Beat the Labor Shortage: How to Increase Tips and Keep Your Best Servers

In the midst of a (neverending?) labor shortage, restaurant operators are doing everything they can to encourage their best servers to stick around. 

A sure-fire way to keep your current employees happy? Help them earn more money. Of course, when margins are tight, that can be tricky —  which is where tips come in. Tipping allows employees to earn significantly more than what your revenue constraints might allow.

In fact, for many restaurant teams, particularly in the full-service segment, tips make up the majority of a server’s income. And if you practice any sort of tip pooling, then tips can increase take-home pay for other front-of-house and back-of-house employees, too.

While tip amounts are generally determined by the total bill and the quality of service a customer receives, there are things you can do to help your employees earn more tips. Here are a few ideas to try out at your restaurant.

1. Give them bigger sections

Your veteran servers can handle a lot more than you give them credit for. They probably want everything you throw at them, because more tables can generally mean more tip-making opportunities for them.

We get it: you don’t want customer service to slip. But you can trust your best servers to be honest about how much they can handle. If their answers vary, you can create different-sized sections where you reward top performers with more tables, while newbies get their feet wet with smaller sections.

2. Server training sessions

In the restaurant industry, you’re bound to get a lot of green serving staff. Give them the knowledge and tools they need to exceed customer expectations and operate with efficiency, so they can start earning more tips, faster.

If you don’t already have some kind of formalized training program in place, now’s the time to start. (For tips on onboarding new employees, check out our webinar here.) 

Of course, there are some basics they’ll need to learn — policies, standard operating procedures procedures, how to use your tech stack, etc. If they’re new to the industry, don’t make any assumptions: introduce them to every part of the restaurant. It’s important that they understand operations from front to back and how their success is tied to the success of the whole team.

Soft skills are equally important. Being able to engage with guests in a warm, professional manner can take the dining experience to the next level — and it compensates for slip-ups here and there while employees are still learning the ropes.

3. Teach the art of the upsell

In addition to the training they receive during onboarding, it’s never a bad idea to offer ongoing sessions for newer staff and seasoned pros alike. One focus area to consider: coaching your team on the art of the upsell. 

No, you don’t want your servers to turn into full-blown salespeople; but when it’s done in a way that’s focused on improving the guest experience, it has the added benefits of boosting tip amounts and increasing your restaurant sales, too. 

For example, hold a drink pairing class where your team learns what drinks to suggest for each order. Help them practice presenting daily specials in a way that’s appealing and easy-to-follow. Remind them not to miss an opportunity to suggest a starter and be smart about how they position the option for a dessert. (E.g.: They’re full from dinner? Offer that pie to-go!)

Not every server will have time for extra classes (school, family, and life can get pretty hectic), so make these classes optional. Your servers who can make it will thank you for providing them with flexibility and tools to increase tips, and your customers will notice and appreciate how knowledgeable your staff is. 

4. Run your kitchen efficiently

We all know that servers bear the brunt of frustrated, hangry customers. If guests are waiting and waiting for their food, they often blame the server (even if they’re not at fault) and deduct from their tips. Also, the longer a party sits waiting for their food to come out, the longer the server will have to wait to get their next table. 

Want your servers to earn more money? Address any back-of-house issues that might be impacting the customer experience. Hungry guests will be much happier when their food arrives quickly, and it’ll help your servers turn and turn more tables throughout the night. 

And keep in mind: For restaurants that include back-of-house employees in their tip pool, kitchen employees benefit from better tips, too — so help them understand how a rising tide lifts all boats.

5. Manage expectations at the host stand

Just like the kitchen, the host stand is completely out of the servers’ control — but it can seriously affect their tips. While you can’t really help going on a wait during a busy Saturday night dinner rush, you can train your hosts to tactfully manage guests’ expectations, so they aren’t fuming by the time their server comes to greet them. 

For one, hosts need to accurately predict wait times. There’s nothing worse than telling a customer that it’ll only be a 20-minute wait and then watching them sit squirming in your waiting area for 45 minutes. Consider taking advantage of restaurant tech that can help hosts manage the floor and the waitlist. 

