Waiters Reveal What Restaurants Get The Best Tips

Depending on where you live, minimum wages just don't cut it. Waiting tables at a restaurant makes you work hard to earn an average paycheck alongside some extra cash in your pockets. Servers create a personalized experience, and at the end of the day, those who tend to their tables will usually leave with a generous pile of tips.

While there are many factors that contribute to servers receiving a great tip from any table, choosing the right restaurant to work at is the best place to start. Although, it's not always as simple as keeping the cash a customer leaves on a closed check. There are processes at some restaurants like "tip pooling" and/or "tipping out" that can end up leaving you high and dry at the end of a tough shift. But more importantly, the day of the week or even time of day a server works can heavily impact the tips they make overall. 

In an article by Eater, exclusive data outlines how restaurant servers make the most tips on weekends (specifically Friday and Saturday), simply because they bring in the most business. Servers will have a better chance at making 16% to 20% tips on these, nights versus the 8% to 13% during the weekdays (and sometimes even Sundays). Luckily, there are some specific restaurants that servers have revealed to have the best tip earnings on top of an hourly wage.

Chili's

A great spot for creative cocktails and flaming hot fajitas, Chili's Grill and Bar, also happens to have a reputation for servers taking home great tips. As a part-time job, Chili's has flexible hours and consistent money, according to reviewers on Glassdoor, which makes it the perfect spot for servers ready to work. Some servers who reviewed their time working at the restaurant reported making as much as $300 on the busy nights — though that may not be typical for every location. And busy nights come often, due to the running well-advertised meal deals all year-round.

Tips can also depend on how store management handles the problems and situations that come about during a shift, some servers explained. Fortunately, the majority of the servers' responses in reviews say management is always on their side when a sticky situation comes about. The only downside of working at an affordable, fast-paced restaurant like Chili's, is that it's also common to get what reviewers call "0% tippers." Unfortunately, these guests are only looking for a quick meal and don't always fairly compensate their server for the sit-down experience.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews

Red Robin serves up quality, quantity and all the bottomless fries anyone could ever want. While shifts might get pretty hectic and on the stressful side, for the most part, you can end on a high note. From almost five thousand reviews on Indeed, many servers said that the tips at Red Robin were more than good enough to get you by. Servers also highly recommend Red Robin as a restaurant to work at, because of all the like-minded people who work as a team during their shifts and break a sweat earning their money in tips all day long.

The tips for servers can be around $100 to $250 on the weekends and about $45 to $100 on weekdays. So, depending on how many hours a week a server's schedule allows, and all the tables they have the opportunity to flip, they go home with a couple hundred dollars in extra cash on top of their hourly wage.

Buffalo Wild Wings

An endless list of wing flavors isn't the only thing that makes Buffalo Wild Wings worthwhile. The restaurant has a fun and upbeat environment that pulls in customers to watch sports on the big screens, eat and drink and gather with their friends and family for all kinds of occasions. Several former servers reported that their shifts were long and somewhat tiring, but the tips pay off in the end. In fact, one in particular, said, "sporting events bring good tips," especially during football season and UFC fights. Night shifts usually have the best crowd, not just due to the variety of sporting events, but also because of bogo wing deals that are constantly running throughout the year.

Another reviewer described how Buffalo Wild Wings can be the perfect restaurant, "to start out your service industry pathway." One of the most common pros of working at Buffalo Wild Wings is that alongside the energetic conditions and competitive pay, the employees at the restaurant are inviting and wonderful to work with. The management and co-workers are usually friendly and support you with any difficult customer interactions.

Olive Garden Restaurant

Interestingly enough, after memorizing a menu full of classic pasta dishes and delicious wines, servers take home a reasonable wage with a good handful of personal tips on the side. Serving at Olive Garden clocks in at an average of just over $14 an hour (which can vary state to state) and the rest is up to the skills of the server. Garden Info sourced from 91 servers salaries and reported that it's not uncommon for waiters to make between "$20-40 per hour after tip out" on top of the hourly rate at the restaurant location. Employees aren't generally upset with the tips they earn, but they do tend to be on the lower end compared to other restaurant options.

Although, after a recent lawsuit, the parent company, "Darden announced that starting March 29 each hourly employee will earn at least $10 per hour [nationwide] including tipped income." That being said, they are continuing to increase this wage minimum over the next couple of years so server's paychecks are even fairer. These changes are going to help servers so they don't have to rely on any inconsistencies when it comes to cash tips.

Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar

Applebee's was reviewed at an overall 3.5 on Indeed by previous servers of the restaurant. Customers are eager to come in for the legendary 'half-off apps' deal and jumbo cocktails that start at just $5, so having a busy shift is not unusual. On another positive note, the management is flexible and tries their hardest to work with your availability and it makes for good tips when you're prepared to be at your best. One reviewer shared that good servers generally made about $12 an hour, but there's always room to improve if you have more night shifts.

