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Pros and Cons of Being a Waitress/Waiter

Waitress taking orders

Most people looking to find a job in hospitality with no previous work experience turn to waiting tables. It’s an entry-level position that doesn’t require any educational background. All you need is a strong will and a good work ethic.

If you’re considering becoming a Waiter/Waitress, you’re probably wondering what the pros and cons are. Just like with other jobs, being a Waiter/Waitress has its positives and negatives. Understanding what the highs and the lows of the job are will help you make a well-informed decision.

Keep in mind that some of the pros and cons we’ll talk about are subjective, so whether you find something as a pro or con will depend on the type of person you are.

Note: The terms Waiter/Waitress and Server are used interchangeably throughout this article. Many establishments only employ one person to carry out the duties of both roles, which are similar. The term “Server” is gender-neutral and is considered more “professional”. “Waiter” and “Waitress”, on the other hand, are used for male and female employees respectively.

Potential to make good moneyWorking weekends/holidays
Making connectionsDealing with difficult customers
Meal discountsPhysically demanding
Consistent dutiesNo extra benefits
Employment opportunitiesInconsistent income

Advantages of Being a Waitress/Waiter

There are a few notable advantages to being a Waitress/Waiter. You can make decent money from the get-go. You don’t need any special training or formal education to start waiting tables. Let’s get into more detail.

Earn good money

While Servers don’t make a lot from wages, tipping culture in the United States allows them to earn good money.

The average base salary for a Waiter/Waitress in the United States is $36,530, plus tips. This translates to $17.56 per hour, before tips.

Tips are a big portion of a Server’s overall earnings. In most places, the customary tip for waitstaff ranges between 15 and 20% of the total bill.

Meeting new people

If you’re a social person, getting to meet new people daily can be a huge advantage to serving. You’ll get to interact with people from all walks of life, hear interesting stories and form long-lasting personal and professional relationships.

Free or discounted meals

In most restaurants, waitstaff get a free meal once per day, or at least access to food at discounted rates. Some restaurants even allow waitstaff to take food home after their shift is over. This allows them to save a significant amount of money.

Consistent daily schedule

Unless you have to deal with some unforeseen circumstances, your daily schedule will be rather consistent. You’ll have a set of daily duties you’ll have to carry out. Knowing what to expect during your shift can help reduce anxiety.

Lots of employment opportunities

The restaurant industry is thriving. There will always be jobs for eager applicants willing to work as a Server. This means that not only will you always be able to find employment, but you’ll also be able to choose between multiple restaurants when applying or switching jobs.

We discussed some of the good, now let’s discuss some of the bad.

Disadvantages of Working as a Waitress/Waiter

Working as a Waiter/Waitress might not be for you if you’re not very sociable. Difficult customers, unpleasant co-workers and long, late shifts are common occurrences on the job.

Working on weekends and holidays

Most people get to spend their holidays and weekends however they choose. Many of them like to visit restaurants and bars.

Waitstaff don’t have the luxury of enjoying time off on weekends and holidays. In fact, they typically have to work busy shifts during weekends and holidays. This makes it hard to keep a good work-life balance.

On the bright side, you can make extra money working weekends or holidays.

Dealing with difficult customers

Difficult customers can make serving one of the most stressful jobs there is. This is especially true if you’re working in an establishment that mainly serves alcohol.

For this reason, many establishments require employees to have Responsible Alcohol Service training. This program teaches how to responsibly serve alcohol and how to deal with difficult customers by de-escalating the situation.

Physically demanding

Waitstaff spend most of their shifts on their feet. They’re also responsible for taking out the trash and carrying heavy trays. With that in mind, it’s worth pointing out that if you’re in bad shape, it may take some time to get used to the physical demands of the job.

No extra benefits

Many restaurants don’t provide any extra benefits to Servers. You get an hourly wage, tips from customers and discounts on meals. That’s it.

In most cases, you’ll have to pay for your own health and dental insurance. Many restaurants don’t even offer sick leave and paid time off.

All of this can make it quite difficult to take a break when needed or visit a hospital when you know it’s coming out of your own pocket.

Inconsistent pay

Waitstaff generally make more money from tips rather than their base salary. That being said, if times are slow for the restaurant or bar, you might not make as much money as you probably hoped to make. That’s just the nature of the service industry.

Is Being a Waiter/Waitress Worth It?

The pros and cons we talked about aren’t set in stone. As mentioned, some of them vary based on location and establishment.

Not all restaurants are the same. Some restaurants offer many benefits, including sick days, dental, health insurance and more.

At the end of the day, if you enjoy interacting with people and don’t mind working irregular hours, then being a Server might be your calling.

It’s a profession that doesn’t require any formal education. With enough time and experience, you can move to other jobs in the hospitality industry. For instance, you can work as a Barback, then advance to a Bartending position or start working as a Host/Hostess.

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