It can also be confusing to guests if they’re on the waitlist, but they see empty tables. What they may not know is that you don’t have enough servers to cover all of the tables in the restaurant — so if that’s the case, consider asking your hosts to be proactive about explaining the situation.

Of course, when a party leaves and the table is ready to be cleaned, encourage your hosts to jump in and support busy bussers so that the next guests can be seated quickly.

6. Put your managers back on the floor 

When things go wrong, managers often swoop in to save the server’s tip. Managers are there to smooth over customer complaints and ensure a high-quality dining experience for every guest in your restaurant. But if they’re in the back office working for the entire shift, servers don’t get the support they need. 

Free up your managers’ shifts so they can spend more time touching tables, refilling drinks, and supporting the FOH staff. When managers can spend more time interacting with guests and helping servers who are in the weeds, guests enjoy their dining experiences more and are happier to leave a generous tip. 

(One idea to give your managers hours back in their day: Try out Kickfin’s instant cashless tipping software so your managers can spend less time counting out cash tips and crunching numbers, and more time connecting with customers and supporting your servers. Check out a demo today.)

7 Reasons Your General Manager Will Thank You for Digitizing Tip Payments

General managers have one of the toughest jobs in hospitality. They’re in the trenches with their team, day in and day out — but with the added responsibilities of hiring, training, purchasing, inventory management, maintaining guest satisfaction, ensuring adherence policies and standard operating procedures…the list goes on.

It takes the right skillset — and a lot of grit — to succeed as a GM. When you find a talented one, as an operator, it’s worth doing everything you can to keep them happy and make their life easier. 

Enter: digital tipping. For restaurants that move away from cash tip-outs and automate tip distribution, cash management becomes one less (tedious) task on your GM’s plate. That means they have hours back in their day for work that matters. (Or maybe — just maybe — they’ll get to head home at a slightly more reasonable hour.)

Here are 7 reasons why your GM will thank you for making the switch to digital tip distribution. 

1. Fewer bank runs 

Your general manager probably bears the burden of ensuring there’s enough cash in the safe to pay out tips after each shift. For a lot of GMs, that means running to the bank to withdraw thousands of dollars in cash on a weekly (or more frequent) basis. Your GMs will be more than happy to scratch that task off their to-do list so they can stay in the store and on the floor. 

2. Enhanced safety 

Running to and from the bank isn’t just a time suck: it’s also a major liability. Having that much cash on your person makes your GM a perfect target for theft. And the same goes for their team once they’ve received their tip-outs and are heading home in the wee hours of the morning. (And realistically, the more cash you have on hand, the more opportunity there is for internal theft and skimming.) Sending tips straight to their bank account is truly the best of both worlds: employees still get instant access to their earnings, right where they want it — and everyone is a whole lot safer. 

3. Less time counting (and recounting) cash

As long as you accept cash at your restaurant, your managers will have to deal with the daily task of counting down cash registers before and after every shift. But the vast majority of restaurant sales are credit card transactions. Given the inefficiencies (and risks) of cash management, there’s simply no reason to introduce cash into the equation in order to pay out those credit card tips. 

Digital tip-outs eliminates the need for your GMs to manually count out stacks of cash and rolls of quarters until they’re going cross-eyed — which saves time and greatly reduces the risk of human error.

4. Freedom to shine on the floor 

All of that time saved from bank runs and cash counting means your managers can spend more time on tasks that really matter. Sure, there will always be admin work to be done. But generally speaking, GMs aren’t in hospitality because they want to spend their days and nights heads down in the back office; it’s because they love to be on the floor managing their team, engaging with guests, and filling in gaps as needed. Finding ways to automate what you can — like tip distribution — gives them the freedom to do just that.

5. Minimal distractions (and drama)

Every time a server comes by the restaurant to pick up tips from the previous night, managers have to stop what they’re doing to open the safe, watch the server count the tips, and sign that they received them. Then they’ll try to return to the task at hand…only for another server to show up 15 minutes later. 

