You Know You’re a Server When..

By The Blonde

– You have an endless supply of ones, fives, etc. People always come to you to break twenties and if you’re young enough, the bank assumes you’re a stripper.

– Friends have a love/hate relationship with eating out in your company. Love because you can split the check and calculate the tip in the blink of an eye. Hate because you tend to say things like, ‘Oh.. I wouldn’t have done that” or, “No, see, she’s just ringing in their food and then she’s going to run get outs, don’t worry!”

– Other servers/bartenders love you. If you’re not an asshole, you tip well, stack the plates, and generally try to act the way you wish your customers did.

– You pretty consistently smell like onions and french fries. You attract very strange people of the opposite sex for that reason.

– Endless supply of pens. If you can’t find one, you have another and you’ll probably find the original later that night behind your ear or in your ponytail.

– If you’ve done it long enough, you develop a vice to deal with the total lack of faith you now have in humanity. Smoking, drinking, arts and crafts, what have you.

Random thoughts of the night, luckily I actually jotted them down tonight.

Reprinted with permission from On Station Two.

Living Wage and Reclaiming My Humanity

By Stephanie Harris

“Every time I hear the door opening, I feel the person coming into the restaurant and taking a piece of me”. I work at Mehaks Indian Cuisine, located in Ithaca, NY and I make $7.25 an hour-which is about half of what the proposed living wage is for Ithaca. My co-workers, Heidi, said the aforementioned quotation when musing on how she felt during a Friday night shift. At first, I was taken aback that she said such a claim. As a server, it’s engrained into the way you think that you just have to accept the flow of customers that come in on any particular night. You don’t question any of the pain you feel in your body from the long hours and various tasks that you have to do, because it becomes an accepted part of your lifestyle.

But there is a certain danger than comes with this complacency. You become your own worst bully. Your mind goes through the motions of accepting the work conditions and the derogatory treatment by people as part of the work that you’ve chosen to participate in.

When your wage is based off the number of people who walk through the door of a particular restaurant, there becomes the inherent need to sell yourself.

The money I make for a living isn’t based on how much I make per hour.

It’s based on who walks through the door of the restaurant.

It’s based on the whim of a person and their feelings about my service.

It’s based on the inherent assumptions the customer makes about my persona, the type of work I do, and why I do it.

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The Neverending Job Search

By Maile Skye

I’ve been on the job hunt on and off for about seven years. I worked a restaurant job that I adored for over five of those years, but every few months I would put my feelers out, looking for an opportunity that would offer me more stability. I’ve spent so many hours of my life on craigslist, on monster, on hcareers. I don’t know how to not look for a job.

And yet, I haven’t found that job yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had jobs that I enjoyed. Again, I loved working for the restaurant. I made amazing, lifelong friends there. I enjoyed going to work. Hell, I like interacting with the public. But it was the job for my twenties, and I’m no longer there.

I’ve worked for start-up companies where what I had to say really mattered. I adored that feeling, the concept that my words would make a lifelong difference in the company. But while the hours may have been regular, these companies offered even less stability than the restaurant industry.

I haven’t had benefits since I was too old to be on my mother’s plan.

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I Really Like My Job, But…

By Lonnie Glander

I’ve worked as a full time server in Portland, Maine, since 2002.  Before that I was waiting tables during the summer while attending school. I really like my job and I take it very seriously. I worked as a server at one local restaurant for eight and half years, and while the tips were good, I never got a raise.

After working on my feet for so many years I had hernia surgery (from lifting and carrying heavy trays up and down stairs) and blew out my knees. Every time I get sick or injured, I am out a paycheck. We have no paid sick days, so even if I’m injured, I feel compelled to go to work or worry about how I’m going to make rent.

I’ve been at my current job for three years and got a promotion to supervisor about a year ago. Sometimes I am at work up to 18 hours, and have to be back at the restaurant after a 6 hour break. You work like crazy during the busy season, but then during the slow season you can go weeks without a paycheck at all.

Serving has been my career. But it has wreaked havoc on my back and knees, and I feel I have nothing to show for it. I have no retirement, no security. I have enjoyed my jobs, and I often made enough to get by, but now am wondering if it was all worth it.

The minimum base pay must increase. It would give tipped workers stability, it would allow us the opportunity to save and prepare for slow seasons, which can come at unexpected times.

Reprinted with permission from Mainers For Fair Wages.

How Waiting Tables Prepares You for Baby’s First Month

By Matt Abraham

I was terrified when I had my kid four weeks ago. He was tiny and fragile, screaming and shaking, and all I knew was that I wanted to succeed as a parent. However, the only skills I possessed dealt with waiting tables. What was I going to do, upsell him a bottle of wine or crumb his bib between courses? But after four weeks of fathering I realize there was no need for concern, because as surprising as it sounds, the skills I gained from working in restaurants were the only ones I needed to successfully deal with an infant. After all, he was just a weepy egocentric human who was demanding all my attention, and even on a slow Tuesday night you’ll see four of those… So if you’re a waiter who’s expecting their first kid you can rest easy, the following six lessons from your time spinning trays are guaranteed to get you through the crucial first month of parenthood with ease.

Kind of.

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Verbal Tips Are Fraud

By Duke Cullinan

The concept of the Verbal Tip is understood by any waiter who has been in the business for more than 2 or 3 . . . shifts.

