Paying Tips Through Payroll

Paying tips through payroll can be a simple way for employers to distribute tips they collect on employees’ behalf. It eases the burden on both employers and employees by ensuring tips are appropriately taxed and recorded. However, it’s also much more involved than paying tips instantly, as we’ll explain below.

What Is a Tipped Employee?

A tipped employee is any employee who regularly and customarily receives at least $30 in monthly tips from customers. These employees often work in industries where gratuities are common, including restaurants, bars, hotels, and other hospitality or service businesses. Many tips employees interact directly with customers who provide tips as a reward for good service.

In many cases, tipped employees receive lower base hourly wages than non-tipped employees, expecting their tips to supplement their income to at least meet the federal minimum wage. This lower direct wage and the tips received constitute the employee’s total earnings.

How Do Employee Tips Work?

Employee tips function as a direct, voluntary payment to service workers by customers in appreciation for the service they receive. Customers typically determine the tip amount based on the service quality, and it is often a percentage of the total bill. In many industries, customers usually tip 10% to 20% of their total bill to reward employees for good service.

The process of handling tips varies by industry and by business. In some cases – including cash businesses – employees often keep their tips individually. In other cases, tips are pooled and then divided among the staff, including servers, bartenders, and back-of-the-house workers. 

Most often, when employees receive cash tips, they’re entitled to keep those tips (minus any portion they’ve agreed before to share with support staff). Additionally, employers are responsible for distributing tips they collect on behalf of employees, including through credit or debit card transactions.

What Is a Tip Credit?

A tip credit is a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that allows employers to count a portion of their tipped employees’ gratuities as a component of their total wages. This means that in states where tip credits are allowed employers can pay tipped employees a lower direct wage if the amount of tips received is sufficient to bring the employee’s total earnings to at least the federal minimum wage.

Paying Tips Instantly vs Through Payroll

In most businesses, employees receive their tips instantly in cash at the end of their shift. This immediate form of payment gives employees instant access to their earnings. Still, it can also lead to management headaches and potential inaccuracies in record-keeping. Handling large amounts of cash can pose risks to a business, and reconciling tips reported by employees with sales data can be a time-consuming task. 

Paying tips through payroll involves collecting the tips earned by employees and adding them to their regular paychecks. While this method ensures accurate tracking and reporting of tip income, it will delay employees’ access to their earnings. Over time, employees can also grow skeptical that tip calculations are accurate.

This is where Kickfin comes into play. Kickfin is a platform that solves these challenges by enabling instant tip payments directly to employees’ bank accounts. This eliminates the risks and hassles associated with handling cash and ensures accurate, real-time tracking and reporting of tips. Employees benefit from immediate access to their earnings, improving financial security and job satisfaction.

How To Pay Tips Through Payroll

Collecting and tracking tips throughout a pay period can be a headache, but it also ensures accurate reporting and tracking of tip income for employees. In this section, we will walk through the basic steps of how to pay tips through payroll.

1. Collect Non-Cash Tips on Behalf of Employees

Non-cash tips, such as credit and debit card tips, are typically included in the customer’s bill at the point of sale (POS). To collect these tips, businesses must integrate a tipping option into their POS system. That way, when a customer pays with a card, they can add a tip to their total bill amount. Most modern POS systems offer an option to add a tip to the bill. 

Collect the total amount of non-cash tips from the POS system at the end of each shift or business day. This should be a simple matter of running a report or checking each employee’s accumulated tips in your POS system. Add the collected tips to each employee’s payroll for that period. In some cases, you might be able to integrate your POS system with your payroll system to automate this step.

2. Transfer Funds from Merchant Account to Payroll Account

Once customer transactions for a given shift settle and funds are deposited into your merchant account, transfer money from your merchant account to your payroll account to ensure you have the funds necessary to cover employee payroll. 

Keep in mind that transfers may not be instantaneous, depending on your bank’s policies and procedures. Therefore, scheduling these transfers well before your payroll processing days is recommended to ensure the funds are available when needed. 

3. Separate Tips by Employee

Once you have money in your payroll account, process payroll as you would normally – by multiplying each employee’s hourly wage by the number of hours they worked in that pay period. Then, add the calculated tips to the corresponding employee’s payroll. If you process payroll manually, this could mean adding the tip amount to the employee’s regular wage for that pay period. If you’re using a digital payroll system, there may be a specific field or feature where you can input the tip amount. 

At this point, you should ensure that each employee’s pay meets state and federal minimum wage requirements. If one or more employees’ total compensation (wages plus tips) does not meet minimum wage, you’ll need to supplement their wages for that pay period to compensate for any shortfall. (Note: This would only apply in states that allow restaurant operators to take a tip credit.)

4. Incorporate Tips into Scheduled Payroll

Once you add each employee’s tips to their pay amount for a given pay period, you’ll need to calculate taxes and other deductions based on their total income. Typically, both federal and state income taxes, along with the employee’s share of social security and Medicare taxes (FICA), are calculated and withheld from this total income. Any other deductions or withholdings that the employee has authorized should also be deducted.

Remember to clearly itemize each of these deductions on the employee’s payslip, showing the specific amounts deducted for each category. This helps employees understand how their total income, including tips, is calculated and where their money is going. 

5. Pay Out Tips as Part of Payroll

After calculating each employee’s income (including tips) and deductions, process payroll – paying out net wages and providing employees with copies of their paystubs for that pay period. Most payroll systems generate these statements automatically. Otherwise, you’ll need to generate itemized pay stubs manually.

What Is the Difference Between Cash Tips and Paycheck Tips?

