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Tipping Your Restaurant Server... Not Optional

Tipping Your Restaurant Server... Not Optional

This article will be written to educate the every day restaurant diner, and may be insight for those that are considering going into restaurant work.

OK, so you may or may not know this. But here it is. I worked in the Full Service Restaurant Industry as a Busser, Host, and Server. I was a server for over 5 years. You know what stereo types permeate EVERY restaurant I worked at in TWO states? You know what most servers believe without any doubt? It may or may not be true, but here is what MOST servers believe:

The worst tippers in the world are: Christians. 

You know what's REALLY sad? The Christian servers believe it too! Did you know that Sunday Afternoon is the MOST hated shift of all servers, even those who have NO religious affiliation and do not go to Church? They don't care about Sunday or not Sunday. It's the people they must serve they want to avoid. 

Here is the expectation of servers around the country, because I've worked with servers who have migrated throughout the country. If you serve a group of "Church People", which in their mind are the worst kind of Christians, you can expect this:
  • Large Parties full of people that are:
    • Loud, Obnoxious, Rude, Demanding, Special Needs, Special Requests.
  • Waters all around! Not because they are healthy people, because they are cheap!
    • For those who aren't cheap there may be some Tea and Lemonades maybe a few Sodas. No alcohol or drinks.
    • Note: This isn't bad, but consider that alcoholic drinks are a large part of the bill for most Non Christian Tables... Many times people order multiple and pay per drink, unlike your free refills.
      • Maybe you should consider that when figuring your TIP percentage
  • A BAZILLION separate checks. "This party of 18 needs 20 separate checks", some of them want to split their own items onto two different CC's.
    • This means TONS of time at the computer trying to figure out what went where, and for whom, because you moved 16,000 times during the evening. 
    • Oh, and can you split that desert into three and put it on mine, that girls down there, and the other guy's check WAY down there? 
    • Really!? Can't someone just buy the silly desert for the other two?
    • IN FACT, Separate Checks almost always goes hand in hand with bad tipping. Both come from the same mentalities. 
    • 10% IF the server is lucky
  • The whole time the server is wondering how his other tables, the ones who will actually pay him, are doing because your special needs are taking up all his time.
I have to tell you, I'm a believer and I CRINGE at the idea of serving a group of Church People from MOST churches around the country. Especially if they are from any of the denominations. They are the worst, statistically.

At the end, I'll talk about a few stories gone right and wrong. 

Origin of Tipping

First of all what is a TIP? Wiki explains it's current usage:
tip (also called a gratuity) is a sum of money tendered to certain service sector workers for a service performed or anticipated. Such payments and their size are a matter of social custom. Tipping varies among cultures and by service industry. In some circumstances, such as with U.S. government workers, receiving of tips is illegal.[1]

T.I.P.S. (To Ensure Proper Service)?

Snopes informs us that the idea of the word "TIPS" having it's origins as an acronym for To Ensure Proper Service, or other variations, is not true to the origin of the word. Snopes tells us the true Etymology:
Tip is an old word, and it has nothing to do with either acronyms or the act of attempting to influence quality of service. Although the word has many meanings, both as a verb and as a noun, the use of the term as it applied to monetary rewards to servants dates to the 1700's....Tip slipped into the language as underworld slang, with the verb "to tip" (meaning 'to give to' or 'to share') being used by shady characters as part of the then current argot of petty criminals. 
Although this may not be the origin, it still has a certain ring to it that sound right. You are getting service and you are paying of it. What kind of service do you want?

There are a variety of positions that are, the USA, known as "Tipped Positions". This article is primarily about Tipping Servers in a full service restaurant setting. A tip in a restaurant situation happens when you are presented your Bill of Sale for the items you purchased. I ask you to stop for a moment and ask yourself this question:

"Why did I go to the "Full SERVICE Restaurant" and not to the "Fast Food" place?

The food is often better prepared at a full service restaurant. But let's walk through the experience of both for a moment.

Fast Food:

  • You stand and stare at the menu, order what you want from a person who is likely still in high school, or just out, who may or may not get your order just right. (Or you do the same thing from your car and take your chances it's right before you drive away)
  • If you went inside, you went and filled up your drink, grabbed your tray of food that is now ready, and found a seat somewhere, unless of course it's lunch time on Saturday and there ARE no seats and then you just stand there hoping someone gets up and you get there first. 
  • Then you either deal with a dirty table and ketchup spots, or you flag some person down with a towel to wipe it, or you just do it yourself with your handy Wet Wipes! 
  • Now you are either by yourself and have to leave your stuff to go get your refill, or you are dealing with kids in the play room and have to go get it... you see my point... 
  • Ooops... I forgot to get napkins and ketchup, and that silly little sauce packet for the nuggets! Up, and down, and up and down and up again... Whew! This is exhausting, next time I'm going to a Full Service Restaurant! 