‘You were the best waiter!’

‘Thank you so much! You were really great tonight!’

I truly hope some of these particular diners are reading this, so they can understand we know what they are doing. But then, the kind of diners who pull this shit are definitely not interested in how the waiter feels about things. So why should I expect they would seek out a waiter’s rant?

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My Manager is a Slacker

By Anonymous

I currently work as the fry cook at a high volume beer and wings joint in Atlanta. Been there almost exactly one year, and will be leaving in one week. Here’s why…

Management sucks. My last job as cashier at a fast casual South African restaurant, where the manager and prep cook would frequently bang in the office while we were busy, was more tolerable.

I work weekends, when we get slammed, and the fry station has two positions; one person flips the wings and sells the items, the other drops all fried items and keeps the fries coming. On Sundays management finds it economically sound to leave me on fry alone. They of course expect quality and timing to be the same as well, which simply is not possible with 25 tickets constantly on the board and constantly coming in, fries needing to be fresh, and 300 wings down that need to be out in 15 minutes minus the crispy wings. I’ve been doing this for a couple of months now and last week was the last straw.

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The Customer Is Always…

By Jamie C. Baker

My first job was at Chick Fil-A when I turned 16.  From there, I worked retail at Belk and Shoe Carnival, and had a stint at an Outlet Mall.  I have waited tables and bartended at Chili’s, Applebee’s, Shoney’s, IHOP and more, and worked sales at a wholesale and retail warehouse.  I’ve managed customers for a landscaping company and handled patients at a chiropractic practice.  At this moment, I work for a massive drug development company in a position that requires absolutely no customer service work, and I love it more than words can express.

I’m grateful to currently be in a position where I don’t have to worry about the whole “customer is always right” philosophy.  If someone screws up, I tell them to fix it.  If someone is rude to me, I don’t have to put up with it.  When I’m put in front of a client, I’m not the one who has to answer to them, so it’s not a stressful environment with me feeling like I have to pop my customer service voice on and play nice.  There’s a mutual respect rather than one or both of us feeling an obligation to fake it.

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Why Do I Wait Tables (at Red Lobster)?

By Richard Johnson

Someone once asked me, “Why do I wait tables?” She suggested that since I have multiple degrees (I have a graduate degree as well as my undergrad) and I only make $40-$60 a night I should do something else.

First, I don’t only make $40-$60 a night. If I did, I would’ve gotten out of this business a LONG time ago. I have co-workers who make that a night because they suck and don’t care, but rare is the shift that I make under $80, and most nights are beyond that. Honestly, I am disappointed in less than $100 per shift (but yes it happens). It’s not worth my time (especially in winter) to drive into work for less than that. I have a fairly long commute by city standards to get to my restaurant. There are other Red Lobster stores (and other Darden owned restaurants) closer to where I live, but I work at my present store because I can make more money there than at most of the other regional stores. I’ve worked in enough Red Lobsters to know a good one when I find it. Good being a relative term of course.

Hypothetically, let’s say I work 5 shifts a week for 30 hours. In those shifts if I average $125 per shift, that is $625 a week that I am taking home (with health care and the pittance that we get as tipped employees, we never see our hourly wages). Figure I work at least 49 weeks a year and that is over $30,000. And honestly, there are people in my store who make more than that, all for a “part time” job. Plus I get paid vacation. Plus we get stock options. And dental/health care is available.

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My First Job Experience – A Norwegian Cafe

 by Nabeela Qaiser

My first job was at a café shop named “Kefe Nytt” in Fredrikstad in Norway.  As my first time working, personally it made feel proud.   I remember walking in very nervous and afraid.  I took a seat and glanced around.  I saw my expression mirrored in my co-worker’s face.  Yet, our supervisor welcomed us warmly and even gave us snacks.

I was very excited, but also a little nervous.  I did not know how to talk and handle customers, as this was my first time.  I was afraid of making a mistake and messing things up.  I was very dedicated to learn my job fast and make no mistake so I could impress my boss, Astrid.

During the first two training weeks, I learned how to make different types of salads and soups.  Sometimes, I made mistakes.  I burned the cookies in the oven and made the cake very sweet. I forgot the foccacia bread two times in the oven.  My boss smiled with angry eyes.

But time passed. I learned my job and perfected it.  The customers started loving my dishes and soon I became a really good worker and better baker.

It was an enjoyable experience and I loved every step of it.  Having a job was a way of making extra cash for clothes and makeup.  It made me feel independent and responsible.  I also learned how to handle my fiancés.  I had to learn how to take public transportation, how to interact with my coworkers and different types of people.  I also learned punctuality and especially how to be with my boss.  In a way, it was almost like I had learned real life skills in eight months.

I will never forget my first job experience.  It will always be a big part of me maturing and becoming a real worker.  This job taught me to always have an open mind and be willing to work in any type of work environment and to always be respectful and kind to others.


Born and raised in Qatar, Nabeela Qaiser has been in the United States for one year.  She has a husband and two children.  She is a hard worker.  She loves praying, cooking, reading, stitching and yoga.  She studies at the Harlem Adult Learning Center at the New York Public Library.  She wants to improve her English because it will open new doors.  She gives special thanks to all of her hardworking teachers.