even less pleased.


Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I read the article. I will say I HATE it when servers crouch down or sit in a chair next to me. I don't want to have a rapport with the server, I want to order my food and enjoy the company of the others at my table. They're not guests. Leaning over to hear better is ok, its the ones that crouch down so I'm looking down at them; they're also usually hanging on the side of the table.

Don't get me started about someone touching me. :hmmm:

I still give the server a tip, but it doesn't make me give more. If the server has been extraordinarily annoying, I'll give less.


it just makes me want to sit down and eat a bag of sugar chased down by a bag of flour.

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Who are they kidding. It's amatuerville at "CNN". Every real server whom I ever worked with that generally did better on tips was more professional in their demeanor, looked after their customers, quickly responded to customers needs, and observed the mood , attitude and demeanor of every table being served.

A smart wait person is often a quick study, in gaging and judging customers requirements.

The best way to build up tips is to be sharp enough to remember repeat customers. by simply saying nice to see you again, and even more important to remember what cocktail, wine or something about the previous time they had patronized the Restaurant.

Even before Computers we encouraged operators to keep guest histories of any customers who made reservation, used credit cards or whom we were able to figure out some way of remembering them.

Another thing it always important to greet customers on arrival, and especially to say goodnight, thank you, and please come again.

The contrived type of setting up customers doesn't work effectively and gets tired quickly. Treating people with respect, recognizing them as persons are what bests builds tips and sales for the business and servers.

It's so effective in many communities where many places aren't interested in trying harder by paying attention to your most important customers, REPEAT CUSTOMERS, that this type of business policy always builds up sales, recommendations and reputations that allow newcomers to become profitable and well known by filling a void.

It's important not to ever take customers for granted, and always make sure that they receive consistent quality of food, beverages and service each and every time they patronize your establishment.

One thing few operators seem not to be able to learn, is a little thing that causes customers to be suspicious, and makes them wonder is this: WAS EVERYTHING OKAY ? that's a real NO NO, especially since it often done repeatedly by what I call, "Robotic Management" if I'm eating at a place it always gives me the creeps hoping that there wasn't something wrong with my meal.

Good servers immediately bring to managements attention any dish thats seems to have not been enjoyed by customers. If this happens, it you chance to inquire, very low keyed : I hope you've enjoyed dinner tonight. Then Gage the response and deal with it accordingly, often it's only because some one wasn't hungry or either they or some one else in party may have suggested something that they didn't enjoy, but politely just moved it around the plate. Being low keyed avoids embarrassment. If there time it's nice to tell the server to provide the customer some type of treat with our compliments. If theres any indication that the fault was the establishment, apologize, take it off the check and again a treat is often appreciated. YOUR JOB IS TO BRING THEM BACK AGAIN.

Irwin :unsure::rolleyes:


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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a waiter will never "earn" a good tip for me if he/she squat or site next to me ... I might run away first ... that's just plain weird ...

and other behaviours suggesting that I'm 10 years old ...

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err..i think these gestures work on an unconscious level..regardless of whether or not you like people crouching next to you...at some subconscious level, mimicing body language, posture..maintaining eye contact do increase affinity..

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I listed to a very funny segment on This American Life this past Sunday about tipping. It's in the middle of the show, but you can listen to it here:

Allure of the Mean Friend

Act Two. Does Niceness Pay? In which we conduct a little scientific experiment – on tape – with hidden microphones - about whether niceness pays. We wire two waitresses with hidden microphones. They're superfriendly to half their tables; and aloof to the other half. They examine their tips to see which generates more profits. Thanks to owners Jason Hammel and Lea Tshilds and the staff at the Lula Cafe, in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. (10 minutes)

Turns out that niceness is not at all required for great tips. :blink:


Danielle Altshuler Wiley

a.k.a. Foodmomiac

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err..i think these gestures work on an unconscious level..regardless of whether or not you like people crouching next to you...at some subconscious level, mimicing body language, posture..maintaining eye contact do increase affinity..

excellent point.

and i wonder if those who don't think these tactics work have run their own studies similar to those presumably run by an associate professor at Cornell's School of Hotel Adminstration.

more

some more

this guy puts a lot of thought into other people's tips. :unsure:

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A few years ago I read this book, Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping

by Paco Underhill, it was very interesting and had some of the same information as the CNN article.

