Does Promising a Higher Tip Mean Better Service?

Categories: Chow Bella

Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail Miss a question? Go here.

Usually, tips are something left at the end of a dining experience. But what happens when the promise of a big one is made up front? Should the guest expect better service?

See also: Should Guests Tip for To-Go Orders?
Should Tipping Be Mandatory?

I asked a few Valley chefs and restaurateurs this question, and here's what they had to say.

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Kirsten Burruel, General Manager,
DownUnder Wines and Bistro

I don't believe that it does. If you present yourself well, are knowledgeable about the food, and understand the drinks, you should be the lucky recipient of a good tip! When someone promises a higher tip, it sets me up for failure because I feel the pressure of needing to impress more and don't know what the expectation is. Everyone should get great service from a relaxed and passionate server.

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Chris Osborn,
Owner, Cadillac Ranch

That can backfire sometimes because some servers are cynical by nature. So I'd say 70 percent of the time it will work.

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Cullen Campbell,
Chef and Owner, Crudo

No, just being nice and having an interest in what the restaurant has to offer gets you better service than promising a good tip that may never show up anyway.

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Aaron May, Chef and Restaurateur

As a restaurant owner, I would hope not. Every guest deserves the same high level of service, regardless of tip. A large tip is the customer's way of rewarding that excellence, but by no means should a bigger tip be required to receive it. At my restaurants, we don't refer to VIPs, we don't tell our staff to provide a higher level of service or to pay more attention to any guest in particular. We might "show some love" with a mid course, a free dessert, or a round of cocktails, but the level of service both in the front and back of house should remain constant.

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Verbal tipping or the promises thereof are about as genuine as claims of being "well endowed." I agree with Christopher and Dave, it is usually offered up by people who want "special treatment," or who look for any reason to deduct from said tip. Not a good sign. When you frequent a joint, and tip well regularly for good service and food, you get a reputation with the staff. Dine REGULARLY at LOCAL RESTAURANTS! Build your credentials, support local establishments! I have experienced both waiting tables and restaurant ownership. It matters very much where you place your dollars.


As a server, my putz-radar goes off when this occurs. Usually a disappointing ending. In reference to the "loaded handshake", now your talking! Unless I sneak a look as I walk away and  its a Washington and not a few Jacksons or better.

Chris Stuckey
Chris Stuckey

Dave Andrea has it right. Others have good points, but overall they are all chefs/owners. What do they know about working for $2.35/hr? Or delivering said service? Sounds like a bunch of armchair quarterbacks.

Chris Stuckey
Chris Stuckey

As a former server, it certainly illicits it. But depends in what you mean by better... Spend a little more time, maybe. Sacrifice other guests service, no.


When a guest promises a "big tip" up front it means if your lucky you'll get a tad over 15%.

I've never had one of these self proclaimed "big tippers" actually give me a good tip.  I served for a decade and have had my share of stiffs, walk outs, and massive tips over $100.00+ when the bill wasn't enormous. 

Kimberlynn Hall Tovrea
Kimberlynn Hall Tovrea

ha! I've done it before with apathetic newby waitstaff at our football view in bar - lay out a stack of one dollar bills and let them know my expectations (centered around the service we were accustomed to)... took a dollar away anytime we had to sit and wait on drink refills, hadn't seen them come by in a while to check on us, etc. Only had to do it once, then they were "trained"... sorry if that sounds harsh - but we understood the realities of the restaurant we were at and how a view in could prohibit the turning of tables and thus their overall take home on tips - we tipped VERY well.....

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