How to Make Money as a Cocktail Waitress

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People often underestimate how difficult the job of a cocktail waitress really is. It can be done easily and poorly, of course -- but not if you want to make money at it. Good cocktail waitresses exude positive attitudes no matter how they feel inside. They keep a sharp eye out for their customers wants and needs, and they're not afraid to employ some sales tactics to boost the bar tab. Do the job well, and your customers will reward you for it.

The average cocktail waitress salary in the U.S. in 2020 was $23,740, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but most good waitresses make much more than that in tips.

Do your absolute best to have a good attitude! Customers can sense when you don't want to be there, and when you are down, your tips go down as well. No matter how hard your night is, it will pay off to keep a smile on your face.

Be fast and multitask. Keeping focused and organized will help you get to your tables faster and get their orders in quickly and correctly. If you are paying attention you can keep a running list of everything you need to attend to in your mind. Keep a cool, clear and calm head.

Keep it tidy! Make sure your customers' area is neat and clean. This means picking up all empty glassware and plates, as well as used napkins and trash, and emptying ashtrays if you're in a state that still allows smoking in bars. Wipe down tables as often as you need to, but do it unobtrusively when you bring new drinks or take a finished one away. Always bring a new cocktail napkin with each drink.

The customer is always right (unless you are blatantly disrespected or dealing with an unruly intoxicated person). Keep their best interests in mind by checking back often, being polite, admitting to mistakes and apologizing (even if it's really the kitchen's fault).

Flirt! This works well with members of the opposite sex, but even female customers appreciate a compliment on their outfit, etc. from a waitress. The idea is to seem interested, friendly, agreeable and positive. Make people feel glad they came in to your bar!

Geographic State and Metropolitan Salary Map for Waiters and Waitresses

Upsell! Your managers will love you for this, and so will your wallet. Use suggestive selling techniques to guide customers to more expensive drinks or to try appetizers they otherwise wouldn't have. Suggest specific brand names of liquor when they order. For example, a gin and tonic order prompts you to say, "would you like Tanqueray or Bombay?"


Remember repeat customers' names and their favorite drinks. Initiate conversation and especially get people to talk about themselves. Keep your eyes open for anything your customers might need when you are near their table.


Do not overserve! Many people choose to act irresponsibly at bars, and unfortunately it is your job to monitor whether they have had too much alcohol. Keep a situation from getting dangerous or out of control by cutting them off. Always let management know if you are disrespected or feel uncomfortable. It is not part of your job to be treated poorly.