Some restaurants also struggle with tip disputes — i.e., employees claiming that they didn’t get what they were owed. Unfortunately, with cash tip-outs, there’s low visibility into payment history and a lot of room for error. Combined, those two things can create major trust issues for your team.

Cashless tip-out solutions mean tip payments happen instantly — not the next day or week — and they provide you with a digital paper trail, which cuts down on the distractions and drama that your GM has to deal with on a daily basis.

6. Easy reconciliation and reporting 

Your general manager wears a lot of hats — and for many restaurants, that includes some level of reporting or bookkeeping. Your cash tip-out system might include a lot of hand-written records, complicated spreadsheets…and heavy reliance on your bleary-eyed managers’ late-night math skills.

The right digital tipping solution will provide a much simpler and more accurate source of truth for tip payments, as well as robust reporting by shift, date, location, or individual employee. 

7. A smart recruiting play  

Your GM has been fighting on the front lines of the labor shortage, and they need new, creative ideas to bring in new servers. Digital tipping options could be the differentiator they need to bring in talented servers. As more restaurants embrace digital tipping, they’re finding that a lot of candidates — especially the Gen Zers — consider instant, direct-to-bank payouts a major work perk that’s rapidly becoming table stakes. 

Give your GM the tools they need to succeed

 A GM has to be good at juggling a lot of tasks in a fast-paced environment. That’s a non-negotiable. But when there’s an opportunity to make your operations run more efficiently and make your GM’s life easier? That’s a no-brainer. Eliminating the hassles of cash management makes a world of difference for the captain of your ship — so if you’re still doing tip-outs old-school, now’s the time to seek out the right digital tipping solution for your team.

Want to check out Kickfin’s digital tipping software? We’ll show you all of our general manager-friendly features in a 10-minute demo — schedule yours today!

Mythbusters: Questions and Misconceptions About Digital Tipping

The advancement of digital tipping technology has a whole host of benefits for your operations, your team, and your bottom line. 

But as every employer knows, any change to the payment process — even if it’s for the better! — can create uncertainty and concern among employees. That’s especially true in an industry like hospitality, where it’s not unusual for employees to live paycheck to paycheck. 

While digital tipping is quickly becoming table stakes for restaurants, it’s still a relatively new technology. So if you’re considering a digital tipping solution for your restaurant, your employees will likely have questions — and maybe even some misconceptions — about what instant, cashless tip-outs really mean for them.

Below are few of the myths we find ourselves regularly busting, as well as important information that can help your people rest assured that digital tipping is a simple, secure — and did we mention instant? — way to receive the tips they’ve worked so hard to earn.  

Does digital tipping affect servers’ tax liability? 

For some servers, one of the big perks of working in the restaurant industry is that cash tips can’t necessarily be tracked — so they may not report all of their tipped income. As digital tip-outs rise in popularity, many servers are concerned that this will mean more tip reporting and higher tax liability. 

But the thing is: it doesn’t. Even though your employees’ tips might be paid out in cash, that doesn’t mean income is unreported. If your restaurant is using a POS system where you input your credit card tips after each table closes out, that POS data is already being used to report your servers’ income and the IRS is taxing them on it — which is why your employees might receive $0 paychecks. In fact, the IRS is gearing up to rely solely on POS data for tax information. 

Just like before, if a customer leaves a cash tip, it’s on the employee to claim it, but credit card tips have been (and always will be) reported to the IRS. 

Do employees need to download an app? 

If your employees are anything like us, they have no storage to spare on their smartphone. So when you announce the rollout of a digital tipping solution at your restaurant, you might get some eyerolls: Does this mean there’s another app they have to download, and another account they have to manage on a regular basis? 

Short answer: nope. It depends on the solution, of course, but a software like Kickfin doesn’t require an app download. 

In fact, employees can sign up for Kickfin in 30 seconds — without having to download anything. You simply send out an invite to each employee, they click the link, and they sign up through their browser in seconds. 

That means your staff get instant tip payouts, and they don’t have to delete a million photos to free up space for yet another app. Win-win!

Do digital tipping solutions require employees to use a paycard?

