To tip or not to tip, that is the question.
The data on tips can be fascinating. The average tip in the U.S. is about 16% , but that varies by region and income. The question of who to tip and how much is one we often ask—there’s a reason there are so many articles about tipping etiquette.
But there is one form of tipping everyone is familiar with, one they see on a regular basis, and that’s the tip jar.
Those counter tip jars can be awkward, but they don’t have to be. And really, they shouldn’t be. For hourly workers, tips can be the difference between living down to the last dime or having enough extra money to dream and enjoy life.
Those ubiquitous tip jars are easy to ignore, though, because we’re so used to seeing them. So the question is, how do you make your tip jar stand out? How do you encourage customers to toss some money into the tip jar?
We have some creative tip jar ideas for you to increase your tips and maybe even get the wheels turning as you come up with your own ideas.
1. Create a tip jar poll
Most of us like a chance to share our opinions.
Most of us don’t find a willing audience interested in our opinions all that often, though, so when you turn your tip jar into a willing audience…that’s the win.
Create a poll with two options to vote on. Two jars, or a divided container, give customers a chance to vote for their option with their money.
Keep the poll topics fun, friendly, and simple. If you can find topics with die-hard fans, that’s even better. These might include:
- Friends vs. The Office
- Slytherin vs. Gryffindor
- Cats vs. Dogs
- Marvel vs. DC
- Netflix vs. Hulu
- Star Wars vs. Harry Potter
- Game of Thrones vs. Lord of the Rings
The more the poll topic matters to your customer base, the more they’ll participate. Try to steer clear of controversial topics so everyone can have fun and you don’t set your employees up for angry customers.
2. “On a scale from $1 to $10, how awesome are you?”
If you’re in an industry where customers might be interested in telling you how great they are (like in a bar), encourage them to do it with their tips.
This is worth a good laugh, but is best used if you know your customer base and know they’d appreciate the joke. Not everyone will respond to this with high bill tips out of modesty, but there are some who will over-respond.
3. Give change in smaller bills to make tipping easier
People often tip out of the change they get when they pay for their order, if they’re using cash. If their change is a $5 bill and a few coins, they’ll probably drop the coins in the jar and call it good.
What if you gave them five ones and coins?
You’ve just made it easier for them to toss in a dollar and the coins by giving them their change in smaller bills.
If your customers are using apps or credit cards, be sure your point of sale unit makes it painless to leave a tip, and does it in a way where each customer is offered the opportunity to before closing out the transaction.
4. “Why don’t lobsters tip? Because they’re shellfish!”
Who doesn’t love a dad joke?
Brainstorm puns and jokes associated with tipping, put a new one out each week. Pair that joke with a cleverly illustrated sign (got any creative or artistic employees?), and you have a winner.
Alternate version? Ask only the joke on the sign, letting customers know they can get the answer after they’ve tipped. This is similar to places that give you a discount if you can answer trivia correctly.
5. Thank the obvious tippers
People tip for all kinds of reasons, and some do it in a way that makes sure that you see them.
There’s no shame in that. They want you to know they appreciate you. Maybe they want you to know they are a tipper so you’ll take extra care with the service you give them. Whatever it is, be sure to return the favor, and thank them for the tip! That encourages them to keep tipping.
6. “All tips go to teaching ferrets to drive race cars”
Got a customer base with a quirky sense of humor?
We’re used to seeing jars on counters that tell us where our donations are going and who they are helping. These tap into the sense people have of wanting to help.
Borrow a page from that book, and have a little fun with what might need fundraising. Ferrets driving race cars? Why not?
7. Throw some starter money in the tip jar
If you work in the food industry, you know that a full bakery case or a busy restaurant attracts customers. Customers like to see plenty, because larger amounts to choose from or be a part of are a form of security.
An empty tip jar tends to stay empty, so always have some money in the jar and never empty it out completely.
What’s more, people often tip in the same bill denomination that they see in the jar already. Again, they follow the cues of who went before them. So seed your tip jar with some starter money, using the bills you want customers to leave there.
