Servers’ Tips and the Restaurant Industry

This was originally my research paper for my English 112 two semesters ago.  I’m proud of the grade and the paper itself as I also believe this would be an interesting read for some.  The paper was due on March 14, 2014.

The restaurant industry can be awfully cruel at times, but can be rewarding as well. A typical restaurant in the latter 30 states pays their servers a base wage of $2.13 an hour (Even 633). While most of that wage goes to pay taxes, a server will only take home what they make in tips during their shift. Many guests who have only seen the restaurant industry from outside the kitchen may not understand how critical leaving a tip is. As everyone does not know that the majority of people who work in the service industry use tips as their income leads to the reason why people need to tip, that tip amount should be determined on how well the service is, and wages for servers need to be higher.

On a regular occasion, a waiter or waitress’ tip is not properly calculated. The poor tipping could be a result of the guest not knowing how to calculate a tip percentage or they do not properly analyze their service. Brad Tuttle of reported a possible reason as a waitress was left a poor tip due to her table not agreeing with her “lifestyle”. Dayna Morales, the waitress, is a 22-year-old Marine veteran described by having short black hair and tattoos on her fingers (Tuttle). A table of four observed her outward appearance and immediately made up their minds about what kind of person Morales is. After the table finished their meal, their check came out to be $93.55 before the tip. Instead of leaving any tip at all, the family left this “cowardly” message on her receipt, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle and how you live your life” (Tuttle). Morales was outraged after she wasn’t fairly evaluated and was left no tip. It may not ever be the right thing to write a crude, or any comment on the receipt, but a critique of the service might bode a little better. The argument here is that a server should be properly evaluated depending how well the service is, not by their exterior. Does the server refill the drinks on a constant basis? Are they nice and sincere? Do they appear to know what they’re talking about? If the food isn’t cooked right, that doesn’t always mean it was their fault. Sure, if the criteria mentioned isn’t met then maybe they shouldn’t get the greatest tip, but is not leaving a tip because they have tattoos and served in the military a valid reason not to leave a tip? Servers only receive the portion that they are tipped by their table and sometimes even less than that.

In an interview with a co-worker at Longhorn Steakhouse in Apex, she said, “I had a table of 9 for at least two and a half hours. There were four checks, one was $90 the other three were around $80 and I made $30 off that table,” she said. “I busted my butt for that them and only one person gave me a full 20% and one of them didn’t even tip me.” What can happen on a typical Friday or Saturday night is a server is assigned a section of tables, typically three at a time. If a server has a party table for two and a half hours, it is big chunk out of their night and in some cases will be their main focus. Moreover, their concentration on one big party is understandable considering there is much more to tend to. If a server has one table stationary for a long period of time, the bulk of their money comes from that table alone even though there are guests being continually sat at their other two tables. The fact that a table was there practically all night, ordered more than their main course, and didn’t properly tip can be very aggravating and sometimes even disheartening to a server. When dining at a restaurant, remember what should be taken into account.

Unlike what happened with Morales, a clean outward appearance can pay dividends. Studies have found typically women receive higher tips when placing cosmetics in their hair. A recent study in 2012 by Celine Jacob, Nicolas Gueguen, and Christine Delfosse, professors at the University of Southern Brittany in France, showed that the result was the same if a waitress wore a flower or other ornaments in her hair. The study shows no difference between males and females regarding gender when tipping (Jacob 418). A waitress with attractive features is more likely to receive a higher tip than someone of less visible pleasure. With the results of this study at the University of Southern Brittany, adding ornaments to ones hair could have an impact on ones income (Jacob). It is inexpensive and appears to be effective.

As mentioned before, the gratuity amount left for a server is an important amount. Select restaurants have recently come to the decision of placing the gratuity amount, including 10% through 25% or lower, on the check for the recipient (Seiter 152).   In other words, the various tip amounts are already calculated and printed out on the guest copy of the receipt. Current tax rules charge servers based on the value of the meals they serve, around an 8% tip is needed for them to break even. It has been shown that the additions of the various gratuity amounts have influenced the guests’ tipping behavior. These gratuity guidelines provide a basis for the tip amount and one can immediately assume the table did not like the server, they are cheap, or they weren’t satisfied with the service. The study conducted at Utah State University by professors John Seiter, Garett Brownlee, and Matthew Sanders, resulted in a 2% increase and although the study proves to be a small increase with the gratuity guidelines added, a few extra dollars here and there add up (Seiter 154). Gratuity guidelines add a common ground for customers as well as the servers as it provides a base for the consumers to go off of. If a customer is given the certain tip amount the more likely they will be to fairly evaluate the servers’ performance. In return, the server will be able to clearly evaluate his or her own performance by the tip amount given. In the effort to have a higher tip percentage for every employee in the service industry, this study shows that adding the gratuity guidelines on the check can potentially lead to higher tips for the server in most cases.