Here again, not all digital tipping solutions digitize tips the same way. 

Yes, some solutions require employees to use a paycard. The problem with paycards is that employees might get hit with unexpected fees when they want to use their card or transfer money to their bank account. (And those bank transfers can take up to 3-5 days!)

Kickfin’s solution bypasses paycards and sends tip earnings directly to their bank accounts — which is where most employees prefer. Funds are instantly accessible the moment employees are tipped out (including nights, weekends and bank holidays), so your people don’t have to deal with the paycard wait times if rent is due or they have bills to pay. 

Does Kickfin store servers’ banking information? 

Hackers and identity thieves are constantly taking advantage of weak security thresholds (or worse: accidental data leaks). So it’s not surprising that your employees might hesitate to share personal or financial information with a new vendor. 

With a solution like Kickfin that sends tip earnings straight to your employees’ bank accounts, it’s fair to assume their banking information is saved within Kickfin and could be compromised.

But that’s actually not how it works. 

In addition to being 100% PCI compliant, Kickfin tokenizes your employees’ financial information. Without getting into the weeds, the bottom line is that their financial information is safe from bad actors, period.

What about personal information? 

Constant spam calls and emails are driving everyone nuts, so your employees may be concerned about entering their phone number and email address into yet another database that could be sold to telemarketers, spammers, and even scammers. 

We get it: Kickfin will never sell your employees’ personal information. We value your trust too much. And if an employee opts out of Kickfin or moves on to a new job, they can easily delete their account.

Can unbanked employees use Kickfin? 

Kickfin connects to 100% of all 10,000+ banks for instant, cashless tip-outs. But what about hospitality employees who are unbanked?

Realistically, some workers aren’t old enough to have a bank account; some might be undocumented; and some people simply choose not to use a bank.

If your unbanked employees are worried about how they’ll get paid with a direct-to-bank tipping solution, make sure you’re selecting a software that gives them options. For example: With Kickfin, employees can simply opt out of instant payouts and receive their tips via payroll. It doesn’t add any administrative complexity for your team, and it ensures they’re still getting access to the tips they’ve earned.

Still have a burning question about digital tipping? We’re here to help. Schedule some time with us today and we’ll get you the answers you’re looking for! 

[WEBINAR] A Tip Pooling “Deep Dive” with Restaurant Strategy Podcast Host Chip Klose

Tip pooling can have big benefits for your entire team…but landmines abound.

Don’t just take our word for it: a quick Google News search for “tip pools” will return countless stories detailing costly lawsuits against operators who were — sometimes unknowingly — running illegal tip pools.

Of course, if you’re going to pool or share tips in your restaurant, compliance is only one (albeit very important) consideration.

It’s also critical to choose the best structure for your restaurant based on a variety of factors — including your restaurant type, team size and local market. And then there’s the rollout: Properly communicating the policy to your team and soliciting feedback can go a very long way in ensuring the success of your tip pool.

If you’re considering instituting a tip pool or tip share — or if you want to evaluate your current tip distribution program — check out our recent webinar moderated by Restaurant Strategy Podcast host Chip Klose and featuring Justin Roberts (co-CEO, Kickfin); Larisa Thomas (VP Operations, Kickfin); Beth Schroeder (Partner, Raines Feldman LLP).

Watch the recording below to hear the panelists cover the ins and outs of tip pooling, including:

  • Pros and cons of running a tip pool
  • The most common types of tip pool structures
  • Tip pooling myths and misconceptions
  • Avoiding costly tip pooling compliance mistakes
  • Best practices for launching or updating a tip pool policy

5 Questions To Ask When Choosing a Digital Tipping Solution

So, you’re ready to break up with cash. Good news: the hardest part is over. 

But before you pop the champagne and celebrate your freedom from the pain of cash tip-outs, you have a few decisions to make. Payroll tips or digital tips? Instant tips or pay cards? There are a number of approaches to cashless tipping — but which one is right for your restaurant? 

We’ve been there (actually, we live here…), and we’ve done the research for you. As you’re wading through your options, here are a few things to consider when choosing a digital tipping solution. 