I usually only frequent low to mid priced casual dining establishments when I'm with my kids, any waiter/waitress who spends the extra time, in speaking with my children or making their visit more enjoyable (sitting next to us, asking them how they are, or bringing them a balloon, bringing their food right away) makes my visit more enjoyable = bigger tip. I like when a waitress draws a happy face or signs their name (in that big script writing using a circle to dot the i, reminds me of when I was in high school).

I would not expect the same type of behavior at a more refined restaurant (it might turn me off because it would seem too juvenile for an "adult" type of place).

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Crouching near me, or worse, sitting at my table will generally get a server 0 extra in my book. Touching me, or calling me honey, sweetie or babe gets the management called to the table.

I give extra in the tip department when I get fast, professional, courteous service. That's all I want, too.


"My tongue is smiling." - Abigail Trillin

Ruth Shulman

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I find many servers in those medium price range restaurants (the kind I can usually afford) don't have a clue as to what they're supposed to be doing. And when I hear "You guys still working on that?" a little comes off the tip. They probable assume it's because I'm old.


"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

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Almost all the markers for tip getting that are listed here are lost on me and I hate squatters and smiley facers. Honestly friendly efficient service with a personal touch requires a bit of intuition, since my mood changes like the weather (which I do not need to have forcasted). A server who can tune in an adjust their service to where I'm coming from is way ahead of most. Upselling is an art. Often if a server informs me about a special with knowledge and enthusiasm. I am grateful for the tip. If they sound like a used car salesman I am turned off.

When I was a server in fine dining places I discovered that if I remembered a specific fact about a customer (i.e. what wine they like or where they had come in from etc.) and I related it very matter-of- factly... the tip always went up. Even in a case where I remembered a couple because they were such stiffs a year before on their yearly pilgrimage to the Arabian Horse Show. They tipped very well the second time around, becuse I remembered them and made them feel welcome and familiar.

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With the exception of being smiled at and having the server repeat my order (both of which I consider the bare minimum for professional service), I find *all* those "charm tricks" to be the basis for lowering the tip, not increasing it!

Lower your face next to mine, squat next to me, and I'll think you've just started working in the restaurant. If I get a check with a smiley face, I'll think you're too young for working papers. Give me candy, and I'll tuck it away only to find it after it went through the wash - if I've ordered dessert, I've got that pleasant taste in my mouth: Why would I spoil it with cheap sugar? DO NOT touch me unless I require the Heimlich!

Just because I'm patronizing the restaurant does not mean I wish to be patronized in turn....................


I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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A good friend of mine is a longtime waiter and, in my opinion, an expert in the field. He's worked at very high class restaurants and at TGIFridays. He has worked as a head waiter and has trained waiters in many of those restaurants. He has always told me that it's a matter of reading your customers, just as you would if you were any other type of salesperson.

First impressions are paramount. The type of service he gives is always dependent on the response he gets to his greeting. Some people love it when the waiter sits next to them at a table or squats down to make eye contact with them, others (like some of the repondants here) hate it. A good waiter can identify one from the other immediately, and adjust his "routine" accordingly.

But he also knows that the #1 thing peope want is fast, efficient, service. Everything else is simply window dressing.

BTW - to go slightly off topic - when upselling, a good waiter will nod his head slightly when offering you an upsell. There's even a name for the move, but I can't remember it at the moment. It's a very subtle move, and I've seen it work with my own eyes countless times.


