Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why Bartenders and Servers Receive Tips

Today, it’s a common practice for bar and restaurant owners to pay their bartenders and wait servers a stipend hourly wage as the bulk of their earnings is expected to come from the tips. Since tips are such an integral part of the income bartenders and servers make I find it amazing how few bartenders and servers understand the basis and reasons for tipping. 

Sad to say, there are many bartenders and servers who think tips are expected; worst yet some even think a certain amount is actually required. This article is written to help you understand the historical background of tips. Hopefully this will be fun article you enjoy. 

To begin, scholars and historians alike agree the concept of providing some form or monetary compensation for a service or product dates back to the Roman Empire. Countless historical records show Roman citizens frequently provided street merchants and venders with a small sum of money prior to placing their orders. This was done to ensure their orders would be taken down correctly and their products and services delivered promptly. Only after a service or product was rendered in an exceptional manner would a buyer provide a gratuitum - Latin for special compensation. Today we call this additional form of payment a gratuity. 

Interestingly, the word TIP is not even a word; it is an acronym which stands for To Insure Promptness. TIPS likewise is an acronym and it stands for To Insure Prompt Service. You may be aware that many bars and restaurants require large parties - generally 12 or more - to pay a 15% - 20% gratuity which is automatically added on to their bar or food bills. So in a nutshell, tips were originally provided ‘prior to a service’, whereas gratuities have always been provided ‘after a service’.  

For years, Americans routinely provided hosts, hostesses, bartenders and servers with an upfront payment {a TIP if you will} prior to ordering a drink or meal to ensure they would be served quickly with exceptional service. If the meals or drinks were exceptional and served promptly American patrons then left a gratuity on the bar or the dining table. 

Perhaps you have seen an old movie where a group of people arrived at a trendy night spot or popular restaurant. Upon arriving it looks like they will never get in because the place is so crowded; however someone soon reaches in their pocket, pulls out what appeared to be a $5, $10 or $20 and hands it to the host or maĆ®tre ‘de who miraculously finds a dining table or seat at the bar. It was that ‘TIP’ that made this service happen.

The use of tips changed however in America during the 1940’s for three basic reasons. First, the depression of the 1930’s left many American’s with limited money; second, GI’s returning home from WWII observed many countries overseas did not require an upfront ‘Tip’ to get good service; and gratuities were only necessary if the service or product was good. Finally, the ‘industrialized’ concept was emerging. Business owners across America were beginning to realize the importance of attracting and retaining ‘regular customer’s’. Consequently providing prompt service, and a good quality product, when a person walked through the door was fast becoming the standard business practice throughout the country. 

When a customer leaves money on a bar counter or table after a service has been provided, bartenders and servers mistakenly refer to this as a tip - it is not. Technically the money left for a bartender or server is a ‘gratuity’ – a way of saying “Thank You” for a great product or a great service. The only reason a customer leaves a gratuity today is to show their gratitude for what you have done … not because you did your job. So remember the better you do your job and the better your product the more gratuities you will receive at the end of the night. 

Eba G sincerely hopes you enjoyed this historical account of ‘tipping’ and learned from it. If you would like to receive a complimentary bartender and server guide on “Seven Ways to Increase Your tips” send Eba an email at
or visit and request “Eba G’s Seven Ways to Significantly Increase Your Tips”


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