Here's Who You Tip the Most

May 18th 2015

Laura Donovan

Many restaurant servers depend on tips to supplement their wages, and new research shows that attractive servers get the better end of the deal than their less attractive counterparts. 

A paper in the Journal of Economic Psychology found that good-looking people received significantly higher tips. After surveying more than 500 restaurant attendees in Richmond, Va., economist Matt Parrett says beautiful folks take home more than $1,000 extra in tips annually.

“I find that attractive servers earn approximately $1,261 more per year in tips than unattractive servers,” Parrett wrote in the Journal of Economic Psycology, adding that it's not just men giving beautiful female waitresses extra cash. 

“The primary driver (of this dynamic) is female customers tipping attractive females more than unattractive females ... female customers tip attractive female servers approximately 3.01 percentage points more on a percentage tip basis."​

Parrett came to this conclusion by approaching patrons at five different restaurants and asking them to fill out a survey, which required respondents to list the price of their bill, how much they tipped, the quality of service, and the attractiveness of the waiter/waitress. Pretty female servers earned great tips, particularly from fellow female customers, but the findings suggest you need more than looks to benefit from the "beauty premium," as “attractive bad servers do not earn more than unattractive bad servers," according to Parrett. 

Several years ago, economics professor Daniel Hamermesh published "Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful," a book that argues that attractive people earn more money than their unattractive counterparts. According to Hamermesh's findings, an attractive person will earn $230,000 more over the course of a lifetime, and an individual with average looks will earn $140,000 more over the same time period than an outright unattractive person. 

"Better-looking workers bring in more for the employers, just as a more intelligent worker will," Hamermesh told The Wall Street Journal in 2011. "Paying them more is still a form of discrimination, but their attractiveness also tends to raise their productivity. That's what makes it so difficult. I would argue that this is discrimination. But others would argue that it's simply an indulgence of people's tastes and preferences."

Despite the saying "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Hamermesh attests that we all have similar views on what constitutes attractiveness.

"Some people are consistently regarded as above-average or even beautiful, while others are generally regarded as plain or even downright homely," he told the publication. "While looks can be altered by clothing, cosmetics and other short-term investments, the effects of these improvements are minor. We are generally stuck with what nature has given us in the way of looks."