September 12019

How to get more tips

10 proven ways to bring home the bacon

The amount diners tip relates less to their perceived quality of service than it does their bias towards race, gender, and attractiveness.

The inequality this creates has led many to call for tipping to be outlawed.1 Some restaurants in the USA have already stopped accepting tips, instead opting to pay their staff a decent wage.2

However, researchers like social psychologist Michael Lynn3, have discovered simple tricks that will increase your tips — without changing your race, gender or attractiveness.


Play music with prosocial lyrics

Playing music with pro-social lyrics, (words that promote love, being kind to each other, not being a racist, etc.), has been shown to make people behave pro-socially.1 So it's not such a stretch to imagine that it could cause customers to dole out the moola. 

Luckily, you don't have to imagine, a study conducted in Vannes, France, proved it to be true.2  Not only did it increase the number of customers who tipped, from 24% to 35%. It also increases the average size of the tip.3

1. Effects of songs with prosocial lyrics on prosocial thoughts, affect, and behavior - Tobias Greitemeyer | 2. Effects of songs with prosocial lyrics on tipping behavior in a restaurant - Céline Jacob, Nicolas Guéguen, Gaëlle Boulbry | 3. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn


Smiling at customers results in higher tips. While that's not surprising, it's worth knowing that there's some science to back it up.

In 1978 an experiment was conducted at a cocktail lounge in Seattle. It found that customers who'd received a "broad smile"2 tipped on average 148% higher than a control group who received a small smile. 

1. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn - 2011 | 2. Monetary significance of the affiliative smile: A case for reciprocal altruism - Kathi L. Tidd and Joan S. Lockard - 1978


Introduce Yourself by Name

“Good morning. My name is _______, and I will be serving you this morning. Have you ever been to Charlie Brown’s for brunch before?”1

On a Spring day in 1988, half the diners at Charlie Brown's in Huntington Beach received this greeting. The other half received the same greeting but with one difference; the servers didn't introduce themselves by name.

The tips were added up at the end of the day. The diners who'd been given the server's name left significantly higher tips than those who hadn't. 23% of the check compared with 17%.

1. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn | 2. Effect of Server Introduction on Restaurant Tipping - Garrity, Degelman

Wear an Ornament

"We need to talk about your flair" - Office Space1

Wearing an ornament in your hair has been shown to increase tips by an average of 17%.2

This experiment was first conducted using flowers, and later shown to hold true for other ornaments, including "a little bird, or a sprig of black currant."3

It seems that making yourself stand out will give customers the impression that you're a human being, not just a cog in the corporate machine. That or people just like flowers and birds. 

1. Office Space - IMDB | 2. Tipping Research - Mega Tips 2  - Michael Lynn | 3. She Wore Something in Her Hair: The Effect of Ornamentation on Tipping

Write on the Check

In 1996, two researchers in Philadelphia decided to test the effect that messages written on checks had on tips.

They found that checks with "Thank You" handwritten on the back, increased the average tip from 16% of the total check to 18%.1,2 Checks with "Thank You" followed by the server's name had the same effect.

1. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn | 2. Effect of Server's “Thank You” and Personalization on Restaurant Tipping - Bruce Rind, Prashant Bordia

Repeat Customers' Orders

An experiment in the Netherlands showed that subtly mimicking customers speech resulted in more tips. Researchers had servers repeat customers' orders back at them. A control group just confirmed the orders by saying something like "okay" or "coming up!"1 

Mimicked customers gave a tip 78% of the time. Customers in the control group only tipped 52% of the time. Mimicking customers also doubled the average tip amount.

1. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn | 2. Mimicry for money: Behavioral consequences of imitation - van Baaren, Rick, Rob Holland, Bregje Steenaert, Ad van Knippenberg


Most diners (in the USA) tip around 15% to 20% of the total check.1

So, it should go without saying: the more you sell, the higher the gratuity will be. One study showed that practicing 'suggestive selling' (suggesting more things for customers to order) increased the average check by 25%.2

1. The Norm of Restaurant Tipping - Michael Conlin, Michael Lynn, Ted O'Donoghue | 2. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn

Use Tip Trays with Credit Card Logos

Just the presence of credit card logos has been shown to increase spending, even when the customer isn't using a credit card. One theory suggests that the idea of 'credit' gets people in the mood to "Buy Now, Pay Later."1

This effect was tested on tipping habits in a restaurant and a cafe in New York.2 The study showed that using tip trays with credit card logos on them significantly increased the size of tips. Customers tipped an average of 4.29% more.3

1. Credit Cards as Spending Facilitating Stimuli : A Conditioning Interpretation - Richard A. Feinberg | 2. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn | 3. Credit card insignia and restaurant tipping: Evidence for an associative link - Michael McCall, Heather Belmont

Use Tipping Guidelines

Some people aren't aware of the social norm of tipping.1 Those people aren't necessarily weirdos; they could be from Iceland, where there is no tipping. Offering tipping guidelines alleviates this problem and has been shown to raise tipping amounts.2,3

The most practical place to show tipping guidelines is at the bottom of the receipt.

1. The Norm of Restaurant Tipping - Michael Conlin, Michael Lynn, Ted O'Donoghue | 2. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn | 3. The Impact of Tipping Recommendations on Tip Levels - David B. Strohmetz, Bruce Rind

Give Customers Free Candy

Reciprocal Altruism (doing a kind thing for someone with the understanding that they might do a kind thing in return) has been shown in batsand humans.

What's the point? The point is, if you give someone a gift, even a small one, they'll feel obligated to give something back. One Study showed that giving diners chocolates at the end of their meal raised the average tip from 15% of the check to 18%.2, 3

1. Reciprocal altruism in bats and other mammals - Gerald S. Wilkinson | 2. Tipping Research - Megatips 2 - Michael Lynn | 3. Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping - David B. Strohmetz, Bruce Rind, Reed Fisher, Michael Lynn

That's all we've collected so far. If you have any tips that you'd like to add, please let us know.

Know any servers who could use a few extra bucks? Help them (and us) out by sharing this list.

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