Full SERVICE Food:

  • You report to the desk and give your name to be seated. Sometimes, if it's slow you are seated right away. If you are silly you went during peak hours like the rest of the throngs of people and you wait an hour first. (Go between 2-4pm, before 11am, or after 8pm if you want to seat faster!)
  • You are seated and presented with menu's and told your server will be right with you. A man/woman approaches your table, introduces him/her self and asks to take drink orders. 
  • As you are peacefully, comfortably, seated, taking your time to read over the menu with no-one behind you in some line waiting impatiently, your drink is being gathered and brought "All By Itself", imagine that! Most of the time there is some other wonderful little treat being brought to you too, bread and butter, chips and salsa, etc. You know who is doing that? Your server!
  • You order, usually with minor or major changes to the original item. Your server writes it down, repeats it back to you, and then reviews the order again on before submitting it to the kitchen.
  • He/She brings refills, brings condiments, anticipates your needs, asks clarifying questions. He has memorized (or carries a good copy of) any specials or "Need-to-knows". Carefully guides you when you are undecided or have an allergy or special need. You expect your banker to know why a fee occurred  and so you rightly expect your server to take his job seriously and know some things about the menu for you. 
  • If you ordered multiple courses the server, and his assistants, clear things from your table to make room for more. They bring fresh silverware if needed. 
  • (Meanwhile, they are doing the same things for between 3-8 other tables!) How well do YOU multitask?
  • When all is done you pay the bill. On the TIP line you write:
    • ?????????????

Behind the Scenes

Here's what you don't see, besides what I just described. In most restaurants around this country the servers are paid LESS THAN minimum wage. The average pay for a server in most restaurants in most states is about $2.13/Hour. How can that be? How can you earn less than Minimum Wage. Isn't that why it's called Minimum? See Wiki's Min Wage Doc. It has a list of all the states that do this.

Well, it's legal, and it's called a TIP OFFSET WAGE. It barely pays the income tax withholding's after declaring the tip income. The employer figures YOU the diner are paying their server their income, so they don't have to pay them the true minimum wage. They pay them $2.13 and you pick up the rest! So out of that 10% you left them they don't make much over Min Wage.

But wait, there's more! In most restaurants the server has assistants who help. Bussers, Food Runners, and Bar are almost always tipped by the server to make their jobs easier. Part of your tip is going to the bartender, even if you didn't order a bar drink. Some places also require tips to the "To Go" person or the Host/Hostesses. In general it's typical for the server to have to tip out about 3% to the Busser, 1% to the Bar, and 1% to the Food Runner. Percentages may vary, but you can figure about 4-6 percent of what you leave that server will go to people other than him/her. Sometimes it's a percentage of sales and sometimes a percentage of tips received. So you left the server $10, they walk away at the end of the night with $6, or less.

Because of this, YOU are the primary source of income for servers in the USA. NOT the employer. That 4-6 table section is the servers business and storefront. You are the patron. Think of the server NOT as an employee of the company, but more like a contracted business person. They are there to provide a service to you. You came for a reason.

Behind the scenes, the server is filling salt and pepper shakers, condiments are being refilled and restocked, floors are being swept, tables cleaned, reset, and benches brushed down. Bread and Butter is being cut for you. Lemons and Limes are being hand cut by the Servers, not the cooks. Soda machines are fed by heavy soda syrup boxes. Those are being reloaded by the servers and bussers. Communications is being had between the chefs and servers to get your special needs done right. Orders are being placed into the computer while 15 things are going through their head.

"Did I get that? What else do I need to do? Why do I feel like I"m forgetting something? OH shoot! I forgot to put that order in before going over there, it's already been 5 minutes. I put THIS order in 20 minutes ago, why isn't it ready yet? The cook dropped it and had to start over?! WHAT?!... " and on and on the thought go. It's thoughts racing from moment one to the end. That's why MOST servers go out for a drink after, to calm the brain down.

Some servers in a family casual restaurant make $15,000-$30,000 per year. Some servers in higher end restaurants make $30,000 - $50,000 per year. Some servers in Fine Dining (and ultra Fine Dining)(that means LOT'S of extra service steps for the server to remember and do) make upwards of $50,000 - $80,000.