1. What is the employee experience like? 

No servers = no sales. In year three of the labor shortage, we all know how hard it can be to find good employees, so you can’t afford to lose your best servers to the restaurant across the street. If your new tipping system doesn’t benefit employees, go ahead and dust off your “Now Hiring” sign.

Most of your employees want (and deserve) to be paid on a daily basis — so before you make the switch, consider how it can affect their financial situations. 

And if you’re looking at a paycard solution, bear in mind — these types of digital tipping programs can cause a host of problems for your staff. For example, paycard fees can quickly add up, effectively docking your servers’ pay.

Ideally, you should choose a solution that gives your people instant access to their earnings (the same immediate gratification they had with cash) with minimal disruption.  

2. What will implementation look like? 

New tech can be daunting — but digital tipping software should be simple to implement, especially if you’re running as a standalone system. Make sure you ask the vendor you’re evaluating about things like:

  • How long will this take to implement?
  • What kind of training or onboarding support can we expect?
  • Are there any fees associated with the set up?

Bottom line: digital tipping should make your life easier, and that includes implementation. Make sure your solution has a clear, well-run process that gets you up and running fast.

→ Tech has never been so easy: See Kickfin’s digital tipping solution in action.

3. How does user management work? 

You have veteran employees who’ve been with you for years, others who are just around for a season, and even some who work at multiple locations. When digging into digital tipping options, look for a solution that automates user management, making it simple to add new users and new locations as your business evolves.

4. What happens when I need customer support? 

When you’re introducing any new system or process, questions are inevitable.

If your digital tipping solution doesn’t also include a robust, always-on customer success team, you may find yourself lost in the midst of employee questions, operational chaos, and maybe even some regret. Rather than feeling frustrated, ensure success by seeking out tipping platforms that are there to support your transition and keep you afloat.  

5. Will I be in compliance with tip pooling laws? 

Tip pooling regulations are always changing (and vary from state to state), so your digital tipping solution should also be a tool to help you stay in compliance with the law. As you evaluate tipping solutions, ask if they put up guardrails to prevent any tip pooling mistakes that could result in serious fines and lawsuits. 

Evaluating digital tipping solutions for your team? We’ve got you covered. Schedule time with our sales team today and we’ll answer any questions you throw at us.

How to Hire & Retain Gen Z Restaurant Workers

Everyone is still feeling the effects of the labor shortage — and it could be that outdated hiring practices are to blame. 

Toss out all the articles you’ve read about hiring Millennials, because Gen Z is joining the workforce in droves. Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z (or Zoomers) can be defined by their level of comfort with tech — none of them can remember life without the internet and they probably had an iPhone before they had a car. 

Now, they’re all grown up: Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. And unlike your older employees, they’re much more independent, tech-minded, and financially driven. They’re your best bet at solving your labor woes, if you can meet their needs too. 

Here’s how you entice Gen Z workers to join your team (and keep them happy). 

Competitive Pay 

No huge shock here: people want to work where they can make the most money. But unlike their Millennial forebears, Gen Z employees are taking finances much more seriously. 

Gen Z is giving major side-eye to the pizza parties and free t-shirts that may have excited employees of years past. If you’ve offered these types of job “perks” in the past, you’re better off spending that money on improving wages. And who can blame them? With increasing inflation, your youngest employees need money in the bank, not another branded hat. 

Times are tough, though. If you can’t afford higher wages, get smart with how you present your pay structure — like offering more frequent (or even daily) payment. 

Offer Benefits

Now when we say Gen Z doesn’t like job perks, we aren’t talking about the serious stuff like healthcare.

Members of Gen Z are aging out of their parents’ healthcare, and they’ll look for jobs that offer healthcare and other benefits for employees. 

On top of healthcare, Gen Z employees are also looking for time off, mental health initiatives and support, and sick leave. If you can’t offer higher wages, showing your support for your staff may help you edge out the competition in the hiring game. 

Hire Their Friends

Who doesn’t want to work with their friends? In close, team-oriented environments like restaurants, people naturally hope to find camaraderie and friendship at work. So when you’re looking for new employees, look no further than your current employees’ besties. 

