Working as a bartender can be incredibly lucrative for some people. Those that have excellent service skills and are able to hold good conversations will do well in the role and can expect to make a pretty penny.
While it’s no secret that in the US most bartender salaries are not as competitive as other career avenues such as being a lawyer, doctor, or engineer, the money a skilled bartender can make may shock you.
Tips are huge in the service industry and can constitute over 60 percent of a bartender’s or server’s total earnings. This means that they are paid largely on a reward system, so the better they are at service the more they will make.
In this post, we’re going to answer a question that is very common for those looking to get into the service industry and more specifically bartending. “Do bartenders keep their tips?”
YES, bartenders do keep their tips. But whether the tips are split between all the bartenders on shift or you get to keep the tips you make for yourself will largely depend on the bar you work in and the company’s culture. Most bars in the US split tips, but others have different protocols.
Let’s take a closer look…
Do All Bartenders Keep Their Tips?
When working as a bartender or in the service industry and receiving tips as part of your compensation it is crucial to know your legal rights.
As mentioned, tips make up a large percentage of bartenders take home pay so it’s important that they are well versed in if they are entitled to them or if the employer can keep some.
The basic rule of tips is that they belong to the employees, NOT the employer. Employees are not required to give their tips to the company or even share tips with managers or supervisors.
That said, employers can typically pay tipped employees a lower salary and in some cases less than minimum wage and require employees to share tips with co-workers.
As of 24 September 2021, it became illegal for employers to withhold their tips from their employees in the UK… and rightly so!
Working in the service industry is difficult and bartenders and service staff should ALWAYS be entitled to keep their tips, no matter the bar they work in or the country they live in.
The most common structure throughout the US is for bartenders to split ALL tips that are made equally between other bartenders on shift.
This means that everyone works together to provide the best service possible and at the end of the night each bartender gets a fair share of what tips were made.
Whilst this doesn’t suit every bartender as some are undoubtedly better at landing tips than others, it is a fair way to make sure everyone gets tipped equally.
In most establishments, tips ARE shared evenly between all bartenders/staff that worked the shift at the end of the night, with some bars saving the tips to be divided at the end of the week or month.
Pooling tips is a fair and easy way to distribute tips among staff members and ensures that everyone gets the same amount, no matter how many customers they served.
It allows bartenders to focus on serving the customers as best they can without having to worry about how many customers they serve which would impact their tips otherwise.
After all, even the most experienced bartenders can not have a smooth night without the help of other staff members such as servers, runners, hostesses and bus people, etc.
It keeps the peace among staff and gives everyone peace of mind that they will be taking home an equal share of any tips that are made.
When it comes to sharing tips, there are a couple of different ways to do this with each bar or establishment choosing differently depending on their work culture.
First is to simply pool all of the tips in a “tip-jar” or the like to collect everything all in one place and then simply divide it out among all staff members.
This seems to be the most common practice in most bars throughout the US and UK, although using an actual jar isn’t as common as this seems to increase theft.
I know right.. what twisted people steal from their colleagues? It does happen.
Another effective way of sharing tips is to use a percentage scheme. This involves the bar manager setting a percentage split for each member of staff depending on their job role.
Bartenders may take 30%, runners may take 10%, table setters may take 15%, and so on, it depends on the workload of each job role which can vary from bar to bar.
This type of setup tends to occur more in busy restaurants where there are a number of different staff members all working to keep the shift running as smoothly as possible.
It makes sense in some establishments given that each specific role will have a different workload based on the night.
There may be much more people drinking at the bar on a Saturday night than there are on a Monday morning for example, so it makes sense to reward bartenders more on those nights.
Based On Hours Worked
Sharing tips based on the number of hours worked is another effective way that bar managers like to split earnings.
In some bars and restaurants, bartenders only work on weekends when it gets busy, and it would be unfair to expect full-time staff to split their tips evenly with other part-time staff that only work specific hours.
Bar managers have a tricky decision when it comes to working out how best to divide tips between each of their staff members and this can often lead to disputes.
Staff members that believe they worked more and deserve more tips than others may speak out and request a larger percentage of the pie.
When it comes to deciding on the right tip-share scheme, it all comes down to communicating with staff members and asking how they would like tips to be shared. After all, it is their money.
One method I’ve used in the past is to vote. Ask every staff member which method they would like to use to share tips between them, and whichever method has the most votes go with that.
This seems to work a charm and staff members feel included and responsible for their own tips as they’ve decided on how to distribute them.
Teamwork and effective communication are key when it comes to making the most out of tips, so be sure you’ve got a killer team that is hungry to make lots of tips and the standard of service will increase drastically.
Hopefully, you now have a clear answer to “do bartenders keep their tips” and a better understanding of how tips are divided between staff and the laws surrounding this topic.
Bartenders certainly do keep their tips. It’s not uncommon for great bartenders to double or even triple their salary on tips alone which makes it a very important part of their job.
This is why it’s so important for bar managers to ensure they have a great tip-sharing strategy in place to keep everyone happy and working to offer the best service possible.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and learn more about bartending.
Catch you in the next one!