Dae-Young Kim featured on The Best of Our Knowledge

BobBarrettAs always, host Bob Barrett selects an Academic Minute to air during The Best of Our Knowledge.

Each week this program examines some of the issues unique to college campuses, looks at the latest research, and invites commentary from experts and administrators from all levels of education.

For this week‘s edition (#1402), Bob has selected Dae-Young Kim’s segment on tipping. Dr. Kim, associate professor of hospitality management at the University of Missouri, explores whether what a customer wears correlates to the amount they leave.


With tipping a server a central part of the American restaurant industry, better service often is attributed to whether or not a server believes a customer will be a good tipper. We decided to study how restaurant waiters or waitresses determine which customers will leave good tips before they begin serving them.

We surveyed more than 200 current and former restaurant servers and showed them pictures of people of different races, genders and attire. We asked the participants to indicate who they believed would leave good tips and poor tips.

We found that servers often use gender and socioeconomic stereotypes to determine which customers will leave better tips. Most significantly, we found that the staff believe well-dressed customers are the most likely to leave good tips. This could result in those well-dressed diners receiving better service.

Interestingly, we found that the race of customers did not significantly affect servers’ perceptions of their likelihood of tipping well. Regardless of race, well-dressed men were identified as more likely to leave good tips compared to women, while casually dressed men were seen as the least likely of any group to leave good tips.

Everyone uses first impressions to make snap judgements. For servers, especially busy servers, they often have to make decisions about how to best devote their time and energy, so they look for ways to identify which customers will reward them the most for their service. These findings show restaurant managers the importance of proper training for waitstaff so all customers receive good service. While the tipping culture can motivate servers to provide quality customer service to some customers, it may result in unequal attention for others.

Listen to The Best of Our Knowledge on WAMC.org or any of its carriage stations.