Being the face of an establishment can be exhausting; greeting customers, taking and delivering orders, processing payments – all of this with a smile on your face. It’s a job that many think anybody could do, and maybe they could, but is it worth it? Are these food service industry employees making the money that they deserve?
The necessity for food service professionals such as servers and bartenders is long-standing and the demand is only getting higher. The number of people employed as waiters and waitresses in the U.S. was forecasted to reach 2.91 million by 2026 (Restaurant Industry). People love to eat out and be catered to. In large cities, food establishments are constantly popping up creating the need for more waiters, waitresses and other food service employees. The service industry has created more job opportunity for average people, even providing immigrants and those with no work experience, with a job.
The flexibility of being a waiter or waitress is great, the stress that comes with it is average, but the main (and potentially only) downfall of waiting tables is that there is little to no opportunity for advancement in salary (Waiters). I have seen, plenty of times, a server is sick of waiting tables and wants to move up in the business. The server will move up to become a general manager, take on more shifts, more hours and more responsibility and then be miserable and making even less money then they were before. In Florida, employers pay their servers $5.08 hourly, assuming that they will make at least $3.02 an hour, adding up to minimum wage which is $8.10 an hour. In some other states, such as California, Alaska and Washington, employers are actually required to pay servers the full minimum wage prior to tips. The money you make as a waiter or waitress can vary immensely depending on the area you’re in.
Waiters and waitresses in the service industry can average anywhere between $17,000 and $40,000 annually (Waiters). Those who work in metropolitan areas make significantly more than those working in nonmetropolitan, rural areas. In areas such as San Diego, California and Honolulu, Hawaii, servers make between $33,000 and $40,000, whereas in areas like South Central Wisconsin and North Northeastern Ohio, servers only make between $18,000 and $22,000. A servers income usually depends on things like the clientele of the establishment, tourism and local nightlife in the area, as well as how much the cost of living is in the area.
Waiting tables is nothing glamorous; we run our butts off, continuously take orders from strangers, and are often taken for granted. But, these food service industry jobs are what keep many people going, whether paying for schooling, supporting a family or just putting food on the table. As the demand for food service professionals continues to increase, hopefully the wages will as well.
“Restaurant industry: waiters/Waitresses U.S. 2026 | Statistic.” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/218985/us-restaurant-industry-employment–waiters-and-waitresses/.
“Waiters and Waitresses.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes353031.htm.