The process of tips at Applebee's is handled slightly differently than some other restaurants on this list. The tip out is about 15% to hosts and bartenders, but as a former employee put it, "money is just taken out of your pocket no matter how good of a server you are." It's a common practice at some service joints that servers give a cut of their tips to any other workers that may have contributed to their table's experience. This doesn't mean that servers don't still make solid tips necessarily, but it can intrude on the hard work they put in each night.

The Cheesecake Factory

With a large menu and even larger portions, the Cheesecake Factory makes sure their customers never leave hungry. But how much do the servers leave with in tips? Depending on the busyness of the restaurant a server's "tips range anywhere from 400-900 a week." Sometimes if there are too many servers on the floor or they have to tip out more than one bartender, tips can be on the lower side. Server's largely say that tips stay consistent for the most part.

As a family-friendly classic restaurant, there are constant crowds and lots of busy days of the week outside the normal weekend rushes. The Cheesecake Factory is a highly successful restaurant that gets all kinds of guests due to a flexible environment that is set for any special occasion or just a casual meal out. Servers described how during their time at the restaurant some "people who eat there use it as a special occasion restaurant but don't want to pay a special occasion price." However, even with some bad tippers here and there, servers would still make good money in tips at the end of every month.

Red Lobster

At Red Lobster the servers may work long hours, but they make easy cash on top of a reasonably stable minimum wage. In a reddit post discussion, servers shared that they could make anywhere from over $100 a single shift to only $50 during a double shift. It's not rare for money to be inconsistent in a serving position. But when servers do their job well and make the most of the tables they are given in a shift, it's not too difficult to go home with significant tips.

Another recommendation is that only experienced servers should work at Red Lobster. If you've been in the restaurant or customer service industry for some time, it's a wonderful place to work for the money. A reviewer revealed that "tips are based on [the] amount of effort you put forth." When a server takes control of the overwhelming environment and makes their guests happy, they tend to see the best results in the form of big tips.

TGI Friday's

The restaurant with one of the highest paying hourly wages for a server position (aside from tips) — TGI Fridays. Unfortunately, the reviews on Glassdoor don't specify an exact number of tips per week/month, but there is a general consensus that tips are almost always good. Servers pointed out that there were some harsh shifts where they didn't get any tips, but with a higher minimum wage, servers can break even with a decent paycheck. The upbeat and supportive surrounding is another pro that servers rave in reviews about because it keeps customers coming back again.

Alongside a great hourly wage and tips, the benefits at TGI Friday's can include everything from tuition reimbursement and health insurance to dining discounts. 

So, for servers who are looking for more than just good money, TGI Friday's offers extensive livelihood benefits to all servers; these such benefits are much more than what most corporate restaurants normally offer. In addition to these exceptional perks, servers are first to be considered for a growth program (within the company) that will continue to increase their income by transitioning them into making a management salary. TGI Friday's is filled with ways for servers to improve and end up taking home the best money for their personal goals.

Local and family-owned restaurants

For people looking into a new server position, a more quiet and homey experience can be a great way to enjoy the work being done and make the most bang for their buck. Local and family-owned restaurants have major payback rates when it comes to the tips for their servers. Not only can smaller restaurants afford to give higher minimum wages (since they have fewer employees), tips on top of that are even more worthwhile due to a more personalized and attentive relationship with customers.

The only negative is that it's very common for local and family-owned restaurants to participate in a tip pooling method for the benefit of their servers and staff. To keep things as fair as can be, a tip pooling operation splits tips evenly among workers on the floor and in the back of the house, no matter the circumstances. This way all of the workers in the restaurant make the same wage and it can help to keep consistency when it comes to work ethic.

Steakhouses and fine-dining restaurants

Lastly, steakhouses and fine dining restaurants are where servers have ultimately made the biggest chunk of change from the list. Most people who go to a high-end restaurant plan on leaving a good tip if the service is at or even above par. Steakhouses and fine dining restaurants are the absolute winners for large tips because a higher bill means a higher value within a respectable 15% to 20% tip. For example, places like Longhorn Steakhouse or Morton's The Steakhouse are pretty expensive, but their clientele is highly generous to extraordinary service. Also, tips at fine dining restaurants vary depending on the location, such as serving in New York City versus Indianapolis, but no matter where the upscale expectations are, servers usually make about $200 a day (if not much more).

Whether it's a fancy steakhouse spot with mood lighting, or a high-end seafood restaurant where a chef has perfected a good piece of fish, most servers will say that the pay is much higher compared to any other mainstream restaurants they've worked at or other serving options in the area.