9 times out of 10, that money comes from you, not the restaurant. You, and 10 other tables choose to tip badly, or not at all, that server goes home with nothing to show for it and mouths to feed at home. Most servers live not check to check, but day to day. Literally tonight's tips are gas to get home. If you paid less than $30 per person (before tip), the likelihood is that your server is living this day to day lifestyle. Your tip may be the difference between them eating tonight or not. And no, most restaurants do NOT give their employees free food. They may get 20-50% off, but they can't afford even that most of the time.

Most servers have no benefits. No medical, dental, vision. No paid vacations. No 401(k)'s. If they do have something, it's meager and practically worthless. Few restaurants offer any benefits to servers, those that do take them away the moment they average less than 30 hours a week for a while.

At the end of the night, they must take ALL the credit card receipts and add them up on a calculator, first all the totals, then all the subtotals and tips to make sure it all matches. All the CC's they run add more work to their night. Split checks causes a TON more work at the end.


  1. It is considered standard in the restaurant industry, among servers, to TIP 20%. 
  2. Anything less than 20% means they did something wrong. 
  3. If you leave 10% you are insulting them. 
  4. If you leave a Penny it's like you called them cuss words and slapped them. 
  5. If you leave nothing but a Bible Gospel Tract, you are just one of those Christians they hear so much about. They won't read it. It will go straight to the trash. Think about, do YOU like to read those? I've never seen one that was fun to read, have you? There are a few that are cute. But they are all too heavy handed, and turn most people off before the message is truly delivered. 

Christians' Standards

Christians should leave AT LEAST 20% in all cases, and go up from there!

No Christian should EVER tip less than 20%, even for bad service! Why? Because it's not about YOU! It's about your witness to and for Jesus. Jesus will deal with them. Romans 12:19 tells us that it is God's duty to avenge you. If you feel you were down right wronged, purposefully treated badly, because you were a Christian, turn the other cheek!

First of all, did you do or say anything that could have led to that service? Servers are usually thermometers, they are reading back to you what you are giving them.

Second, maybe they have had their fill with Christians and you are just another one. They saw you pray over the meal, heard you talk about church, saw your necklace, bracelet, convention badge, etc. And they've had enough of "Your Kind". You may be reaping the rewards of past Christians "efforts". Your bad tip now confirms what they already know about you!
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
In a great short article on this subject Olga Hermans points out that our unintended behavior has a direct impact on the world around us. People could be rejecting Jesus by OUR example and what we do, say, and how we behave. Tipping is not about your experience, it's about leaving an impression that will carry someone into eternity.

Matthew 10:8 tells us that we have freely received and we should freely give. For God so loved the world that HE GAVE...(John 3:16)

Christians SHOULD BE the most generous people on the planet. We don't give to get, although God's Word promises that we will reap what we sow. Gal 6:7 The purpose of accumulation is distribution. God blesses us, Spiritually, Physically, and Financially, so that we can GIVE to the world around us. That giving causes the world around us, the receivers of our giving, to be thankful to God! 2 Cor 9.

Tips aren't about you, it's about eternity. Do you want to be guilty of being one of the ones who showed a person that Jesus is a stingy, rude, demanding god who doesn't love them? Or do you want to be "guilty" of loving too much, showing too much grace, giving too much. Do you want to be the one that makes someone say: "Maybe there is something to this Christianity, that persons brand anyway... I wonder where they go to Church?"


On this note, let's talk about tracts. It's very common for business people to leave a business card. Some insurance person leaves their card, hoping that if you need insurance you'll call him. Some MLM person leaves their card hoping you'll buy their product. Do you know what they all know that Church People don't? Impressions! No business person leaves their card after having been rude, loud, obnoxious, and leaving a bad tip!

Yet Christians do this ALL THE TIME! How do we expect people to "buy" what we have to "sell" when we act this way? It's amazing. Also, most bible tracts are heavy on identifying sin and light on preaching grace. They are the source of jokes and ridicule in most restaurants. In fact, I don't know one person, ever especially not a server, that was led to Jesus though a bible tract. I'm sure it's happened. I'm sure it's possible. God will use anything he can to reach someone at just the right time.

However almost everyone I've ever met that was saved, was saved through one-on-one witness or through anointed teaching in a church service. It's usually not that heavy handed one-on-one witness you see on streets either. It's usually a friend reaching a friend, and talking like friends. It's not scripted, there are no hand outs, it's just loving someone into the Kingdom of God.

If you want to leave information with them, ask them to your Church, or in any way communicate with them that you are a Christian, BUY their attention! "What's in it for me?" is what every business sales person has to ask himself about his client. If I don't tell them what's in it for them, they will never buy this product, despite ALL it's features and benefits. Why should they buy? That's the question you want to ask about them. Sure YOU know it could help them, but if THEY don't see any value, they will not buy.

