Your Waiter Deserves A Raise

Waiters and bartenders are more important to society than you might think

Your Waiter Deserves A RaiseA man and a woman walked into my restaurant one evening. He was a nebbishy 50-ish year old, she was in her 40’s. He was nervous and she looked unsure of her decision to be on a date with the guy. It was going to have to be up to me, their waiter, to save the day.

Yes, it was their first date, which they confirmed upon my greeting. Even if they hadn’t told me, body language conveyed how uncomfortable they were and their awkward silence shouted that fact. I’d been in this situation before, and knew what to do.

While I poured their wine, I chatted brightly about the nice weather we’re having. That’s a pretty safe topic after all, and everybody can relate to it. I engaged her, got her talking to me, and then did the same to him. Next, I got them talking to each other and hightailed it out of there.

When I came back with appetizers, the awkward silence had also returned. “You know,” I said, “I saw the greatest movie the other day, ‘March of the Penguins’ have you seen it?” Yes, she had. Yes, he had. Now they had something to talk about again, so I left them to it. They were good after that, talking about movies, and their conversation flowed freely for the rest of the night. All in a day’s work for a waiter.

Years later, I was working a different restaurant. The same couple got seated in my section. They were married now. Easy and comfortable with each other, they chatted about current events and movies, and hardly noticed me. No, they did not remember me, and I didn’t let on that I recognized them. Perhaps they are reading this now. I hope they’re well.

You don’t even see us most of the time. You know that we’re there. but you pay us little heed unless something goes wrong with your order. Otherwise, we are able to move in and out of your lives quietly. Conversations continue as if we do not exist. Secrets get spilled right in front of us. A cheating husband gets drinks from us just as he does when he is with his wife. And we may be responsible for a happy marriage or seven each, even if we don’t get recognized for it. Waiters know more about you than you think. But what do you know about waiters?

Those who work in “The Industry are among the most underestimated people in all of the work force. It’s a common misconception amongst the arrogant and conceited that restaurant and bar workers aren’t very bright, or that anyone can tend bar. I have overheard, many times, people equating servers and bartenders to monkeys. The job is apparently that easy.

Experienced servers are the savviest people you can meet. They can handle multiple tasks at the same time. They give and take orders, and not just what you want from the menu. They keep their head about them during chaotic rushes. They smile when they want to scream. Most importantly, a good waiter has excellent powers of deduction. If they’ve been on the job for a while, they have a good idea of how their experience with you will go within the first minute.

Your Waiter Deserves A RaiseThis is why those who would dismiss restaurant and bar workers as unimportant are completely wrong. Nobody has a better handle on humanity in general than your waiter, server, or bartender. They’ve seen every scam, heard every story, and smelled every kind of bullshit. You want to know what people are really like? Ask a waiter. A politician can’t give you the same honesty.

Certainly there are bad apples. We’ve all heard the story of the server who cried ‘wolf,’ falsely claiming she was not tipped because of her sexual orientation. But this scenario actually has happened before. And holding one case up to represent every server in the industry is a fallacy. If you were to put that false equivalency into play, you would quickly find that a similar case could be made against those calling themselves “Christians” who leave Bible verse instead of tips. It’s best not to go there, so don’t try.

Now this is not to say that those who work in the restaurant industry are better than anyone else. That would be silly. This story is not intended to put anyone else down, but merely to call attention to what waiters and bartenders go through on a daily basis. And, just maybe, what they are worth to society as a whole.

This certainly isn’t intended to suggest that those in the industry are more important than those in the military. These are entirely different situations, and veterans deserve respect regardless. Period. But it needs to be said that there is a significant number of military veterans working in the industry as servers, bartenders, managers, or cooks. One of my best friends is a veteran I met while working in the same restaurant.

As for the argument that we can’t raise the minimum wage because prices would go up, don’t make me laugh. Prices go up anyway while wages stay the same. Upper management and CEOs get raises all the time while prices stay the same. So this argument is defeated on both fronts.

If you find yourself thinking, “Well if you don’t like it, go get another job,” then you are not only missing the point, you are part of the problem. What are we going to do, run to the job tree and pick a new profession? It’s that easy is it? People who think this way are apt to be the very first to negatively comment on articles such as these, and it usually means they have not read the piece at all. Check the comments, and feel free to tell those who post them that they are simply illustrating this issue.

Quite simply, those with the loudest negative opinions about waiters have never done the job, or at least not for very long. It is “beneath” them. They are speaking to something they know little about. They believe they know the life of a server because, well, they go to restaurants, and base their opinions upon false assumptions. It’s why they must not be taken seriously. Co-incidentally, these are the same folks who say they “never get good service anywhere!” They don’t consider that they are the only common denominator in the equation. And yes, they are often rich folks. CEOs. Bankers. Politicians. Silver Spooners. Spoiled brats.

