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In 2014 there were just under 2,500,000 people working as waiters and waitresses in the US. In 2016, their median income was just under $20,000 per year. This isn’t much, considering how much physical labor they must expend in order to do their jobs.
Also, while some earn more than this, most earn much less. Hourly wages are extremely low, which means they mostly depend on the tips they receive from customers in order to earn.
While some servers only do this type of work to help support themselves while they are in school, others depend on it to pay all their bills.
No matter their situation, it’s a good idea for people in this profession to do all they can to maximize their incomes.
Below are some ways for them to do this.
Find Jobs in Quality Restaurants
While it is difficult for beginners to get jobs in the better restaurants, those with more experience should try to find work at those that have a wealthier clientele and charge more for their food.
People who have more money are much likelier to order costly food, side dishes, desserts, and drinks. Each time they order these extras, tips rise because servers earn a percentage of the total bill.
Tips average from 10% to 20%, with 15% being the norm for average service. This means that if a table of four at a quality restaurant orders $100 worth of food, a server can make $15. If he is servicing four tables and it takes approximately one hour for people to dine, this means he has the potential of making $60 per hour.
On the other hand, if he is working at a diner, dinner for four might only cost around $60, and tips could go as low as 10% because this is all people can afford to pay. So instead of earning $60 per hour from four tables, the server may only earn $24.
Of course, these are only averages, so amounts may be higher or lower than stated. The point, however, is that you have the potential of doubling your income if you find a job working at a quality restaurant.
Work Better Shifts
It is common knowledge among restaurant servers that some shifts pay more than others. Prices go higher as the day moves forward, and on weekends more people go out to eat and are more likely to order extras.
Most restaurants try to balance shifts so that all of their employees have an equal chance to earn, but the more good hours you work, the more you will make.
Keep the Boss Happy
All restaurants have guidelines for dress and behavior that they expect employees to follow. Some of them may seem stupid, but if your boss wants you to follow them, you had best do so.
An employer is much more likely to give the better shifts and tables to employees he likes, so if you want to earn more, keep your boss smiling!
Make the Customer the King
How servers deal with diners is one of the main things that helps them to get larger tips.
A smile and a pleasant, welcoming attitude can go a long way towards achieving this goal. These can be just as important as getting the food right and getting it to the table as quickly as possible.
Doing everything possible to provide the best level of care to anybody who dines at one of your tables is one of the best ways to get bigger tips.
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Don’t Ignore Your Customers
When people come into a restaurant, they usually are hungry. Servers who ignore them for long periods of time really irritate them.
The end result is that they do not leave a tip because few people will pay for poor service.
Leave Your Problems at Home
If you are having a bad day, don’t lay your problems on diners.
People don’t come to restaurants to be your personal counselors. They come to relax, have a good meal, and get away from their own problems.
Rudeness and anger are rarely tolerated and certainly will not produce tips!
Write Orders Down
Some servers kid themselves into thinking that they are so smart that they don’t have to write down the orders people give them.
Doing this almost always results in mistakes such as
- putting dressing on food when the request was to put it on the side
- serving meat that has not been prepared as requested and
- bringing regular rather than decaffeinated coffee to the table.
When these things happen, income drops.
Know the Menu
Diners expect waiters and waitresses to know what’s on the menu and how much items cost.
They don’t want to wait for
- a server to disappear in order to find the information they need, or
- be served the wrong meal.
It is not enough to say “I’m not sure” and then leave a customer guessing about prices, and nobody wants to get a check that is incorrect, either.
Bring Side Items to the Table
When serving a meal, it is important to supply side items such as water, creamer, sugar, sweetener, condiments, extra napkins and straws without being asked to do so when you are serving the meal.
Diners who must request these things feel put upon and find themselves wondering why they have to ask for items that should automatically be supplied.
People do not like it when waiters or waitresses interrupt their conversations or involve them in lengthy personal conversations.
While it’s a good idea to quietly come around a few times to refill drinks and clear dirty dishes, it’s not a good idea to insert yourself into the social aspects of the meal or interrupt private conversations that people are having.
Those who find ways to be pleasant and friendly without becoming intrusive are the servers who get better tips.
Attend to Your Diners
On the other hand, servers who place a meal on the table, walk away and are rarely if ever seen again also annoy diners.
People expect workers to show up every so often to bring drink refills, checks or doggie bags. When they don’t, they cannot expect to get good tips.
The Bottom Line
Clearly there is much more to being a waiter or waitress than just carrying food from a restaurant’s kitchen to a customer’s table.
It’s important to remember that while tips are the main source of income, they are not a “given”.
If waiters and waitresses want to earn more money, they can do so easily simply by following the advice in this article.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Sondra Rochelle