Everyone gets a tip during the holidays: The hair stylist, the letter carrier, the dog walker. But what about restaurant servers? We surveyed nearly 1,000 restaurant employees and analyzed data from more than 8,000 restaurants around the country, and found that it really is the most wonderful time of the year for restaurant workers. Tips for them increase during the holiday season, from an average of 19.47 percent to 24.13 percent. (Valentine’s Day is another holiday with above-average tipping, at 22.25 percent.)
More than half of our survey respondents were servers; the rest were bartenders, managers and chefs. From that pool, 98 percent reported receiving tips, and 97 percent said it’s the payment they prefer.
While the cause of higher holiday tip rates remains a mystery, it likely is some combination of customers feeling more generous and workers feeling the holiday spirit themselves and offering cheerier service. Perhaps on Valentine’s Day, for instance, the warm glow of couples dining romantically rubs off on servers who are in turn inspired to work harder to make it a special day.
The holidays offer an opportunity for your staff to increase their earning potential by offering great service. But it’s not just staff’s pocketbooks that benefit: Impeccable service makes customers happier and strengthens your restaurant’s brand. For this to happen, restaurant owners need to provide staff with the tools and guidance to make the most of the season.
1. Alert staff to the possibility for higher tips.
Make sure your employees understand that the holiday tipping bump is a real thing. Educating them on this gives them a real motivation to take on more shifts and work harder than usual to ensure a perfect dining experience for each customer.
Extra money is always a nice incentive, but it might be a good idea to give your employees an extra push to perform well. Loyal regulars will often ask for a specific server, so challenge your servers to see who can rack up the most requests. Or you can gamify the situation and reward gift cards for who works the most shifts, turns the most tables, and earns the biggest tip.
2. Make sure your operation is at the top of its game.
If your customers are in a generous mood, you don’t want to discourage them with bad service and mistakes. The holidays are in your favor, and that tip money is your staff’s to lose. Keeping everything running smoothly from the front end to the back creates a quality experience that generates quality tips. To accomplish this, the front and back of house must be in lockstep. If your restaurant accepts reservations, ensure that you review the book ahead of time to confirm you are properly staffed to handle the surge in guests.
3. Raise your check average.
Now that you know people are already tipping five percent higher during the holiday season, it’s time to start raising check averages. Teaching servers about seasonal specials, training them to upsell drinks, desserts and appetizers and suggestive selling from the menu can all lead to higher tips and much higher check totals. (Hello, bump in revenue!)
Higher holiday tipping is more than just a myth — a certain magic fills the air with a sense of giving that only happens for a short time each year. It’s not too late to have a quick huddle to get everyone ready, so get to it. And happy holidays!
Paul Goetz is the chief revenue officer at Upserve, a restaurant management system.