I have a question about tipping out a bartender. Here is the scenario. Our bartender is making eight dollars per hour plus tips and out service staff is making $2.17 per hour plus tips. Currently our service staff is tipping out the bartender 7 percent of the total bar sales per server. Is this appropriate/fair?
– Jennifer Barker, Owner, Valentino’s Eatery, Florence, Arizona
As with many issues in the restaurant industry, there is no standard practice. The range for many restaurateurs and employees I spoke with tends to be 5-10 percent of alcohol sales or one or two percent of total sales as a tip out so you’re close to the middle. This is one of those issues where an industry standard would be welcome, since servers inevitably agree that the house tip out number is too high, while bartenders bemoan that it’s insufficient.
In addition to tracking the actual take-home pay for both servers and bartenders, keeping in mind the additional skillset required for bartending, the fairness of your particular policy may be best assessed through employee’s feet. Do bartenders or servers leave, citing a perceived imbalance in the tip out structure? Or are there other frustrations that employees may be ascribing to an unfair policy?
While it may not completely solve the problem, I would recommend that the tip outs for bartenders as well as other eligible employees come from a tip pool rather than individual hand-to-hand payment. This makes the transaction more business and less personal and can keep perspectives on the fairness of the policy from becoming emotional. If servers want to thank a bartender for a job particularly well done, they can always use words or add an additional tip out at their discretion.
Finally, look at your staffing. If servers feel they are leaving with too little in tips, it may be because there simply isn’t enough to go around. In that case, the bartender will fare fine but the servers will suffer. The most un-scrutinized policies are those in successful, busy restaurants since everyone is making money and there is less cause for complaint.
More on tip out processes here.