For people within the restaurant industry, specifically bartenders and servers, we know this is one of the quickest ways to make cash. Often times, the job can be rewarding by having the means to reach a diverse group of people, from all across the world. Unfortunately, guests can be as interesting and fun as they can be rude, intolerable and ignorant. I cannot count the number of times I’ve weighed the good and bad as I’ve waited tables for going on seven years now. The question that I face four out of the five shifts that I work is,
Is the fast money worth the disheartening and disrespectful experiences that comes along with serving an ever-growing inconsiderate and impersonal public?
We all want our work to be meaningful, built with the backbone of passion. If neither of these things exist within our jobs, then day in and day out, we may become disheartened and jaded. Especially jaded when we are literally taking orders from strangers, whom we address as ma’am and sir, who tip us 10% of their bill with barely even a second of making eye contact with us.
I realize that these kind of impersonal interactions happen everyday. How often do you actually tell the gas attendant thank you and have a nice day? How often do we actually make eye contact with the maintenance workers of our apartment complex? How often have we lost our humanity?
Besides the issue of not tipping, or tipping low, which I will get to, there is the issue of just plain manners and respect not being recipricated when we, servers, are waiting on guests. It’s like once we put on our apron, name tag and tie our hair back, we are no longer human, we are just machines working for the man.
This is the most jeering experience that we face when we walk over to greet you – lack of respect.
Money isn’t everything. Happiness is. But, this our job, as waitstaff, to rely on the tips that you give us to pay the bills. So for the unbelievable amount of the public who still do not understand this concept, I will break it down for you.
Servers are paid around $2.13 an hour in 19 states, including Texas, where I live.
When we receive our paychecks every two weeks, taxes reduce the $2.15 hourly to literally $0. That means, when we do get our paycheck, they are void.
After our work shift, we tip out the rest of the staff. From bartenders, hosts and bussers, servers pay a percentage of their sales through the tips they receive to the restaurant staff.
For me, we tip out 3.5% of our sales to our fellow staff.
Let me give you an example of how much I actually tip out at night.
If I make $500 in sales for an evening, I will give the restaurant $17.50. If, on say a Friday night my sales are $1000, I will tip out $35.
So, if a guest spends $100 on a meal, and only tip me $10, which is 10%, I will tip out $3.5. Meaning, I make $6.50 for that hour. This is not even minimum wage, which in the state of Texas is $7.25.
The appropriate scale for tipping is anywhere from 15%-20% of your total.
I have received $3 tips on $100 tabs. This means, I actually paid the customer to come in and eat, and to serve them.
I understand that if you dine out at lunch, your bill typically ranges low, anywhere from $8-$15. If a server has a three table section, meaning they are at any given time, serving three tables, and each tables bill doesn’t rise above $10, tipping out $2 for their bill, that is a total of $6. Again, not even minimum wage.
As a golden rule, I will not tip less than $5 when I go out, even when my bill is just $10. You can use this as an example for when you dine out at lunch. Being considerate and mindful of the time of day and how busy the restaurant is that day, can help you decide the appropriate amount to tip.
This is a quick guide to how servers make their money.
I’d like to say that waiting tables is one of the toughest jobs out there. On a busy day or night, we are multitasking animals, who walk more than 10,000 steps a shift. By the end of our shifts, we are drained, in pain and sometimes, still wondering why so-and-so was so mean. We do everything in our power to make the guest happy, including but not limited to:
bugging the manager to speak with you, sometimes up three or four times
comping your meal because of a kitchen mistake; therefore, reducing our sales and our tip
personally telling the cooks of your allergy, typing it into the computer system and double checking your plate, preventing you from becoming sick, or preventing you from eating gluten
Sure, there are many negative things that can be included in this post, but I have decided to not include them because this isn’t meant to be a bash on the public – this is meant to enlighten individuals who frequently dine out.
We want it to be a good experience for you, just as much as we want to be treated with respect and tipped appropriately at the end of a wonderful meal that we have served to you.
My friend and I often joke that there should be a PSA in the defense of servers everywhere. But really, the PSA should be in defense for anyone, anywhere in a public service industry. Of course we aren’t curing cancer, or building machinery in 100 degree heat, but we are often times, mothers and fathers trying to support their family, college students paying off loans while attending school and an actual human being, not just at the end our day.
Every time I ask a guest, ‘how are you?’ or say ‘have a great day,’ I genuinely mean that. So even though those tough times can make us question our day jobs, interactions can be life changing, uplifting and meaningful.
The next time you go out to eat, I encourage you to see the person serving you as someone with substance. We are of course, some of the most interesting people out there.