Pro tip: Sweeten the deal even more by offering small referral bonuses to employees who bring their friends onto the team. You’ll make your current employees feel appreciated and solve your labor shortage issues in one fell swoop. 

Work with Their Schedules 

While some young Gen Z professionals are entering the job market looking for full-time positions, most of them are still students. To get them on board with your restaurant, you might have to be flexible with their hours. 

For college students, allow them to go home during school breaks, and be conscientious of their class schedules. They’re naturally prioritizing their (expensive) education over a restaurant job, so if you can’t be understanding about finals or Christmas break, they’ll look for a job elsewhere. 

Utilize Tech 

Gen Z was the first generation to grow up with technology — and they could probably teach you a thing or two about how to use it. Since they’re accustomed to tech making their lives easier, Gen Z workers won’t be happy to see analog processes in your restaurant.

For one, ditch the printout of the weekly schedule. No one wants to come in on their day off just to see when they work next. Instead, take advantage of the many scheduling apps that are available, or bare minimum, send out the schedule in an email.  

To really impress Gen Z, offer them digital payment options — especially digital tip outs. Like we said, Zoomers don’t want to wait two weeks for their pay, and they’re more than happy to receive digital payments over cash. In the eyes of Gen Z, the only “real money” is what you have in the bank — cash is so 1996 — so when their daily tips go straight to their bank account, they feel more financially secure. 

Looking to impress Gen Z restaurant employees? Check out a demo of Kickfin to see our technology in action.

Tipflation: What Are the New Norms Around Tipping?

Look, we’re in favor of tips around here, but we can all probably agree that over the past few years, tipping has gotten…weird. (Are you already picturing the iPad?) 

Most people know and practice proper tipping etiquette at FSRs, bars, and at fast-casual restaurants. But now, you might be prompted to leave a 30% tip at a self-service restaurant. The phenomenon – aptly named “tipflation” – has many of us questioning if we need a $9 chai latte today.

So what’s the new normal? And how should customers respond to rising costs due to the expansion of tipping? 

Why are we expanding tipping? 

It’s not like there was some major event that completely changed how most of the public sees the service industry and tipping as a whole … oh right, Covid. 

In the early days of the pandemic, restaurant workers at QSRs and takeout spots were deemed essential workers, and they were genuinely risking their lives to keep working in person. Since they were at such high risk of getting sick, many of us felt compelled to leave higher tips as a huge thank-you for their work (and for saving us from another night of spaghetti at home). 

Also, the pandemic ramped up cashless and contactless payment options — resulting in the meteoric rise of tablet tip acceptance software. With almost all restaurant operations going digital, restaurant owners opted to streamline their tipping systems as well.

And of course, restaurant owners saw the trend of higher tips as a way to mitigate the effects of the labor shortage. By expanding tips to less-traditional environments, owners could promise higher wages to potential hires — even during a time when business was unpredictable. 

Online Backlash 

As tips continue to creep up, people are taking notice — and sharing their opinions online. Last summer, TikTok creators poked fun at the awkward moment in front of the iPad, while others just shared their genuine frustration with the increasing pressure to tip. Even employees shared their discomfort with the “turning the iPad” situation. 


@maddiemischak It’s funny because I am indeed this employee  #tips #tippingculture #icecream #serviceindustry ♬ original sound – poop

And if you go through the #tippingculture on TikTok, you’ll see a lot of videos discussing whether or not we should be tipping in all of these less-traditional scenarios. In the comments, customers share the most surprising place they’ve ever been asked to tip (like at a self-checkout) as well as past and current service industry employees reminding us that people rely on tips for their livelihoods. 

Tip Etiquette in Our New Normal 

Our main takeaway? Tipflation leaves a bad taste in your customers’ mouths — even if they leave a tip in the moment. But good news: you can implement tipping at your business without offending your guests.

