The Reality of Serving

 

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.” Statistawww.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.

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We don’t need your Verbal Tip

 

Every waiter knows about, understands, and has gotten verbal tips (Verbal Tips are Fraud). You are waiting on a table all night, hand and foot; extra bread, extra napkins, and unlimited water refills. Maybe you even rack up a hefty bill with the table, but they assume that their kind words A.K.A. verbal tip is sufficient in return for your attributes.

What these diners do not understand is that we waiters and waitresses are getting paid little to nothing to be there, and depend on those tips from serving them to make a living. Sometimes, if were lucky, we end up getting to pay to serve our tables. Yes, I said that right. Most restaurants require their servers to tip out one or more of their other workers, such as the bartender, food runner and/or the bus boy who cleans the tables. Tip out is based off of a percentage of sales, such as %3 of liquor sales (what we do at my current job) to the bartender, and %1 of total sales to the bus boy. This means if we don’t make any tip off of our tables, we end up paying out of pocket to wait on them for the evening. We give good service, he keeps the money, we get the words (Verbal Tips are Fraud).

Everybody knows that waiters and waitresses make minimum wage or less, so it is found to be rather condescending when a table leaves, leaving little or no tip. Waiternotes gives us the perfect example of the verbal tipper’s mindset:

‘The real prize for this waiter is not making money and surviving. It is the honor of serving me. If I leave mere money – heck, anyone can do that, and it’s just perfunctory – he won’t appreciate it. I’m going to give him something way more valuable than money. I’m going to let him know that I approve of him.’

“The verbal tip is the first sign of a bad tipper” according to Notable Life, “It’s as though the customer thinks the waiter will be okay with the crappy tip if your compliment them on their service” (This is What). Some diners actually believe that the waiter is working for their approval and acceptance, rather than the money. Most servers don’t enjoy their job, but the tips at the end of the night make it worth it and make it so that they can pay for school or the roof over their head. Verbal tipping is not an acceptable form of a tip; if someone cannot afford to tip at least %15 on top of their bill, then they should not be going out to eat. Going out to eat, and being waited on, is a luxury. It is much cheaper and more efficient to stay home and cook dinner if you cannot afford said luxury.

A verbal tip should be complementary but not supplementary to an actual tip. I believe that waiting tables is a job that everyone should have at some point throughout your life; the experience humbles you and helps you to both understand and appreciate others and the jobs that they do.

 

 

 

“THIS IS WHAT A SERVER WANTS YOU TO KNOW ABOUT TIPPING.” Notable Life, 26 Feb. 2015, notablelife.com/this-is-what-a-server-wants-you-to-know-about-tipping/.

“Verbal Tips Are Fraud.” Waiter Notes, 4 June 2009, waiternotes.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/verbal-tips-are-fraud/.

“Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress” Review

What is it really like to be a young female waiting tables? In Debra Ginsberg’s “Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress,” she tells all. She recounts memories, turning them into stories, of working everywhere from a mom and pop diner, to a shack on the beach, to a cocktail bar. Ginsberg even compares the job of waiting tables to that of a hooker, stating “a hooker is a woman who is nice to men for money,” and admittingly recognizing the similarities (Ginsberg 28). From why waitresses get into the industry in the first place, to varying encounters with customers, to the service industry lifestyle, Ginsberg tells an exemplary story.

Ginsberg recognizes that people come into the service industry for a variety of reasons, and says that most waitresses are “not only waiting tables, but waiting to get out of the business,” (Ginsberg 92) referring to it as “temporary living at best” (Ginsberg 90) which many people outside of the industry often don’t seem to realize, but many in the industry would agree with. She seems to hop around from server job to server job, waiting for life to happen, as many young people do before finding their career; her experience being completely relatable.

As a young woman, Ginsberg travels from job to job, seemingly dealing with the same needy customers that you would see in any restaurant. From wealthy couples demanding to speak to the chef for special plates just because they have money and feel entitled, to the couple with the baby who needs everything organic, low fat or gluten free, she attempts to please everyone stating that once they’ve got what they wanted, “everybody’s happy” and ”life is wonderful” (Ginsberg 25). After all, the major motivator in putting on a smile and doing all of this is the gleaming hope for a nice tip, something that all waitresses can relate to.

In her writing, Ginsberg displays something that many find out the hard way, how being in the service industry and working in a restaurant is not just a job, but also becomes a lifestyle at some point. From the drunken cooks in the kitchen, to the sex driven cocktail servers, “there seems to be an almost chemical reaction that occurs when food, alcohol, and heat are combined in an enclosed space with the freewheeling movement of people in a restaurant” (Ginsberg 233), she implies, hitting every detail on the head.

The scenarios that Ginsberg brings to light are shockingly relatable to those of my own experiences in waiting tables, and I’m sure to many others own experience as well. The spot on relation and lack of unnecessary dramatization made this book easy to read, and even gave a few good laughs. Restaurant workers and restaurant goers alike should read Ginsberg’s “Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress”. Waitresses just want to be treated like actual human beings and not just order takers, and Ginsberg did justice in putting her insight and story out there to be heard, understood and related to.

 

Ginsberg, Debra. Waiting: the true confessions of a waitress. Perennial, 2001.