Your catering staff is hoping for a number of things—that the event goes well, that nobody breaks the glasses or cops a feel—but at the end of the night they’re hoping for just one thing: a happy handshake.

Catering veteran and food blogger Mary Ladd of Jalapeño Girl tells it straight:

It’s a great event when a catering client says at the end of the night, ‘Thank you,’ and extends his hand. The catering handshake is a potentially awkward yet always exhilarating delight. Yes, I’ve found that the man takes on the duty of doling out the cash tips to catering staff. Not ever the woman. … I step away from the handshake … and usually can’t wait to get outside or to a private place to check out how much cash I’ve been awarded.

How much is that handshake worth? “One event can yield anywhere from twenty to a hundred and twenty dollars,” Mary explains. “It helps if the client has been drinking and likes to flirt, of course. That is one similarity to waiting tables: flirting can yield potentially bigger tips.”

For catering staff, the personal-handshake-and-cash-tip is always preferred. “Let’s say I have been hired by a catering company for an event in a grand, private home,” Mary writes. “Trust me, the catering company is not going to share the full wealth. Most catering companies pass along a tip of maybe forty dollars per event. That income is reported and taxed, where cash is not.”

Mary tells of a certain catering company in the San Francisco Bay Area where the employees refer to the owner’s “Tip House” and “Tip Cars.” What they mean is: “Our tips bought that wine country vacation house, and those luxe cars.”

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