Waiting tables: Gambling with food and shelter every night


According to statisticbrain.com, nine percent of Americans eat out three times per


But do people ever stop to think about what it is like on the other side of the table?

I would like to introduce you to the other side, to what it’s like to be a waitress.

Some people choose to make a career out of waiting tables, some do it to get through

college, and others – the smart ones! – try it and walk away or don’t even attempt at


I have been waiting tables for six years now, in various types of restaurants. I have

worked for mom-and-pop shops, big chains with strict corporate policies, fast-paced

cheap restaurants and expensive fine dining ones. I am the college student waiting

tables with a fear of making a career out of it.

After six years of waitressing, I would live to reveal some facts that I believe most

people are unaware of and should definitely keep in mind the next time they dine out.

First, servers, the fancy word for waiter or waitress, make $2.13 an hour. That wage

has not changed since 1991. After taxes the majority of servers get a paycheck for $0

– that’s without tips, though. That means we work for tips!


Second, most servers have a station, so the tables assigned to us for the night become

our income and only way to make money. When you sit at my table for four hours and

drink water and eat salads, and spend $10 and tip me $2, you just wasted my time

when I could have turned the table four times and made four times as much money.

Third, there is a thing called tip out: servers have to tip other people in the restaurant,

such as hostesses, bus boys, and bartenders. We pay them, usually four percent of our

sales. That means if you just ate in my section and ran up a $100 tab and did not tip

me, I still had to pay $4 to wait on you, and you took up my “real estate” for the night.

Fourth, we are salesmen and we take time to know our menu. I’m selling a product.

I’m the front-line person for the restaurant, like a car salesman. I’m responsible for

giving you an experience. But unlike a car salesman, I don’t get commission from my

employer. I get paid by you, and you should always tip on a percentage, based on your

experience and you feel you had good service. That percentage is 18 to 20 percent, by

the way, not five to 10.


Fifth, being a waitress means you can make $200 or more and $10 the next. It’s like

playing the lottery every day, but that lottery is your food and shelter. You are

disposable: no matter how good you are, there’s a million more of you. Restaurants

work you and use you and they’re basically getting free labor.


Now that you know this stuff, I hope you could be more considerate to your wait staff

the next time you decide to dine out. Have a little more consideration and be polite. A

lot of work goes into serving you and your family when you go out to eat. That’s why

servers depend on you to tip them and reward them for trying to provide you with a

good experience.