Am I selling the Gospel now? Kind of... yes. I'm asking for your attention, you are "Paying Attention". People only "PAY" attention when it's worth their time to do so. They will PAY attention when they see value in doing so. You want to buy that attention from a server?

I know of one man who would come in and lay out $20 into the servers hand with this statement. "I just want to let you know I'm not a cheap skate. That $20 has nothing to do with your tip, that will still come at the end. I just want to let you know that we appreciate you."

That get's servers attention. However, it may also put undue pressure on the server to try to preform to a higher level and may add more stress. It could be viewed as coercion or blackmailing or being too pushy. I don't advise tipping before like that, but I tell it to make a point. Good tipping does buy their attention.

I advise NOT leaving tracts; EVER! 

If you want to leave something that they could follow up on, leave a business card with a website to your favorite ministry, unless you have a ministry of your own and leave that card. Make sure the ministry website is high quality, full of Faith and Grace. Any good ministry website will have information about getting saved and going to Church, but it won't BEAT them over the head with it either. The website, TOO should be written with: "What in it for them?" in mind.

If you want them to contact YOU with questions since YOU are the point of contact, leave your email or phone or website. Leave a personal, hand written, LEGIBLE, note on the back of the card thanking them. Make SURE it's carried with a LARGE tip!

What SHOULD I do as a Christian?

  • Be EXTRA kind and attentive. 
    • STOP talking EVERY TIME they come to your table and give them your full attention.
    • Please and Thank You go a long way
    • SMILE, are you GLAD you are saved?
  • Ask for special things at one time, don't make them run to your table 50 times. 
  • Ask them if what THEY need to make this go smoother for you and them? 
    • "You tell US when YOU are ready or how this would be easiest for you?"
    • Especially important on big parties.
  • Don't ask for split checks! Really?
    • If you MUST split checks, encourage your party to split as few ways as possible and leave bigger tips for all the extra work that entails. I've had it take me an extra 30 minutes to split, process, and close out split checks for large parties. You want to make they do all that work, pay them extra for it. And make SURE your party does so. Take the leadership role and explain what being a witness means and that they had better leave 20+% or else!
  • Leave MORE than 20% How much more? 
    • More if they did over and above
    • More if YOU cause them more work
    • More if you asked for special things, modified an order, or asked for split checks. 
    • Split checks should really cause a 50% tip.
    • Large Parties should be extra. 2% per person over the standard 20%
    • Are you about to leave a tract or card? BUY that attention! 


Kenneth Copeland Ministries

When I worked Ruth's Chris Steak House after the 2007-2008-2009 West Coast Believers Conventions there was one common thing I heard from the servers. I had the honor of serving someone in a leadership role there and they were extremely kind, pleasant to be around and serve, and left extravagant tips. Nearly all of the attendees at a KCM Convention are givers and have a givers heart. So hundreds of them descend on the restaurants it's a sight to behold.

I would hear from servers over and over all week, did you SEE that tip I got from table 23? I didn't do anything all that special. These are really cool people! I can assure you that givers get attention, and leave positive lasting impressions. What do you think those servers think about Jesus?

Jesse and LeRoy

I may get the details wrong, but the essence of this story goes like this: Jesse Duplantis and a friend (I believe it was LeRoy Thompson went out to eat. This server was GOOD. It was slow and she went out and got them a newspaper because they asked if there were any in the back maybe that someone had brought and left. She talked about her schooling and other things.

They started a give-off! At end of the meal, Jesse said "I want to help you with that school..." or something like that Well he takes out cash from his pocket and starts laying out $100 bills. LeRoy says, "Oh no you don't I want to help too, so HE starts laying out $100 bills." Well then they pull out their check books when they run out of cash. I don't remember right, and couldn't find the story being told, I'll keep looking for it, but I want to say it was in the $10,000 plus range that she walked out of there with that night.

Some religious nut will say that story is about extravagance and greed... HOW?! That lady got her need met because two men who love Jesus gave! Jesus gave his best for you, couldn't you give your best for him!?

Pastor's Intervention

I attended a ministry meeting at a local restaurant. It was led by the pastor. Some 20 plus people were there. At the end, someone started to ask for a split check and the Pastor stood up and said: "No. Don't split anything. You bring the check, the whole check, to me. Now, you all pay ME and I will pay her."

This saved that woman from an hours worth of work trying to split items for people at different parts of the table, run, deliver and then close all of those credit cards, then tally them up on a calculator receipt at the end of the night.

