When it comes to a career in the service industry, no matter how short or long-lived, one of the most advantageous things you can learn to do ASAP is how to pull people’s emotional and unconscious heartstrings.
But before you think I’m some manipulative monster just trying to turn the world upside down to objectify patrons, guests, and customers for your own selfish, worldly gain- just hear me out.
If you plan on waiting tables, serving drinks, or tending bar, then you already know that the key to making money is in the extra stuff you do to stimulate all who cross your path and pull out their wallets to pay the check. Therefore, it becomes a must that you start to understand human psychology right away for not only your own benefit, but for the enjoyment of the guest as well.
There’s Nothing Selfish About Making More Tips
First, let’s get the idea that money is bad out of our heads. In these days and times of crony capitalism and rabid politicians talking out of both sides of their mouth about social programs, while selling out to big corporations to stay in office, the concept of having more as being a positive thing gets drowned out by all the social justice static.
You don’t think that’s by coincidence, do you? After all, what if most people bucked the elites attempting to program us all to accept less in life?
While the answer to that question is beyond the scope of this article, it’s important to accept that money is a means of exchange, and when people spend more, and tip more, they are merely exchanging value for value.
You provide value to a guest when you make their coffee taste great, bring that sizzling steak cooked to perfection on time to the table, and when you make that specialty cocktail that makes them do a backflip and believe that good times are here again.
When you “go the extra mile” (I know, it sounds terribly cliché), what you are doing is adding value to the guest experience, and believe it or not, most of the time humans will reciprocate more value when they perceive they themselves are receiving added value.
Examples of Adding Value to the Guest Experience
There are literally an infinite number of possibilities and ideas that you can come up with on your own to enhance the guest experience and wow them into pouring out their wallet as if they are anointing you as the new emperor of hospitality, but let’s drop a few solid ideas right here and now to get your own creative juices flowing.
1. Artistry is always appreciated.
I was once at a Starbucks in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the 2nd biggest city on the island, walking across town and having a pretty abysmal day. When I ordered my drink that day, the young ladies working behind the counter were not only super nice and polite, but when I sat down upstairs to sip my beverage I noticed a drawing on the side of the cup.
Not only was it hilarious and heartwarming to me, it really made me appreciate the cultural experience of being a guy with a strangely massive beard in a land of scarce beards having his own self-portrait scribbled with a Sharpie on the side of a plastic cup of tea. Is this how they viewed me? I felt kind of like a zoo animal, but in a good way. The resemblance was uncanny, and I have to admit I will never forget it.
2. What’s in a name?
Finding a way to use a person’s name, whether audibly or by writing it on the guest’s check, is a great way to increase the psychological closeness the guest has with you, while at the same time without being too creepy.
As human beings with feelings, we all want to be validated, even in the smallest ways. For those of us who live in a large metropolis, we may not get the deep emotional connection that people in smaller towns who see each other regularly do.
That’s why when you can call someone by their name in a kind, loving and respectful manner, they will unconsciously feel more connected and special. The hardest part is finding out their name without being too obtrusive, but I knew servers who were good at this when I waited tables. I myself would get their name from their credit card, write their name with a smiley face saying a big “Thank you!”, and then usually try to drop the check and say their name and thank them.
I regularly got 18% – 20% tips just from my style of service, and I am a pretty introverted, procedurally-minded kind of guy at the restaurant.
3. Do you want fries with that?
The practice of fast food workers asking people if they’d like fries or to upsize has no doubt made people fatter, and corporate food chains wealthier, but there’s something we can learn from this.
When you ask a guest if they’d like to add something, often times they will say no, but imagine you work at a nice restaurant and they order a steak, and then you ask if they’d like it “Oscar style” i.e. topped with jumbo lump crab meat. Now you are giving them the opportunity to have more when perhaps they were unaware they could even have a steak topping, or maybe they were unsure and just needed that extra gentle push to overcome their inner objections.
Remember, most of us are creatures of habit, and while we want to try something new and improved, we may require a little encouragement from an outside source.
Be yourself, but if you’re having a bad day, be someone else.
“Be yourself” is fine if you are having a great day, but what about when your day is a disaster and you feel like a cup of warm dishwater?
It’s simple, you “fake it ’til you make it”. Remember, we all have bad days, but just like you don’t want to be the recipient of someone’s emotional venting just because you need to send a package at FedEx, the same goes for the person patronizing your place of work.
What can you do? It’s simple, try to forget you for a while. Stop thinking about your feelings and the problems in your life and focus simply on putting on a smile (even a forced one will eventually relax into a real one), and keep the guest’s experience your top priority.
If you really want to get creative, you can come up with an alter ego like “Sasha Fierce”, the concept Beyoncé uses before she performs at a concert or big show.
The last word on making more money as a bartender, waiter, or barista
It’s easy to assume that the most successful people are extroverts, naturally charismatic, charming, and lucky, and, to a large extent, that’s true.
But even if you are a naturally quiet, shy, introverted person like me, you can still find ways to make your guest feel special and cared for, and this will logically lead to more money for you as you continue to provide the very best service to everyone who walks through your establishment’s doors.