Don't look now, but that nice restaurant server is playing little tricks to get you to fork over a higher tip!
After 25 years of research, Michael Lynn, an associate professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, N.Y., has published a pamphlet every restaurant server will want to get: It lists 14 tips on how to get a bigger tip. Titled "Mega Tips: Scientifically Tested Techniques to Increase Your Tips," the pamphlet is missing one noticeable item. Giving better service is NOT a proven way to increase a tip.
We diners think we are rewarding our server for excellent service. But Lynn found that service quality accounted for only 4 percent of the differences in diners' tips. The Chicago Tribune reports that what does boost tips are higher meal tabs and servers' actions that help them connect with their customers. It's no surprise that a higher dinner tab will result in a higher tip since most of us tip based on a percentage ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent. That is why a smart server encourages customers to get an appetizer, pricier entrée, dessert, or after-dinner drink.
What really influences how much we tip is based on the personal connection we feel with the server. If such a connection has been created, then we care what he or she thinks of us. We don't want to be thought of as a cheapskate! So we tip more to get the server's approval.
Little tricks servers use to get a higher tip:
- When servers wear something unusual, such as flowers in their hair, it helps customers see them as individuals.
- Introducing themselves by name is a friendly and polite thing to do and helps the customer feel more personal empathy.
- Squatting next to the table instead of standing places the server's face closer to the customers' faces and improves eye contact. It makes the two parties more equal.
- Servers have to be careful with this one, but when they touch their customers--the shoulder is best--for just a second or two it can result in a higher tip.
- When servers repeat the order word for word it increases their interpersonal closeness to the customer. A study in the Netherlands showed this also doubled the tip.
- To flatter their customers, some servers will call them by name.
- When servers draw something on the check, such as a smiley face, it personalizes the transaction and improves the customers' mood. This is especially effective for female servers.
- A smile still counts. Lynn cites the story of a waitress at a Seattle cocktail lounge, who earned 140 percent more in tips when she sported a "large, open-mouthed smile."
- When servers write "thank you" on the checks it may make customers feel they need to earn that gratitude with a larger tip.
- When customers get candy from the server they often feel obligated to reciprocate--with a larger tip.
- We all love a sunny day. When servers write a sunny weather forecast on the check, it often results in a larger tip.