How to Get the Most Out of Your Tip Jar: Metropolitan Bartending School

Often a tip jar is used when the bar staff are too busy serving, collecting money and making change, to collect the tips themselves. However, when you don’t hand a customer a bill and give them time to pay, you are also not giving them much time to think about your tip. If the process is rushed then the customer is far more likely to just throw in whatever coins they have to hand. This usually means that you will make smaller tips.

Unfortunately because you are so busy you can’t fix this by spending more time with your customers. However by selecting the right jar and putting it in the right place you can get you customers to think more about tipping. The right sign will also encourage them to tip just a little bit more. Here’s how to do all that:

Not all places will allow you to put a sign on your tip jar. If this is the case don’t worry, you still have the jar. Without a sign there is little you can do to force people to put a tip inside but there are a few things that you can do, and not do, which will encourage people to fill the jar up.

Firstly make sure that your jar is see through. However don’t use anything that you serve drinks in. The last thing you want is for a generous customer to mistake the tip jar for someone else’s drink and unable to find the tip jar leave without giving a tip. Therefore you should avoid rocks glasses, tall glasses, pint glasses and coffee mugs. The jar should be unique in the bar.

Make sure it is wide enough for customers to easily put money in. Anything with a fiddly piggy bank like opening should be avoided. It should be large enough for the customer to easily drop their money into. Remember the easier that you make it for your customers to tip; the more likely they are to do so.

Put the jar somewhere that the customers can easily reach. Usually the tip jar will be located next to the cash register. This makes sense because plenty of cash is moving around there, and the bartender can keep an eye on it. However if your register is off to the side, or somewhere that is not obvious to the customer then they are less likely to use it.

Therefore you should put it where the customer will DEFINITELY see it. It doesn’t matter what jar you use if the customers can’t see it then they won’t use it. The ideal place is right under your hand as you give the customer their change. This means that when the customer looks down to check their change they will also see an inviting tip jar, thus making a mental connection. While putting the jar next to the cash register is usually a safe bet it could also go by the bar mats, the beer taps or the service station. It doesn’t matter where just as long as the customer has no choice but to at least glance at it.

While we have now done everything that we can to ensure that the customer has seen the jar it is still useful to encourage the customer to put something inside. That is where the Sign comes in.

The Tip Jar Sign is there to draw even more attention to your jar. It should also put your customer in a good mood so that they are more likely to give you a tip. This means that scribbling “Tips” on a post-it note is not going to cut it. So here are some tips of my own on how to create a great sign:

The most important consideration for a tip jar is CLARITY. The customer should be able to clearly see the sign. While it should be big enough to catch the customer’s eye it shouldn’t be so large that it is seems tactless. Avoid putting the sign on the side of the jar as that defeats the purpose of having a see through jar. Also it is not a smart use of space. The point of having a sign is to draw extra attention to the jar. It therefore makes sense to put the sign above the jar, even if this does take up more space.

The sign should be easy to read. This means that the writing should be large in a dark color and a simple font. Big and bold dark capitals on a white background is the best option. Bear in mind that some bars can be fairly dark and that your customers will have had a few drinks so the easier to read the better.

The message should be clear. By this I mean understandable. It shouldn’t be confusing or long-winded. The whole point of the sign is to encourage the customer to leave you a tip not spark a philosophical journey.

As there are heaps of messages written all over bars – menus, events, specials, directions, you will need to actually reference tips on your sign. The more obvious it is that this is a tip jar the better. However you can’t flat out ask for a tip, as this would be rude. To get around this you should use humour

In my opinion Humour Is The Best Way To Go About Getting A Tip. When you are at a bar and the person who is serving you makes you laugh you are almost always inclined to leave a larger tip. The sign works in a similar way. Your customers want to have a good time so anything that helps them do so will be reflected in the tip that they leave.

Try making the customer laugh with your sign. There are many ways to do this. Maybe use a classic one liner where tipping is referenced in either the set-up or the punch line, or you could go with a pun on the word tip. If you can’t think of one by yourself then have a look on the web, there are plenty of ideas. Alternatively you could rewrite the lyrics of a popular song to encourage people to leave a tip. If words aren’t your thing a funny image with a tip related caption will work. It doesn’t matter what you use just pick something that you think will make your clients laugh which will in turn increase your tips.

The main reason that we use humour is because it anuses the customer. The better the mood the customer is in, the better the tip they will leave. You can also put your customers in a good mood by putting something that they’ll appreciate on the sign, or if you aren’t sure of what your customers will appreciate you can just take something from pop culture.

Using a pop culture reference on your sign works in a couple of ways. Firstly it will draw the attention of people who have an interest in that subject (and if it’s pop-culture then plenty of people will). Secondly plenty of people will appreciate it. If you aren’t sure what is hot right now then go for something that has stood the test of time. For example Star Wars is as popular as ever. If you put a picture of Darth Vader on your sign with the caption “Need Money To Build New Death Star” you will not only raise a smile but also raise your tips.

Alternatively go for something that everybody hates. Recently Anti-Justin Bieber Tip Jar Signs seem to have popped up everywhere. I’ve seen “Justin Bieber Assassination Fund” signs as well as “Every time you tip, Justin Bieber gets punched in the face” signs. It’s not that I have a hidden agenda against the guy I’m just using him to illustrate that whatever is “in the now”, likeable or not, can be used to help you get a tip.

Your third option is to employ a tactic called the Tip Jar Battle. A Tip Jar battle is when you have two tip jars side by side beneath a sign that has two possible answers. For example you could go for “Who tips better, Boys or Girls?” or maybe, referencing Star Wars again, the caption “Who Shot First?” and on one jar a picture of Han Solo and on the other a picture of Greedo. You may find that one side fills up quicker than the other so try to find a question that has lots of support on both sides. This will encourage people to tip so that their side has the edge. My personal favourite is “Who would you rather have narrate your life: Morgan Freeman or Christopher Walken?” This tactic works because people love to have their say on things. Remember that this is just a bit of fun so it’s probably best to avoid more serious or controversial issues.

Now that we have discussed what you should put on your sign here are a few things to keep off it.

It may sound obvious but don’t write anything insulting. This means not only anything that is overtly offensive but also things that can be taken the wrong way. Avoid hot topics like race, gender, or politics. You don’t want to lose customers just because of a sign.

You would never ever ask your customer for a tip in person so don’t do it on your sign. You should never ask for a tip or try to guilt trip your customers. This will only do one of two things. Either they will not leave a tip or they may tip but never return.

Finally never just write “TIPS”. Not only is this too similar to asking for a tip it also comes across as an order, which is fairly off putting. Finally it also comes across as lazy.

Whatever route you decide to take remember: the tip jar is a representation of you, the bartender. After all, customers are putting cash in there for you to take home, not for the jar to spend. If you put up a sign that someone finds hilarious, it’s you they’re finding hilarious; and, if you put up a sign that insults someone, then it’s you that’s insulting them. This rule also applies to effort. If the sign looks like you have made an effort over it then your customers will see you as the type of bartender who puts a lot of effort into their job. And at the end of the day your effort is what they are tipping.

So choose the right jar, make a great sign, and watch your tips increase. But remember, the jar and the sign can only make improve your tips. You still need to give good service to get them in the first place.

Good Luck!

Return to Main Blog Menu