Because really, tipping isn’t the problem — in fact, tipped employees are overwhelmingly in favor of tipping because it significantly increases their take-home pay beyond what normal revenue constraints would allow. (Case in point: Many of the restaurants that have tried out no-tipping policies have reversed course because employees preferred the opportunity to earn more.) Plus: customers like the opportunity to reward great service.

But there’s a way to navigate tipping in a post-pandemic world without the awkward situations and risk of alienating customers. 

Here are a few tips for new-normal tipping:

  • Set the right options on your POS: Most people are happy to leave a tip for great service — but they don’t want to double the cost of their daily coffee. Set realistic tip prompts based on your business. For example, it might make sense for a bartender with many regulars to offer higher tip options of 15%, 20%, and 30%, but at a coffee shop, consider options like $0.50, $1, or rounding up to the nearest dollar. That way, customers don’t feel frozen in their choice between an over-inflated tip amount or no tip at all.
  • Make sure your customer has an option for “custom tips”: On the customer side, we often feel rushed to click on a tip option and move out of the way, completely ignoring the “custom tip” button. But think about it: you leave custom tips all the time at full-service restaurants — what’s the big deal about doing it at a QSR or coffee shop? So if you don’t immediately see a tip amount that feels right to you: stop, take a breath, and remember the custom tip button is there for a reason.
  • Give your guests some space: We all get a little shy when leaving a tip right in front of a server or cashier — and the employee usually feels pretty awkward, too. But you can make the interaction a little more comfortable for everyone involved. Rather than waiting for the customer to fill in their tip, suggest to your employees that they step away for a second. They can go get started on the guest’s order or check in on another table while the customer fills in their tip in private.  
  • Reserve judgment: Tips are great, but they don’t define people’s worth. Rather than viewing the iPad as a barometer for your customers’ morality, see it for what it is: an opportunity for servers to boost their salary and a little incentive to go the extra mile. 

If your restaurant is expanding your gratuity options, don’t make it awkward for your customers (or employees for that matter). Be mindful of the new tipping culture so that your employees can earn more money and your customers won’t leave feeling robbed. 

And of course, make your tip distribution easier with instant digital tip-outs. Request a demo today.

The Hidden Costs of Tipping Out in Cash

Roughly 4-in-10 Americans say they aren’t using cash in a typical week, according to a recent report from Pew. But even as we creep toward a cashless economy, a large chunk of the hospitality industry is holding fast to cash — at least, when it comes to tip distribution.

Most of the restaurants, bars and hotels groups that continue tipping out in cash do so because it’s “the way they’ve always done it.”

And if you’re in that camp? We get it. Sticking with the status quo can feel like the path of least resistance. (Which counts for a lot these days.)

Plus: Paying out in cash daily also helps with recruitment and retention: hospitality employees expect and deserve to get paid in real-time. Meeting that need is critical in the face of an ongoing labor crisis, when restaurants and bars are competing for talent with other establishments and gig economy employers (hi, Uber and DoorDash).

But the reality is that cash distributions aren’t the only way to tip out in real time. And they actually come with a whole host of hidden (unnecessary!) costs that could be putting a major dent in your bottom line. 

Don’t take our word for it: here are seven ways that your business may be “paying” for cash tips.

1. Managers get pulled off the floor

Managers already have a lot on their plate — helping out on the floor, checking in with guests (and smoothing over any issues), or even working the line in the kitchen. They step in where they’re needed, but distributing cash tips is an unnecessary task that takes them away from work that really matters. In fact, the whole process can consume 10+ hours of their week, every week.

Cash tip-outs take so much time because more customers are paying with credit cards or digital payments. As a result, restaurants simply don’t have cash on hand to pay out server tips at the end of each shift. 

That means:

  • Many managers find themselves making frequent bank runs — sometimes every day.
  • Once cash is in hand, they’re tasked with calculating tip pools and counting cash. It’s a tedious job for anyone, but for a run-down manager who’s trying to keep their eyes open while they’re closing out at 2 a.m.? It’s the worst.
  • Not only is it tedious: cash tip distribution keeps them chained to the back office when they could be out on the floor, doing what they do best.
  • If employees come to pick up their tips from the night before, the managers are once again pulled off the floor to ensure everyone gets what they’re owed.