Cash tips and paycheck tips represent two different methods of tipping in the hospitality industry. Cash tips are the traditional and most common form of tipping. They are given directly to the service provider, often immediately after service has been rendered. This method allows service staff to receive gratuity instantly, providing immediate access to their earnings. 

Paycheck tips, on the other hand, are tips that are added to an employee’s regular paycheck. This method involves collecting non-cash tips (credit and debit card tips) through a POS system and adding them to payroll for distribution. Paycheck tips provide more accurate tracking of tip income for tax purposes but also delay employees’ access to their earnings.

Do Employees Have to Pool Tips?

Pooling tips, also known as “tip pooling” or “tip sharing,” is a common practice in the hospitality industry. It involves combining all or a portion of employees’ tips into a shared pool, which is then divided among a group of employees. The aim of tip pooling is to promote a collaborative work environment where all staff members share in the business’s success. 

In the U.S., an employer can require employees to participate in a tip pool or share tips with other employees. However, this is only allowed among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, such as servers and bartenders. Back-of-house staff, such as cooks and dishwashers, can’t be forced to participate in a tip pool unless the employer pays the full minimum wage and doesn’t take a tip credit. 

If you’re thinking about having employees pool tips, first familiarize yourself with local laws to ensure your tip pooling policies are compliant. You need to create a written tip-pooling policy, make employees aware of this policy from the outset, and effectively communicate any changes.

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We know how important same-day payments are for veterans of the service industry who are accustomed to quick cash — and we’re now seeing that same demand expand into other industries as well. 

Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined MasterCard’s InConversation Webinar series to discuss why immediate payment disbursal is key for the restaurant industry and the gig economy as a whole.

Watch the webinar here or read our recap for the highlights: 

People live paycheck-to-paycheck

Not just some people are living paycheck to paycheck. Most people are. 

That’s right: around 64% of U.S. consumers are just getting by. Even more shocking, 51% of consumers who earn over six figures are still living paycheck to paycheck, despite their higher tax bracket. 

It’s a major reason why employees need access to their earnings sooner rather than later. The pressure of watching your bank account slowly drain in the two weeks between payday is putting a lot of pressure on people, leading to a much greater demand for instant payments than ever before. 

Instant payouts are now table stakes

A PYMNTS study found that people of all ages prefer to be paid out immediately, as well as some other interesting statistics:

  • When given the choice, 68% of respondents said they would opt for an instant pay out
  • 40% of gig workers surveyed were willing to pay a fee for an instant disbursement
  • 81% of respondents were willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers instant access to earned wages and tips

It’s safe to say instant payouts are becoming the expectation for today’s modern workforce. But not all instant payouts are created equal.

Consumers are much more likely to engage with an instant payout system if they aren’t required to share their bank account and routing numbers and can access funds with just their debit card credentials. Why? It’s faster, more convenient, and feels more secure. 

Instant payouts and tip management: a perfect use case.

Instant payout innovation has come at the perfect time for the restaurant industry, which is struggling more than ever with the hassles and cost of cash.

If you’re in the restaurant biz, then you know: Most consumers pay with credit cards these days, not cash. That means there’s rarely enough cash on hand to pay out tips at the end of a shift. But employees still want and need instant access to their tip earnings.

Enter: instant payouts. Offering employees the option to receive their tip earnings directly to their bank of choice, the second their shift ends, can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and ensuring their financial security.

But instant payouts are more than a work perk for employees. The operational benefits for employers range from reduced administrative burden and significant time savings to stronger compliance and streamlined reporting.

Modernizing your tip management strategy: 5 best practices 

There are three key components to your tip management strategy: 

  • Tip pool policy: How are you divvying up tips among your staff? 
  • The payout method: How are you distributing those payments?
  • The systems and tech: What are you using to facilitate those payments?

Under the current circumstances, restaurant operators are under immense pressure to bring their tip management into the future. 

5 best practices for tip management 

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators across the country, we’ve found that these five practices are the perfect recipe for building a successful tip management system.  

  1. Determine the right model and method for your restaurant, based on your location and tech stack
  2. Get a written tip policy (and get it legally approved
  3. Solicit employee feedback in a structured way
  4. Leverage technology for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance
  5. Don’t over-complicate (but do over-communicate!)

Tip management solution must-haves

When seeking a new tip management solution, make sure you carefully vet each system to see if it really meets your needs, or if it’ll be just as frustrating as cash. Here are a few suggestions for what should be on your checklist: 

  • Instant payouts
  • Direct to bank of choice
  • Availability of employee funds
  • Payroll option 
  • Integrations 
  • Simple implementation + onboarding process 
  • Around-the-clock customer service 

Big emphasis on strong customer support teams. Restaurants and bars don’t have “typical” business hours, so neither should your tech support.

Bar Louie automates payouts with Kickfin 

In a recent case study, we took a deep dive into our partnership with Bar Louie, a chain with over 60 locations that took advantage of our new integration with Toast. They made the switch from cash payouts to Kickfin’s instant, direct-to-bank payouts and haven’t looked back.  

Two-minute tip-outs

Before Kickfin, managers spent an average of 45 minutes per shift working through Bar Louie’s complex tip out policy and counting cash. The tip pooling rules were important to them — it’s what makes the entire staff feel like they’re getting their fair share. 

Using the Kickfin0Toast integration, Bar Louie was able to automate the tip pool calculation process and send tips straight to employees in under two minutes – a potential annual savings of 15,000 labor hours across all locations.

>> See more customer success stories 

Do you want to see these kinds of cost-saving results at your business? Let’s talk. Get a demo of Kickfin and see why restaurant owners and employees alike trust us to manage their tips.

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

See Kickfin in action!