Diner Servers: 9 Rules to Maximize Tips in a Mom-and-Pop Restaurant

Updated on February 20, 2020
Kim Bryan profile image

I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.

If you Google "how to be a better server," you'll get page after page of helpful tips . . . for larger, more upscale venues. But what about those of us who work in smaller establishments? Those fancy rules don't always apply.

Small diner customers want more personable service when they walk into a mom-and-pop offering a "meat and three" special.

Unlike those larger restaurants, however, diner customers don't tip a percentage of their bill. No, diner customers usually toss a dollar or two on the table for average service and say good-bye. The secret to surviving as a diner server is knowing how to turn average into fantastic.

The following list is comprised of things I've learned over my years working as a waitress in small diners in rural Tennessee. They have earned me, as well as many I trained, above-average compliments, and they regularly keep us making bank in tips.

1. Greet Everyone

When you're working in a small diner, you're not only the server but the hostess as well. When customers walk through the door, whether they're going to be your table or not, smile and say hello. It's a little bit of effort with great rewards.

2. Let Them Sit Down

Customers typically seat themselves in a small diner, and servers often rush to tables before customers have even sat down. Just as you shouldn't interrupt a conversation, don't intrude on the "settling in" process. Wait until it's obvious they're ready.

3. Introduce Yourself

Rule number seven of the Server's Bible's 101 Tips How To Be A Good Restaurant Waiter instructs, "Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness."

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. At least in a small diner setting.

Diner customers are often repeat customers, and they like to know the staff. Many will ask for your name if you don't offer an introduction. Even with name tags, customers still like to hear it spoken to make sure they say it right.

In regards to jokes, cuteness, and flirting, these things are better saved for customers you've come to know. However, it isn't uncommon to get a "vibe" from a table that they're up for some jokes and quick wit. If you feel it, go with it. These are always my best-tipping tables.

4. Know Your Regulars

Small diner customers are often regulars who are creatures of habit. If you're familiar with a customer's drink order, greet them at the table with it. Doing this makes the customer feel special increases your odds of getting a good tip.

5. Repeat Their Order

Once the table has completed their order, take another minute to repeat the orders and confirm. If you're daring enough and sense your guests are game, try using diner lingo—customers love it!

6. Don't Ignore a Table Because It Isn't Yours

That large party at M2 is taking a lot of their waitress's time, a few of her other tables are running low on drinks, and she has orders ready to be delivered. Well, quit standing there and get it done!

As you're tending to your own customers, lend a hand to your fellow servers when they need it—without expecting to receive a portion of the tip (unless arrangements were made beforehand).

7. Tip Your Fellow Server

Although a diner crew should work as a team and help one another without expectation of being rewarded, always give a percentage of the tip to any server who lent a much-needed hand to a table. Habitually doing this will ensure your customers always get top-notch service with a smile. (And did I mention I get along quite well with the other waitresses at my diner?)

8. Write Your Table a Note

Before dropping the check on the table, I always write a handwritten "Thank you!" followed by my name. If there has been above-average interaction with the guests or it is someone I know, I take the time to write a more personal note with my expression of gratitude.

9. Personally Say Goodbye

If you see your guest departing, take a moment to stop what you're doing and say goodbye and wish them a good day/evening. This is a very popular time for customers to hand me the tip.

Guests often fear bussers or other guests will take larger tips off the table, so they prefer to deliver it personally. I like to give them that opportunity!


There is a difference between restaurant servers and diner servers. It simply can't be denied. Diner servers have to be much more personable and quick-witted than those who work in larger restaurants. It's imperative if one wishes to earn a decent income.

There are, however, some rules that apply regardless of the size of your establishment. These include, but not limited to:

  • Never touch the rim of a glass.
  • Touch silverware only by the handle.
  • Do not excessively refill glasses or allow them to sit empty.
  • Never eat or drink in sight of customers.
  • Always wear clean clothing/uniform (pressed, if needed). Women should always wear make-up and style their hair appropriately.
  • Don't stand idle. Stay busy.
  • Put away your cellphone.

One Last Tip...

Take a comedy break from fretting over the job so much and binge watch episodes 2 Broke Girls. You'll relate to the characters' diner jobs just a little too much, maybe.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Kim Bryan


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, delishably.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)