Edited by The_Rookie (log)

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At lunch I tend to eat at the bar of these mid-priced restaurants a lot. At the bar, more so than at the table, the server - in this case the bartender - often tries to make small talk, be "chummy", etc. I typically have my nose buried in a newspaper, right where I want it to be.

Times I can remember this being particularly annoying:

The bartender at a Sports Bar who spent the entire half-hour I was there telling me Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky jokes (I am a Democratic political consultant)

The bartender at a Mexican place who insists on calling me "Bigg'un" (I am 6'5 and weigh over 400 pounds) despite the anemic sub-10% tip he gets each time he does it. My size doesn't bother me in the least, but I want to reply to him by calling him "You short little annoying man".

You want a good tip from me at lunch? - You don't need to play any tricks or try to be my drinking buddy - take my order, keep my water glass refilled, bring me my food and shut the F*** up.


Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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BTW - to go slightly off topic - when upselling, a good waiter will nod his head slightly when offering you an upsell.  There's even a name for the move, but I can't remember it at the moment.  It's a very subtle move, and I've seen it work with my own eyes countless times.

You see that everywhere, from politicians to preachers to infomercial hucksters. I guess in anybody who wants to sell you something.

Being naturally cynical, whenever I see that move I immediately start questioning precisely what it is that they're trying to sell me.

Back to the topic -

Of course, efficient service is going to get a good tip. A genuine smile is going to get a bigger tip than a frown or a "why are you bothering me?" attitude, regardless of efficiency. The smiley face on the check may lead me to round up to the next dollar rather than down if there have been genuine smiles before that.

Squatting next to me starts you off with a debit, tipwise. Trying to feel me up - well, it all depends. :laugh: No, seriously, that's generally inappropriate, but not as obnoxious as doing squats.


Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Some random thoughs, in no particular order:

Interesting at how everyone claims to hate these forms of building a good raport with interpersonal communications.

I've been there and they do work.

It isn't meant as some special trick but are encouraged of many in sales positions to utilise to place their guest/client at ease.

Where did CNN dig this stuff up as this is so old hat. I suspect it was a piece they resurrected or revived in lieu of how popular this time of year is for those who take a summer holiday....

Many years ago, I waited tables for three months before I got promoted for bartending at Shooters. I understand the crouching down at a table when accepting my guest's order. It was almost always when a band is playing loudly on the outside free concert stage patio and they wanted a few burgers to go with their beers to enjoy the show. It was the only way to hear eachother and/or be able to read their lips. This consideration was appreciated too as the guest did not have to shout uncomfortably.

Servers are trained early on to repeat a guest's order making it more solid and concrete within their memory while trying to write it down quickly to alleviate errors, comps and voids.

And after waiting on, either as a server or bartender (or even when I worked at Ann Taylor and a regular client was in the store) use of that guest's name as a thank you was never out of order. It always garners a smile.

The smilie thing is just the cutesy part of more informal dining. Perhaps supplemented with a hand written thank you and even signing your own name is suggested.

Upsell --ALWAYS. Demonstrative of providing perceived quality for your guest. Face it a higher sales average generally equates better tips despite upselling from a well vodka drink to one with a call brand such as Absolut isn't helping the house out, but that is a different story. :wink:

Any questions? :raz:

edit: aw crap. Thinking faster than typing and that dreaded edit button to clarify.... :wacko:


Edited by beans (log)

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Some random thoughs, in no particular order:

Interesting at how everyone claims to hate these forms of building a good raport with interpersonal communications. 

I've been there and they do work.

It isn't meant as some special trick but are encouraged of many in sales positions to utilise to place their guest/client at ease.

Where did CNN dig this stuff up as this is so old hat.  I suspect it was a piece they resurrected or revived in lieu of how popular this time of year is for those who take a summer holiday....