Jr High Desert Fest

There have been enough stories earlier of what NOT to do, but here is one that I felt needed to be said. One church, who is generally accepted as a great (and large) church in the area, wanted to treat all their Jr High kids to desert. So instead of buying the deserts in bulk and serving them at the church, wise idea, they brought 80+ kids into a Full Service Restaurant  Tied up some 20-30 tables and 6 servers for nothing but desert and made those servers stay an extra 3 hours past the time they would have gone home. Then it was paid for on one check, but only left a 15% TIP. This was a "What NOT do to" moment.

Church leaders. Consider the people who will NOT likely want to visit your church after pulling a stunt like this?

Personal Life Story

One day, I was tired, working two jobs, 60 hours a week. I was feeling foggy and disoriented. The managers were seating me when I told them not to because I needed a mental break. I had a four table section but one was a bad seat, no one wants to sit there so it hadn't been sat most of the night. I didn't see them for a longer time than it should have been. Drinks were late getting to them and refills were long between. Food came out on time, but I don't remember why, something was wrong with it. They got by far the worst service I think I've given in my career, and by this time I'd already been serving 5 years I was NOT new. If I were them I'd want to leave nothing, complain to the manager, and maybe never come back. Worst of all, I smiled, did my best to catch up with them, but secretly resented them for being there at the table that no-one sits at, because if that table was empty I would be caught up, but instead I was falling further and further behind.

Do you know what they did? They left me nearly 25% and wrote on the ticket: "My Jesus really love you, it's going to be ok." (or something like that). I nearly broke down and cried when I saw it. I felt horrible, not only for the service I gave, and their experience, but because of how I had felt about them. Their giving did more, by the work of the Holy Spirit, that night, than anything they ever could have said negative would have. It melted by hard heart, and I returned to work the next day on a mission to serve Jesus twice as hard for my customers the next day. I don't know that I'll ever see them this side of heaven, but I will take this time to say publically... THANK YOU Table 81!


Ask yourself...

  • Who do I live for? Me? Them? or Jesus?
  • What kind of wake do I leave behind me when I have visited someone's life?
  • What kind of Jesus do I represent? Who do people think my Jesus is after meeting me?
  • How will my actions, needs, requests today impact the servers life?
Then stop for a moment, the next time you are at a Full Service Restaurant. Look around. 
  • Ask yourself what that person is doing? 
  • How many tables are they serving? 
  • Jesus said he came not to be served, but to serve. How you can YOU serve the server? 
  • What look do they have on their face? Worried? Mad? Sad? Happy? Fake Happy?
Have questions about anything I said here? Want to share your story? Comment Below!

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    So... what are your thoughts about this? What did this make you think about? 

    Hit me up on Twitter @DarrellWolfe or on Google +DarrellWolfe

    By Darrell Wolfe


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    What does Topos mean?Topos is a Greek word meaning: "Place, or Opportunity"
    Properly:Any portion of space marked off, as it were, from surrounding, space Metaphorically: The condition or station held by one in any company or assemblyopportunity, power, occasion for actingA spot (general in space, but limited by occupancy; whereas chora is a large but participle locality). As used by me: Topos is a strategic position of opportunity and influence
    Topos: Your Calling Everyone has a God given calling on this earth. There is something you were created and designed to do. What you are doing now may be "The Calling"; or, it may be the calling for this season of your life. Either way, you are either in your Topos, or you need to find it.

    As you read the stories of biblical heros like Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Nehemiah, Peter, and Paul... etc... you find that God put them in the right place to do the right thing at the right time.

    They ended up in their Topos, …

    Credit Building

    I just met three people working at Carl's Jr. We had a great talk about income, credit, and demystifying credit. So many people need a financial doctor and don't know it. Or they do know that they need one but don't know how easy it is to have one. I gave them a few tips, my business card for credit, my friend Ben's business card for Insurance and Investments, and told them to come see me so we can get into more details.They didn't realize that someone would be willing to help without having to pay a consulting fee or go or a class.I love helping people. Love it. And as Zig Ziglar said: You can have anything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want. I don't concern myself with whose going to make me a sale, who I can get something from, etc. If I simply help everyone I can, without regards to my reward for it, the reward will come as a byproduct.It was a great reminder that I'm on the right path.Darrell

    About Me

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    Hi! My name is Darrell G. Wolfe. I am a wealth of random information and I make complicated things simple at

    I have a knack for absorbing information, breaking it down to its root elements, and teaching it to others.

    Most importantly, I help purpose-driven people to understand their place in His-Story and provide them the tools they need to fulfill their unique position of opportunity and influence in this world (their Topos).