8. “Every time you don’t tip, a child gets a mullet”
Why not rip off “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Instead of giving angels wings, certain actions could cause an outbreak of mullets.
Think of this as the reverse of positive fundraising. Instead of suggesting that tips are going to good things (like ferrets driving race cars), there’s a silly threat: if you don’t tip, something bad will happen.
Mullets everywhere. An annoying celebrity gets tossed some shade. The potholes in the city increase by a factor of ten.
Customers are motivated differently, even when you’re joking around. Some are geared to help a cause, some are geared to prevent a situation. Mix it up and have some fun to find out what kind of customer base you have.
9. “Paris savings”
We all have a dream vacation or activity in mind.
Tap into that by theming your tip jar with that as the goal. Who couldn’t empathize with those working for tips wanting to get to see Paris someday? Or take a train trip to the mountains? Visit Roswell and see the alien museum?
Whatever it is, let your customers know what the goal is. You could even have a fundraising meter where each employee’s goal success is marked and customers could see the totals climb.
10. “Donation to the golf gods”
You gotta serve somebody, and it might be the golf gods. The cocktail gods. The coffee overlords.
It all depends on where you’re working, but your tip jar can give them homage. Even better? Spruce up your tip jar with a clever sign and some imagery. Give it a little backstory, and tell your customers that the golf gods need to be placated or hole 9 gets messy, or the coffee overlords can become unbearable around 2:00 p.m.
Because we’re all wondering what the cocktail gods look like and why they need hush money.
11. A “Who’s the better tipper?” game
A little friendly competition is always fun. Why not tie tips to it?
Have a two-part or divided tip container, and label each side based on the opposition you’ve set up. The sign asks “who’s the better tipper?” and the tips come in. This creative tip jar idea brings a new challenge every week and gives your regulars something to look forward to.
Choose between two general and relevant demographic categories, especially those already in a strong, friendly competition. Bring out the competitive side in people so they feel compelled to participate in this friendly battle. For example:
- Millennials vs Boomers
- Men vs Women
- Vikings vs Packers (or other sports team) fans
- Jocks vs Nerds
- Introverts vs Extroverts
Fun fact? Couples or groups who might have only tipped once for the whole order may tip individually so their side wins.
Be sure to let customers know which side won the following week to spur them on to win again.
12. Be creative with the jar itself
Who says your tip jar has to be an actual jar?
Who doesn’t remember the fun of making a Valentine’s box for school as a kid? You could have just as much fun with the tip jar, and even get employees involved by giving them each a chance to create a tip jar.
- Theme the jars around holidays, events, or other promotions.
- Line up several employee-made jars and allow customers to vote for their favorite tip jar with their tips.
- Feature a new jar each week and have social media fans vote for their favorite at the end of the month.
Even if it’s a jar, be creative with the signs. A handmade sign with evidence of creativity can go a long way to making the whole tip experience feel more personal. You’re tipping people who picked up paper and marker and made a sign, not a printer that made a sign.
13. Ask your customers on social media
Let your social media audience give you ideas, if you’re running out. That way, they can get involved, get creative, and help you come up with something clever.
Plus, getting your customers engaged is always good, and this allows them to flex their creativity.
Keep your team organized and tip worthy
The best way to keep the tips flowing is to make sure your team is organized, friendly, and tip-worthy.
Customers tip for the experience. They want to feel valued as a person.
If your team is knowledgeable about what they are serving, their recommendations or friendliness are adding value and customers see that as worth tipping for. Simply making eye contact with customers, or acknowledging that they are present even if you’re in the middle of making an order can go a long way to increasing tips.
Scheduling so that your shifts are covered to fit demand is important, especially when it comes to tips. Scheduling software can help you do this. Overworked employees aren’t always providing tip-worthy service. If you want to see your employees make better tips, but you’re struggling to keep your team organized and get shift coverage right, we can help you. Sign up to start your 14-day free trial and we’ll get your team on the path to better tips.