We're not talking about someone recommending a better way of performing a trick. Although the issue of monetary tips comes up as a matter of course in the U.S. where tipping is a way of life, the subject still deserves some attention in the U.K. too.
It is important that you decide and agree a policy on tips at the outset, to avoid any problems from managerial or waiting staff later on. There are advocates in both camps for and against accepting tips.
Your purpose as a magician in the restaurant environment is to keep customers happy, and provide an extra fun service that many competitors don't. Actively pursuing tips will put people off, and word may even get around that tips are expected. However, it's in your own, and the restaurants interests to get people coming back time and time again because they enjoy the entertainment, and don't feel under pressure to fork out more money.
You should be working for an agreed fee of course. If you are only working for tips however than you have no choice. Your first line on approaching a table should be, "good evening, my name is , and I do magic at the tables for tips." There is no shame or embarrassment here. Your next question, "would you like to see a trick" can be answered in full knowledge of the conditions of the performance, and it is then up to you to give as good a performance as you can to get a good tip.
Again, in your first agreement with the owner / manager, where they have agreed to pay a fee, ask them what you should do if someone offers a tip. It may be that your response to a tip must be to thank them, but to tell them you are included in the service charge.
If the manager says that gratuities are entirely up to the customers, ask if the waiters have a general pool for tips. If such a fund exists, then let the waiting staff see you put your tips in it as well.
A factor to consider could be that if someone gives you a tip, they might give less, or nothing to the waiting staff. Believe us, that is not a good situation to be in! Perhaps the only exception to refusing tips might be if someone tries to secretly and discretely hand you a rolled up note. But again, you may not feel comfortable about even that.
It's unlikely to happen, especially in England, but if a restaurant asks you to work solely for tips, you should flatly refuse. Your services are far too valuable to be treated that way, and you would certainly not have a pleasant environment to work in.
Here's a nice story to sum up this section. Someone related it to me recently, I can't remember exactly where it originated from, but it nicely demonstrates what being a restaurant magician is all about. The magician mentioned really knows what he is doing.
It's a true account of an experience a magician named Scott had whilst working at 'Smoky Mountain Pizza and Pasta'. Scott went in early one day, and the manager (Johnny) took a break and had a drink with the magician.
The restaurant is located in an area that has a cinema multiplex too. In this complex are about 14 different restaurants of all price ranges and varieties. The managers of the restaurants all eat for free at all the other restaurants, swapping gift vouchers with each other so that they don't have to eat the same food all the time.
On this particular day, about an hour before the magician arrived, the manager of the Mexican restaurant two doors down (Ramon) decided to come into Smoky's. He noticed the large poster on the door, publicizing the performance times, and asked the manager if the magician was any good.
He also asked if he was paid to perform there. Johnny told Ramon the magician was great and that he performed paid work at all their stores.
"Oh, that's crazy!" said Ramon. "Let me help you. We've got a 15 year-old kid that comes into our place sometimes, and he performs for free! He's pretty good too, and it's fun to watch him get better and learn new tricks. I'm sure he'd be happy to come here too, and you wouldn't have to pay him. It would save you some money, and you'd still have a magician!"
Johnny told Ramon in response: "You don't understand. People don't come here on Saturday afternoons to see a 'magician,' they come to see 'The Great Scott!' I'm sure your kid is good, but Scott's been performing about twice as long as your kid has been alive. His magic is great, but that's not all there is to it - people like him. He's funny, he's great with kids, and he can entertain a party of adults just as well. Plus, he's kind of our P.R. man. He lets us know if someone needs something, or if people have been waiting awhile and we haven't noticed them. A lot of people come here specifically to see HIM! They bring their friends back to see him the next week! He pays for himself many times over. In fact, I don't know what we'd do without him!"
Wow! What it is to be appreciated. Interestingly, when asked what he attributed his success to, Scott said: "I learnt a lot about customer service before I took the restaurant job. Even when there are tables that don't want me to perform for them, I will still smile at them as I walk by, ask them if everything is okay, and make sure the staff are taking care of them. If they need something, or there is a problem, I immediately notify their server or the manager. I am always ready to end a routine quickly if I'm needed at a table where the order has been burned, etc. "
He goes on to say: "I strive to be the best-dressed, friendliest, most courteous, most prompt, and easiest to work with performer in the area. I always try to go the extra mile for clients - and they notice!
A few examples of this might be: giveaways for audience volunteers, thank you notes, roses or chocolates for the person who hired you, allowing a music group to use your sound system for the rest of the program at no extra charge, and so on. The two key factors that dominate my approach are professionalism and originality."
This guy really knows what he is talking about. He has made himself indispensable, with a financial reward that reflects that. He obviously enjoys what he does, and loves meeting new people.
Now, how about you? Can you see yourself in the same position this time next year? There is nothing to stop you but yourself...
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