Many waiters and bartenders live day to day. Yes, they will have excellent shifts where they make lots of money, working their tails off to do so. But there are many more days where they do not. There is no financial security; no pensions; rarely any benefits; and unions are infrequent to say the least. Servers, bartenders, all those in the industry, work without a safety net. Should they get hurt or sick, they are pretty much screwed.

Industry workers normally cannot afford to take time off because they are sick. Yes, someone who has served you was ill. I guarantee it. They had no choice. For those of you against vaccines, this fact alone should make you re-think your position.

Many people still claim servers do not deserve a raise. Never mind that these industry workers don’t even make minimum wage in the first place. Most American servers are paid all of $2.13 an hour and don’t even see checks. They depend upon your tips for wages and this is a hit and miss situation at best. On top of that they have to tip out support staff such as bussers, runners, management and even owners in some cases Then are subject to taxes. When you don’t tip your waiter, you are costing them money. If you don’t tip, you have absolutely no reason to oppose raising base pay for waiters.

If you tell yourself that the minimum wage does not need to be raised, or that waiters don’t need to be paid more, chances are the reasons you give will boil down to ignorance. You are saying, “Those people don’t deserve more money, they aren’t as good as me.” Ignorance must not be heeded. Those speaking against the working class or the poor are very rarely members of same class.

If every CEO stayed home tomorrow, you would not notice. If every waiter, bartender, manager, or cook stayed home tomorrow, it would make worldwide headline news. Can you even imagine it? No coffee from the shop in the morning. What do you do for lunch? Where are you going to take that special someone for dinner?

Waiter, bartender,Waiters are important to society. They help create marriages. They bring relaxation and pleasure. They can give you an oasis from stress, even if it’s only for a few moments. waiters have had a positive influence on your life, whether or not you want to admit it. They deserve a fighting chance to pull themselves up their bootstraps, as the popular rhetoric goes.

Don’t try to fool your waiter. You’ll fail. It’s impossible to fool most of them; they’ve seen it all. If someone causes problems in a restaurant, they’re a problem everywhere else in life. Your waiter knows to discount an opinion like this. So should you. Like I said, your waiter knows more about you than you think and most people don’t even realize it. If this is a surprise to you, well, that’s all the proof that’s needed.

“Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your food, haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep! Do NOT f#ck with us!” ~ Tyler Durden, Fight Club

“Never insult the people who handle your food.” ~ All servers, everywhere

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Chad R. MacDonald

Chad R. MacDonald has a degree in English literature from Cape Breton University and subsequently received a full scholarship to AMDA in New York City. He is a former security professional, veteran of the hospitality industry, and experienced in both the arts as well as administration. He has been writing all his life, likes baseball, hockey, literature, science, the arts, and marine photography. Chad lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son and their gigantic cat.

14 Comments on “Your Waiter Deserves A Raise

  1. people that join the military could be compared to monkeys to be honest.

  2. “If you tell yourself that the minimum wage does not need to be raised, or that waiters don’t need to be paid more, chances are the reasons you give will boil down to ignorance.”

    Speaking of ignorance. The minimum wage is a price floor, the minimum you can legally charge for a good. When you impose a price floor above the equilibrium price of a good, the natural result is a surplus of said good, as the consumer purchases less or goes without, or purchases substitute goods.

    When the good in question is labor, that surplus translates into unemployment and under employment. This is basic economics.

  3. I worked as a waitress under the table in a small cafe when I was 14 (graduated early and was trying to save up for college books). In addition to waiting tables, I prepared the desserts, salads, rung up orders, and delivered food to patrons at a nearby bar. The restaurant was run poorly and I would be the only waitress scheduled for an entire day at times, including during the lunch rush. Very quickly, I learned that the people flowing in from church in their Sunday attire wouldn’t even look at me, much less speak to me, or leave a tip; large groups wouldn’t be personable either and usually forgot who was supposed to tip; drunk older patrons at the bar never tipped, never even said “thank you”; I got my best tips from couples or small families that seemed to notice me, that I could strike up small talk with while taking orders, refilling drinks, etc, but despite which category came in, I always tried my best and gave my best service. Now, of course, I don’t believe it’s like this everywhere nor do I think all church goers or drunk people don’t tip, but it was just my experience in the small-town cafe I worked in. I could never live off of what I was making and barely raised the money I needed for books before my family found out I was serving in a bar some of the time and I had to leave, but the waitresses working at the same restaurant legally who needed the money for rent, bills, kids were who I felt the worst for. Back then, I gave up shifts and would split my tips in the rare cases where I worked with others. The entire experience just made me realize how under appreciated industry workers are and how wages needed to be raised to a livable amount and tips need to be left. I can’t remember one waiter I ever had growing up, but after my experience, I remember most of their faces and even jokes they have told me. I also make sure friends/family I am with leave good tips and when people I know talk down about them, I remind them of how at one point I was a waitress.

