Log your tips

Motivating your waitstaff to improve their service is a challenge. And concentrating on what everyone is doing "wrong" gets really old really fast. So years ago I tried an experiment based on two premises. The first is that awareness of an issue changes the results. The second is that money is an incentive to change.

We gave all of our servers a small spiral notebook to record their total sales and tips at the end of each shift. This was all they had to do...no extra training, no changes to their jobs. After two weeks, the servers who consistently kept track of tips saw an increase of about 8%. The ones who didn't bother to log their tips didn't experience a similar increase.

Why? Our theory is that servers started to think about their tips at the end of each day and they connected their actions and attitude that day with the results. We think they subconsciously made adjustments in their performance and demeanor and as a result, tips went up. Over time it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle.

To keep the momentum going, we gave our servers some simple but specific tactics to try out when interacting with guests that could further impact their tips. As they tried each new service technique, they were able to see whether or not it impacted their compensation. And of course, it usually did.

The knowledge that they could control their financial destiny, so to speak, impacted the overall level of service in our restaurant. It was an impact that top-down training, managing or nagging could not have achieved. And in the end, our guests were happier, our servers were happier, and our bank account was happier.

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