In 2011, 9 million people were hired to work in the food service industry and one can only imagine how much it has increased since then. As of April 1991, 31 states have determined the hourly minimum wage for tipped employees to be $2.13 (Even 633). Although many restaurants compensate if the servers wages don’t add up to at least 7.25, many servers rely on tips for a source of their income. When economic times aren’t in good standing, typically business for the service industry goes down. If this is the case, many servers aren’t receiving what they typically might accumulate in a night’s work. Even if restaurants compensate the $7.25, wages should be raised for servers. $2.13 includes basically all of the server’s taxes leaving them nothing but their tips to take home. In an economic downfall, it is hard for servers to take home the money they are used to making. In effort to make the system more equal, servers should be tipped along with a minimum wage of $7.25. The study included a significant push among states to increase the tipped-minimum-wage requirement for tipped workers, and legislation has been proposed to increase the federal tipped minimum wage (Even 654). This could be very helpful to servers, but could also hurt them as well. Factors that play into a desire for increased wages include: a slow day, having bad customers who don’t tip well, and working long hours with only little satisfaction.

What could come in to play that could be detrimental to servers is, what if customers cut back on tips knowing they have a higher wage? Whether or not a server is paid minimum wage or not, customers who gratify their services will tip well. A mother taking her kids out to eat will be thankful that she doesn’t have to get up every second because one child wants extra ketchup and the other wants their drink refilled. Other factors include older persons who will tip well whether or not their server is getting minimum wage or not simply because it is the right thing to do.   Even if a server is paid $7.25 an hour, their paychecks include government taxes. State and federal taxes take out about 33% of what they make. In addition to the taxes taken out, they may or may not receive a full 20% and the fact that most servers live off of this money it is still not nearly substantial enough with the $7.25 minimum wage. At the end of the night, servers at Longhorn Steakhouse do not take home every cent they earn from tips either. Service Assistants, sometimes referred to as hosts, bus, seat and clean tables. Service Assistants are given a small percentage of a servers tips, somewhere between 1-2%.  Bartenders receive a tip-share for the drinks they make for a servers’ table as well.

Lastly, with everything servers have to deal with, from rude tables that don’t tip well after busting their butt, to the kitchen not properly cooking the food right and reflecting on their tip and everything in between, they are certainly underpaid. Wages should not determine how much a customer tips, but anything can happen.

Leaving a tip is a key part of the service industry and is sometimes not properly taken into account. With wages only at $2.13 an hour, servers rely on their tips for the money that they need. Wages should be higher in order to satisfy servers who end up at the end of the night with the short end of the stick. People need to tip and know how to tip considering how significant a tip to the waiter or waitress. Lastly, tip amounts should be determined on how well the service is, no matter what ones outward appearance is or what their life choices are.





Works Cited

Even, William E., and David A. Macpherson. “The Effect Of The Tipped Minimum Wage On Employees In The U.S. Restaurant Industry.” Southern Economic Journal 80.3 (2014): 633-55. Business Source Complete. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.


Jacob, Céline, Nicolas Guéguen, and Christine Delfosse. “She Wore Something In Her Hair: The Effect Of Ornamentation On Tipping.” Journal Of Hospitality Marketing & Management 21.4 (2012): 414-20. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.


Seiter, John S., Garett M. Brownlee, and Matthew Sanders. “Persuasion By Way Of Example: Does Including Gratuity Guidelines On Customers’ Checks Affect Restaurant Tipping Behavior?.” Journal Of Applied Social Psychology 41.1 (2011): 150-59. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.


Co-Worker Interview. Personal interview. 5 Mar. 2014.


Tuttle, Brad. “Worst Restaurant Customers Ever Use Religion, Racism As Excuses For Not Tipping Waiters.” (2013): 1. Business Source Complete. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.


2 thoughts on “Servers’ Tips and the Restaurant Industry

  1. Really enjoyed your “tips” article. Speaking from experience as a weekend waitress, you deserve a big “hurray” for putting it out there. A resturant only cooks the food, a waitress does the rest, unless the customer would like to go to the kitchen and get it themself. My thoughts are that of Carla on the TV series Cheers:( “waitressing is kinda like playing God. If I don’t like you I can spit in your beer”.


  2. Of course it would help if I would have spelled “restaurant” correctly. Can’t fix it once it’s out, darn it! :-). Showing my intelligence today.


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