  4. Thank you for writing a great article hopefully it will educate people on why they should tip.

  5. I think the servers wages should be raised, but I feel that it is also the responsibility of the patrons to tip based off percentages not some dollar amount they see fit because they’ve been tipping that for 20 years 5 dollars went a lot farther 20 years ago, that 5 on your 20 dollar ticket was fair, but now due to inflation the same meal might cost you 40 to 50 dollars, that tip is roughly 10 to 12% kind of insulting considering the appropriate tip is 20%( feel encouraged to tip over for exceptional service, to ensure that service remains exceptional) Some say you don’t like it get a new job, pay them minimum wage. I personally don’t mind tipping well to ensure my servers make more than minimum wage. I would get fast food if I wanted minimum wage prices, with minimum wage service, if I want to be waited on I will pay accordingly, I encourage everyone else to do the same. Otherwise your filet mignon might start coming wrapped in paper and tossed on a plastic tray, served with red wine in a paper cup with a lid and a straw. Thank you to everyone in the service industry from the back of the house to the front for making my dining experience wonderful. T.I.P.S. To Incite Phenomenal Service

    • You make some fantastic points here, Matthew. I can’t argue with them. Thanks for reading!

  6. I have No issue with most of what you say…. But you seem to be placing the onus of change on your Customers instead of dealing directly with the Root of your problem! And that is the fact that servers are discriminated against with a Lower and Unlivable Wage structure! And that should be where your focus MUST be!

    I am one of those that a Tip means a gratuity for service. I do not believe that it is the customers responsibility to subsidies wages. I do believe that Restaurant owners should be responsible to pay a Living wage. Tips should be strictly based on the level of service provided! If paying a higher wage means that the meal prices must rise, then so be it! It is up to the restaurant to compete, and not on the backs of customers that subsidize the restaurants operating costs. Why should restaurants be held to a different standard than any other industry in the economy.

    It is Time that servers organized and took their wage problems and responsibilities to the Owners!! Even if it means a long and expensive strike to achieve!

    • Yeah. I don’t even. I would point out what you got wrong in your impressions, Cosmic, but it would entail me writing the entire piece in this comment, and I’m not doing that.

      I did not put the onus on the customer, I took apart popular misconceptions people have about what this job entails. Suggesting severs and bartenders just strike against restaurant owners tells me you have never worked the job.

      The only way to improve life for not only servers, but many members of the poor and working classes is by vote, specifically voting for raising minimum wage. The reasons why I say this are listed clearly in this story. Please don’t go, “but but but” again. You either get it or you don’t.

      I think your heart is in the right place, Cosmic, but you missed the gist of this piece somewhat.

      • I guess we should Both agree that we may have misinterpreted each others’ posts, as I thought I was being perfectly clear that ‘Yes, Raising the Minimum wage was exactly the way to go!’

        I have No objection to the practice of tipping. or to Being Very Generous in Tipping for Exceptional service! And I think that people who Leave NO tip when given proper service are ‘NOT Nice People’ (to be polite)…..

        My Objection is to be made to feel Guilty for Not Leaving a BIG tip for Bad service! In my opinion, It is Not the responsibility of the Customer to compensate the server for their Low pay by the restaurant by Tipping them when they do not deserve it… especially leaving a generous tip. The Amount of a tip should be solely based on the Quality of the service Given!

        That said,,…. Nothing I have said negates the Justice of paying a Fair wage, based on an Equitable Minimum wage that is the same as any other industry, Not some Lower minimum to Justify Tipping and reduce the cost of wages to the Owner.

        So if you want Change, you should be agitating against TeaPublican/Libertarians in Congress who are Blocking any Changes to the Federal Minimum Wage, including fairness and equality for Servers! In 2014 Vote DEMOCRAT and do not stay Home on Election day!

        • Okay. We’re on the same page now.

          Cheers, Cosmic! Or should I call you Norrin Radd?

    • A few questions. What is a living wage? What if you labor isn’t worth this living wage? Why is it the responsibility of a business to pay someone anymore than the agreed upon wages?

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