Dining Tips

The Handshake Tip Is Still Really, Really Gross

In the industry, we call it “palming,” that extra act of monetary kindness, a few crisp folded bills of legal tender that a customer nestles into your palm. A properly delivered palm tip—a lost art for sure—should come with a Good Fellas gangster handshake to show appreciation for great service or bribe a server for attention. Most waiters love getting palm tips, because money, but we could do without the unnecessary skin contact.

It’s always awkward to shake someone’s hand when you aren’t expecting cash attached to it. I’ve been on the receiving end of many garbled palm tips in my day, and it ruins the moment, like teenagers kissing whose braces get stuck. There’s something about the handshake tip that feels awfully close to leaving money on the nightstand when you leave. Even though servers do it for the money, palm tips still feel dirty sometimes.

I’ve also had my share of awkward palm tips where a guest, usually an elderly one, makes a big production out of shaking my hand, and then I open it up to reveal enough money to do a load of laundry. Sometimes it’s cute, like when you see your dead grandparents in their eyes, but most of the time you’d prefer a double-digit thank you.

If you’re planning to palm a restaurant worker in an upscale restaurant, there should never be less than a twenty dollar bill in your hand, ten dollars at the bare minimum. A palm tip with any less says: “How Would You Like To Mow My Lawn?” Not a good look.

A handshake tip should also always be an extra reward, never a down payment on the eventual tip amount. Servers can’t stand when someone greases them with cash upon arrival then deducts the palm tip amount from the gratuity they leave on the total bill.

While giving servers extra money directly is hardly the worst thing you can do, there are better ways to leave a palm tip that can help avoid the awkwardness. If your goal is to incentivize your server with extra motivation before your meal begins, consider asking the host or maitre’d to deliver the money for you along with a request for special care. Of course, there’s always a risk that the money won’t end up in the right person’s hands, but dishonesty is rare.

You can do the same on the way out. Tell the maitre’d or manager you were pleased with service. They’ll be grateful for the feedback and should be happy to deliver your monetary gift for you. This way, the tip will be delivered at an opportune time, not while the server has a tray of drinks in their hand or is visiting with another table.

Oh… and here’s an inside tip for those of you that insist on giving out cash handshakes when you dine. The best person to tip in the entire restaurant: The busboy. Your water glasses will always be full, and your table will be immaculately clean. It’s the best return on investment, guaranteed.

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Dining Tips

Five Ways to Have a Better Relationship With Your Waiter

I always find it amusing when guests ask my name the moment I greet the table. I also hate it. In their eyes, knowing waiters’ names is humanizing and their way of acknowledging that they see waiters as more than just servants. That’s all well and good, but asking personal questions can put the waiter in the uncomfortable position of having to divulge personal information before you’ve established any relationship. It’s a lot like dating. Coming on too strong can be a real turn off.

Of course, these guests’ hearts are usually in the right place, but the strategy often backfires. It can feel intrusive when friendly guests feel entitled to know more about their servers (Where are you from? How long have you worked here?). Asking unwanted questions may cause waiters to avoid your table. If you insist on knowing your server’s name, always introduce yourself first. It’s less threatening and reinforces that you see them as equals. 

Remember that good service is impossible without your participation. Take ownership of your role in building quality relationships with the people serving you, and you’ll see an immediate impact on the hospitality you receive. Big tips aren’t the only way to show your waiter you care. Here are a few good habits that will help you succeed:

Ask your server how his day is going? – It’s remarkably disarming when guests ask servers about their day. It breaks up the typical scripted dialogue and disrupts the phony pleasantries that define the usual introduction. Since most restaurant guests show little to no interest in their server’s role beyond providing them food, this is an opportunity to distinguish yourself. Asking about their day also shows concern without expecting intimacy. It’s a much more effective question for building solidarity than asking the server his name. 

Listen attentively to the specials – Today’s diners are so distracted by technology it can be difficult for waiters to keep their attention. You’d be surprised how rude restaurant guests can be when their waiters are trying to convey information about the menu. Interrupting a server’s presentation—even if it’s unintentional—sends a message that you devalue their participation in your experience. Set a positive tone. Put away your cellphone, listen to their spiel and ask thoughtful questions about how the new dishes are prepared.


Acknowledge when you enjoyed a dish they recommended – Recognition is rare when you wait tables. No one who works in restaurants is in the business for the appreciation. It’s a thankless job. But once in awhile when a guests says, “I really loved the dish you suggested,” it feels good. Next time the waiter comes back to the table to check on you, give credit where credit is due.

Offer to pour your server a taste of your bottle of wine – Waiters are rarely given the opportunity to taste high-end wines from the bottled list. If you order a nice bottle, ask your server if she’s ever tried it before. If she hasn’t, tell her to bring a glass! Pour the wine yourself so she doesn’t feel apprehensive about how far your generosity goes. Make a toast to great service!!

Ask your waiter to order for you – This is the ultimate gangster move. It takes a lot of trust to go to this extreme, but taking the leap of faith can pay dividends. Trusting blindly sends a message to servers that you feel comfortable in their hands. The worst service experiences are the ones where guests cannot give up control. Handing the waiter the steering wheel is empowering and will help fortify your relationship the rest of the meal. If you’re disappointed with the choices, share the blame. You had the same chance of being unhappy with your food if you ordered on your own. Ride or die together.