Many years ago, I waited tables for three months before I got promoted for bartending at Shooters.  I understand the crouching down at a table when accepting my guest's order.  It was almost always when a band is playing loudly on the outside free concert stage patio and they wanted a few burgers to go with their beers to enjoy the show.  It was the only way to hear eachother and/or be able to read their lips.  This consideration was appreciated too as the guest did not have to shout uncomfortably.

Servers are trained early on to repeat a guest's order making it more solid and concrete within their memory while trying to write it down quickly to alleviate errors, comps and voids.

And after waiting on, either as a server or bartender (or even when I worked at Ann Taylor and a regular client was in the store) use of that guest's name as a thank you was never in order.  It always garners a smile.

The smilie thing is just the cutesy part of more informal dining.  Perhaps supplemented with a hand written thank you and even signing your own name is suggested.

Upsell --ALWAYS.  Demonstrative of providing perceived quality for your guest.  Face it a higher sales average generally equates better tips despite upselling from a well vodka drink to one with a call brand such as Absolut isn't helping the house out, but that is a different story.  :wink:

Any questions?  :raz:

if you insist on making sense then we'll have nothing to mindlessly complain about. :raz:

the cnn article is refering to a study that is probably new. these studies oftentimes happen over and over, by different people. sometimes we miss them the first few times, so i'm happy cnn is here to bring it to my attention.

i hate it when they try to push bottled water.


Edited by tommy (log)

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lcdm, I think you pretty much summed it up. we dont expect a crouching waiter and a hidden smilie in a swanky starred restaurant...but at low to mid price ranged restaurants where the key is 'casual dining'...'homeliness' strikes points...when its raining outside and all you want is a piping hot bowl of soup and a chunk of garlic bread to mop it up, you dont go to a place with valet parking...when you want to treat your friends and get pissed, you want a place that will 'understand'...in other words...there are places where you want to whimper 'thanks, mommy', burp, rub your tummy and kick off those shoes to wiggle your toes after a filling meal...and then there are places where you rent-a-butler for the day to feel good about emptying your wallet for a quality meal...if you dont expect sumptuous meals, quality and a feeling of wellbeing from both places when you leave, i am not talking about you...non verbal communication greatly aids your subconscious to reconcile your environment with your expectations..

also consider this..there is a feeling of entitlement re service in high end restaurants....we actually feel slighted if we are not treated like royalty. I'll never forget a snippet from this old guardian article when michel bourdin retired from the connaught...i actually bookmarked it..

He also recalls the day he sent out Sir Alec Guinness's favourite dish, poached haddock Monte Carlo, beautifully arranged on the plate. The actor sent it back, insisting on seeing the fish removed from the bone at his table. 'At the Connaught,' he said haughtily, 'I expect to be served.'

That sums up consumer psychology, I think. :biggrin:

edited to fix posting boo-boo


Edited by Lalitha (log)

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In a crowded and noisy restaurant, squatting may reflect a waitron's genuine effort to actually hear what a patron is ordering, so I cannot dismiss it outright.

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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In a crowded and noisy restaurant, squatting may reflect a waitron's genuine effort to actually hear what a patron is ordering, so I cannot dismiss it outright.

=R=

True enough. I always appreciate a server's effort to listen. But the article seemed to be talking about squatting in all circumstances as a means of getting inside your customer's personal space. Bad idea if you ask me.


Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Reason I piped up was because I remembered being provided an article to read in server training that outlined much of the same from CNN's newest article. :rolleyes:

I forgot about the candy which also brings a different point.

I believe there is tremendous difference between fine dining and casual dining. However casual dining does not enitrely mean going to a TGIFs. I feel there is better casual dining with fantastic menus, food preparations but are of a casual atmosphere. These interpersonal communication techniques work there as well. Case in point: Ferrante's, a place I visited a few weeks ago where my heart absolutely sang while plucking a mussel from their own chardonnay broth. (It is also a winery). I revelled in the portabello mushroom chicken breast that was coated with smoked mozzarella in the winery's red wine (I forget which exact one -- their cab or cab franc) demi. They have those lovely but hugely expensive little m&m like coated chocolate mints at the end of your meal. I think they are the only restaurant that still goes through the expense of these mints and am thrilled when our server hands us more than two packages. :smile:

grrr. sloppy proofing


Edited by beans (log)

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In a crowded and noisy restaurant, squatting may reflect a waitron's genuine effort to actually hear what a patron is ordering, so I cannot dismiss it outright.

