Tip Basics February 23, 2024 6 min read

Tip Pooling vs. Tip Sharing: Which is Right for Your Restaurant?

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Tip Pooling vs. Tip Sharing: Which is Right for Your Restaurant?

Running a restaurant is tough, especially when it comes to ensuring fair and transparent tipped employee tip distribution. You’ve heard the terms “tip pooling” and “tip sharing,” but what do they mean, and which one should you use? Understanding the nuances of tip structures like pooling and sharing can greatly impact how a restaurant operates. So buckle up, because we’re diving deep into the world of tip distribution!

Short on time? Watch this video for a quick overview of tip pooling and tip sharing.

Tip Pooling:

What it is: Employees contribute a portion or all of their tips to a central pool, which is then redistributed based on predetermined criteria like hours worked, sales generated, or a combination of both.

Here’s an Example: 

Imagine a coffee shop with three baristas hustling to keep customers satisfied. Each brings a unique skill set to the table, whether manning the espresso machine or handling cash registers. Here, tip pooling reigns supreme. It’s a mutual agreement where tipped employees pool their tips into a common fund, later redistributed based on hours worked.

In our coffee shop scenario:

  • Barista A clocks in 5 hours, earning $40 in tips.
  • Barista B works 3 hours, also pocketing $40.
  • Barista C, works for 2 hours, collects $20.

Total tips amount to $100 over 10 collective hours, translating to $10 per hour per employee. Following the redistribution formula:

  • Barista A’s tips received: $50.
  • Barista B’s tips received: $30.
  • Barista C’s tips received: $20.

The beauty of tip pooling lies in its equitable distribution, reflecting each tipped employee’s contribution relative to their hours worked.


  • Promotes teamwork and collaboration: Everyone contributes to the pool, regardless of individual performance, fostering a sense of shared responsibility and joint effort.
  • Fairness for all: Ensures everyone receives a baseline income, even if their individual tip performance varies.
  • Reduces competition: Eliminates stress and friction between employees competing for better sections or tables.
  • Can simplify payroll: One central pool simplifies calculations and record-keeping of collected tips and tips received.


  • Demotivation for high performers: Top earners might feel their hard work isn’t directly rewarded.
  • Potential for misconduct: Improper management or unclear rules can lead to resentment and disputes.
  • Not suitable for all roles: May not be ideal for employees with vastly different responsibilities or workloads, like house staff.

Tip Sharing:

What it is: Employees directly share a portion of their individual tips with other employees who assisted them, typically based on factors like sales generated, total tips earned, or specific tasks performed.

Here’s an example:

In a restaurant setting with two servers, one bartender, and a host, let’s assume the following:

  • Server A and Server B each earned $50 in tips.
  • The bartender collected $40 in tips, while the host received no direct tips.

Now, let’s implement the tip sharing rules:

  • Host Tip Share: The host is entitled to 3% of the total tips.
  • Bartender Tip Share: Bartenders receive 5% of the total tips.

Host Tip Share Calculation:

  • Total tips received by servers and bartender: $50 + $50 + $40 = $140
  • 3% of $140 = $4.20 (total amount the host should receive from servers and bartender)
  • Each server contributes $1.50 to the host.
  • The bartender contributes $1.20 to the host.

Bartender Tip Share Calculation:

  • Total tips received by both servers: $50 + $50 = $100
  • Total tips received by the bartender: $40
  • 5% of $100 = $5 (this is the total amount the bartender should receive from both servers)
  • Each server contributes $2.50 to the bartender.

After implementing these calculations:

  • Server A takes home $50 – $1.50 – $2.50 = $46.00
  • Server B takes home $50 – $1.50 – $2.50 = $46.00
  • Bartender now has $40 + $5 -$1.20  = $43.80
  • Host receives $1.50 + $1.50 +1.20 = $4.20


  • Rewards support staff: Recognizes the contributions of bussers, hosts, bartenders, etc., who indirectly contribute to tip generation.
  • Increased motivation for individual performance: Servers have more control over their earnings, potentially driving better service.
  • Flexibility: Can be tailored to specific roles and contributions.


  • Administrative burden: Tracking individual contributions and calculating shares can be complex.
  • Potential for bias: Servers might favor specific staff or sections, impacting fairness.
  • Social pressure and conflict: Can lead to feelings of obligation or pressure to tip more than desired.

Which One Should You Choose?

tip pooling and tip sharing

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your business model, staff structure, and desired outcomes.

  • Tip pooling: Great for promoting teamwork and fairness when tipped employees perform similar jobs. (e.g., bartenders, servers with similar sections).
  • Tip sharing: Ideal for rewarding employees who assist others in earning tips. (e.g., servers sharing with bussers, hosts, bartenders).

Remember: Evaluate both options carefully, consider a hybrid model if necessary, and prioritize fairness, transparency, and open communication for a harmonious and successful tip distribution system.

Bonus Tip: Explore technology solutions designed to automate tip calculations and distribution, reducing administrative burden and ensuring consistency. Here’s how TipHaus can address the challenges and streamline the tip distribution process:

tip pooling
  1. Centralized Management: TipHaus provides a centralized platform where all tip-related data is stored and managed. This eliminates the need for manual record-keeping and reduces the risk of errors or discrepancies in calculations.
  2. Customizable Rules Engine: With TipHaus, restaurants can define their own rules for tip distribution based on various criteria such as hours worked, sales generated, or specific tasks performed. This flexibility allows businesses to tailor the system to their unique needs and preferences.
  3. Transparent Reporting: TipHaus generates detailed reports that provide visibility into how tips are distributed among employees. This transparency helps build trust among staff members and mitigates any potential disputes or misunderstandings.
  4. Automated Calculations: TipHaus automates the entire tip distribution process, from calculating each employee’s share to disbursing payments accordingly. This saves time and reduces the administrative burden associated with manual calculations.
  5. Compliance and Security: TipHaus ensures compliance with labor laws and regulations regarding tip distribution, helping businesses avoid potential legal issues. Additionally, the platform prioritizes data security to protect sensitive employee information, including credit card information used for tip processing.

Here’s how TipHaus can help in the specific examples provided:

Coffee Shop – Tip Pooling:

  • Use weighted tip pooling based on hours worked and individual sales to reward high performers while still ensuring everyone receives a fair share.
  • Utilize TipHaus’s reporting tools to ensure transparency and address any concerns about fairness.

Restaurant – Tip Sharing:

  • Implement a hybrid system with weighted tip pooling for servers and separate tip sharing for bartenders and hosts based on a percentage of sales.
  • Use TipHaus’s automation and distribution features to streamline the process and eliminate administrative burdens.

By understanding the facts and nuances of tip pooling and sharing, you can make informed decisions that benefit both your employees and your business. Remember, a well-designed tip distribution system can contribute to a more motivated, collaborative, and ultimately, successful restaurant environment. TipHaus offers the flexibility and tools to create a system that works best for your business and your employees. To learn more, click here and see what TipHaus can do for your restaurant.

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