2. Unnecessary labor costs

If you’re still paying out cash tips, your labor costs are likely higher than they need to be.

Sure, your managers might be salaried — but at many restaurants, hourly employees will be waiting on the clock for their manager to pay out their tips since both the employer and employee need to be physically present when currency is exchanged. 

To quantify this, pick a state…how about Colorado where the server minimum wage is $10.63?  If a Colorado restaurateur has 10 employees waiting together on the clock for 15 minutes, that’s 150 minutes of unnecessary compounded labor or $26.58/day – about almost $800/month.

(Of course: managers could send employees home to save “on clock time.” But that means they’ll have the inconvenience of either waiting until their next shift to get their payout, or trekking back to work on a day off — which comes with added gas money or public transit costs —to complete the envelope pass.)

3. Employee theft

You work hard to hire the right employees: people you can trust. You ask the right questions, check all their references, run the background checks.

You can do everything right, but employee theft still happens. An estimated $3-6 billion of revenue is lost annually as a result. 

Does it mean your employees are bad people? Not necessarily. But tough personal times — or pure temptation — can lead good people to make bad professional choices and justify illegal behavior. Reducing or eliminating cash held on premises for tipping out mitigates the risk (and temptation) of both minor skimming and major theft.

4. Human error

Even if your employees don’t intend to skim from tips, counting errors happen. After a particularly exhausting Saturday night shift, your managers are often sitting there counting cash for so long that they start to feel cross-eyed — and they’re bound to slip up from time to time. Even if you just misplace $5 every other day, you could be losing nearly $1,000 every year.

And if a mistake is made, there’s no record of it. Once the cash is gone from your restaurant, you have no way to recuperate it.

5. The ABCs of fees 

Accounting fees – Cash tip reconciliation and accounting for last-minute bank cash orders is time-consuming. Your bookkeeping firm will bill for the additional hours needed to accomplish these tasks. If you’re also at the helm of a multi-location establishment, you’ll need to plan for the reporting delays and additional costs involved in requesting payroll reports from each location.  

Bank fees – As many banks outsource their vaulting to cash management companies, they roll a piece of their cost for this service down to their customers in the form of a fee for local cash pick up. Combine this particular fee with a massive liability issue: anything could happen while your GM is off premise to courier the cash, including theft or robbery. And of course, bank runs take up on-the-clock time that your GM could be spending managing the business.

Cash in transit fees – Choosing to use an armored car service to deliver cash is common practice for high-volume locations. However, it comes with both a fee for delivery and for the cash itself. Those can range from $250 – $400 per week.

6. Rounding up (and down)

Some employers use a time-rounding policy that can result in shortchanging employees on wages they were scheduled to earn. 

Other employers round up or down to the nearest dollar to make the cash counting process easier — which either inflates the tip outs or withholds money that is supposed to be payable to the employee. The rationale used in both cases is that eventually it all evens out. 

But beware the security risk you’re inviting here. Employees can claim that you are underpaying them for their time and/or their tips since it’s not an accurate disbursement each night. And for the teams that consistently round up: those quarter

7. Employee safety and financial wellness

Restaurateurs also often feel responsible for their employees in ways that don’t apply in other work environments. You spend a lot of time together, and it starts to feel like a family. 

As the head of that family, you can make choices to further promote employee safety. For example, employees feel safer and more secure leaving at night without cash in their pockets. They also report that tipping out in something other than cash means they tend to spend less of their tips on frivolous things.

Digital tipping cuts the costs of cash

Yes, cash tip outs are slow, risky and costly — but for years, it was the only way to give employees instant access to their earnings.

That’s changing fast, thanks to the advent of digital tipping. No longer is cash tip distribution a necessary evil.

Innovative, easy-to-use technologies present safer, more efficient alternatives to tipping out in cash. They can make a standard process easier for you and your team, decrease liability, and eliminate other hidden costs to your business. The best part: it’s easy to use and a breeze to implement. 

(Want to see digital tipping in action? Request a personalized Kickfin demo today!)