=R=

True enough. I always appreciate a server's effort to listen. But the article seemed to be talking about squatting in all circumstances as a means of getting inside your customer's personal space. Bad idea if you ask me.

Other than the circumstances that I wrote about with the crouching, it isn't meant to be taken as getting into your personal space.

This was a lesson that even in retail one wonderful Disney employee learned of first hand. He was such a Disney fanatic that he nearly wet his pants when he got hired to work part time at our store. He was in his 40s and simply collected old memorbilia and enjoyed taking his kids to the park -- now for a nice castmember discount! His first shift he was actually nervous due to his enthusiasm and he started easy as our front door greeter.

He was doing really well but one family came in and he bent over to say hello to the children who were about fourish years old. The adorable little girl shrieked into tears. Our new employee was hurt with much misunderstanding.

Did I mention he was nearly 6'5" tall?

Same effect at standing at a booth or table taking a guest's order with swooping in to hear them better or see what they are pointing at in a dimmly lit atmosphere. Consider background music, plate clang and the roar of restaurant chatter of other patrons. Or even if the seating for whatever reasons is sunken a bit lower than the actual dining room flooring.

This is something that is studied and are considerations for elevating booths one step up (despite fighting potential tripping and falling lawsuits, I think Long Horn has these but I could be wrong) or when hotel front desks are built they are intentionally a step up to have their desk associates that one step up advantage and "towering." (Think about the irate, screaming, unhappy guest).

Consumer behavour is a fun study. So much so that I earned a bachelors reading, writing and thinking about it. :smile:

Hmmm. "Swooping" and/or bending = aggressive. Crouching = submissive and receptive.


Edited by beans (log)

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notably, none of this discusses whether servers are using enough flair. :wacko:

as mentioned elsewhere recently, the upsell utterly enrages me. i personally find it to be the sign of a restaurant that's more interested in their accountants than their chef. not only does it not work on me, it's a pretty sure sign i'm mentally downgrading your tip as you suggest i add on sides, or supersize my margarita, or whatever the hell extra low-cost/high-yield sell plan the managers have devised.

as to CNN writing about it, well, it's an interesting enough study and recent and given the average info retention of the average reader, certainly worth writing about. (presumably better than was done there, but then i'm pretty biased.) no doubt this has been a topic of restaurant-management study since about the time the discipline was founded as an academic one.

smiling and generally being nice and decent? sure. seems a basic part of any customer-service job. i'm fortunate enough to be cantankerous by profession, but i've had my share of grin-and-bear-it. standard service-industry stuff.

telling me their name? if it's useful, sure. i often ask servers' names, especially if it's at a bar and i'm likely to chat with them and ask lots of pesky questions about their wine list. using my name? maybe, but that's a bit weird. like when the Safeway checkers look at my name on the receipt and use it. especially since my name doesn't pronounce well on first glance. as to nametags, well ... i don't eat in places where people wear nametags.

smiley faces? only acceptable if the server isn't yet of legal drinking age.

candy? sure. not as good as a petit-four or a bon-bon, but this is America.

casually touch customers? this is a total thicket. if someone is notably attractive and i'm dining on a boys' night out and it's all part of that little flirting thing that many servers believe in (but that often becomes a problem) it's probably OK. otherwise, it's just weird, like that co-worker who doesn't understand the notion of personal space.

and crouching down? that's just bizarre. i want a server, not a third-base coach.

repeat orders? basic stuff.

weather? whatever. i'm in Seattle. the rain trumps all.

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