Waiters, also known as servers, provide food and beverage services in restaurants. Some people work in food service positions to earn money while in school or while transitioning into a career. Others enjoy full-time careers working in more luxurious establishments. The median hourly wage for waiters in 2010 was $8.93, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pay is variable, as many waiters earn much of their income from patron tips.
Techniques used by waiters often relate to their objective of getting higher tips. In her August 2004 CNN Money article “Waiter tip tricks,” Jeanne Sahadi discusses several simple personalization techniques waiters use to get patrons on their side. A friendly smile and offering a first name to guests and asking for their first names are basic but effective ways to convey friendliness. While service quality is important, getting guests to like you may have more impact on your tip.
Offering customers a basically pleasant experience makes you a good waiter. However, achieving consistently high tips may require extra nonverbal maneuvers. Crouching down next to the table to get closer to a guest is a way veteran waiters make the guest experience more personal. Some even add physical contact, like gently touching a patron on the shoulder when handing over the bill, to make the guest feel good at tip time. This should be a simple, subtle gesture and only used if you are comfortable with it and you are confident the guest is as well. Sahadi notes this works better with younger patrons and may not be advisable when your guests are a couple. Giving candy to kids is another way to appeal to guests.
People commonly view waiting tables as a service job, but top level servers actually engage in some upselling or add-on sales. Standard tips are a percentage of the bill. The normal percentage varies by location, but 15 to 20 percent is a usual range. If you can get a customer to buy a larger order, he pays more and you earn more. Good tip earners also offer appetizers and drinks at the start of a meal and recommend a dessert or coffee after the meal. This increases the bill amount, and some customers appreciate the suggestion.
Turning Over Tables
The best waiters are efficient at getting customers to finish their meals and leave while maintaining a service mentality. Turning over tables actually increases your tips because you wait more tables during your shift. During meals, regular checks at the table and efficient delivery of drinks and food helps speed up the dining process. Monitoring progress at the end and offering a check in a timely manner helps as well. Asking if guests need anything else is a subtle signal, but you don’t want guests to perceive that you are trying to rush them.
2016 Salary Information for Waiters and Waitresses
Waiters and waitresses earned a median annual salary of $19,990 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, waiters and waitresses earned a 25th percentile salary of $18,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $26,590, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,600,500 people were employed in the U.S. as waiters and waitresses.