Locally Grown

Living The Big Easy (Job)…Waiting Tables
2011/03/02, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary

Yesterday I posted an expectedly childish rant countering the blog-pinion of a person who is most likely sick of my pestering commentary.  This person claimed that waiting tables is easier now than back in the 1970s or pre-calculator times.  Today I would like take the focus away from pointing out the skewed perception of a person who hasn’t waited tables since before the Calcuzoic Age (time of electronically computed check totals) and address the specific issue at hand.

Is Waiting Tables Really Easier Today Than In The Pre-Calcuzoic Age?

Here is the deal: Anyone who has worked in a full service restaurant knows that servers have always enjoyed the best Money Earned to Work Output (ME/WO) within the food service hierarchy.  Most servers can make more in a 4 hour shift than the cooks preparing their food during a full 8 hour day.  This has been true since the beginning of modern full service dining.  This is one reason cooks are generally not “people persons” because the people who are people people have realized that the “easy(er) money” is in the Front Of The House.  The back of the house people who are people people are usually the chefs or other salaried positions (and chefs are still not very “peoply” people on the whole).

A server has to do things like set tables, polish glasses and silverware, re-stock to-go packaging, fold linens, show up for work, look presentable, and give the appearance that they are ready to tolerate the Dining Public.  They also need to know their food (although in some of the lower-echelons of dining this is wholly optional), and be able to describe ingredients to guests upon request.  If you add in order taking, carrying things, prioritizing, multi-tasking, and dealing with the kitchen and guests then you have sealed the deal on what a server does.  THE HARDEST PART OF SERVING IS DEALING WITH THE PUBLIC.  The rest is a hum-drum amalgamation of basic skills which when strung together in serial becomes the basis of the job of waiting tables.  I am telling you, it isn’t that hard when you take out the A-hole factor.  If you can learn to manage the A-hole factor then you are golden.  A decent work ethic, some good hygiene practices, and a quick wit can make you a decent dollar, this all dependent of course on where you work.  This has been the case for, again, all recorded history of table waiting.  Sure, some servers have to make their own deserts or salads, open wine bottles, cut bread for tables, and other time consuming tasks, but how hard is that.

Walk around.  Talk to people.  Spout off menu facts as specified by your chef.  Carry Things.  Handle Money. Next.

This is how it has ALWAYS BEEN.  Now you understand what a server does, let’s focus on the difficulty level according to the time line.

Uniforms in the past were provided by the company you worked for (for the most part) and YES, they were not very cool.  BUT you had your approved uniform in your hand and didn’t have to run around all over town trying to find the right color/size of pants or shirts, shoes, etc.  all of which are more expensive now.  Uniforms have come a long way, but in my experience have cause more stress due to the cost/sourcing/managers and owners changing their minds and sending you out to purchase even more clothing you probably can’t afford.  There is a price paid for the non-polyester less ugly uniforms of today.

Economically speaking people in the income level which is occupied by us lowly restaurant workers have it harder than “back in the day.”  Childcare, healthcare, fuel, rent, food, utilities, phone, car payment, insurance…all have skyrocketed in price over the years, at a much higher rate than pay increases.  Livable wage is like the punchline to a sick joke these days.  The act of serving has stayed the same, but the stress of “making ends meet” has increased exponentially, making the job harder in modern times.  You have all of these bills and stresses in the back of your mind, then you get a table of people who may live a few income levely above you and like to flaunt it, treating you like a serf or sharecropper.  So here you are trying to feed your babies and keep gas in your car to take them to day care so you can make it to your job only to end up with some condescending assholes treating you like you are a piece of human trash for allegedly forgetting their fucking bread basket that wasn’t even an option in the first place.  Did the servers of the past have to deal with the same types of situations?  Yes.  Did the servers of the past have any idea the disparity between cost of living and wages in the future?

Is anything really easier than it was in the past?

The Cook


2 Comments so far
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I can’t say that I ever served tables in the “pre-calculator” times, but in my opinion, people have become bigger a-holes today than ever. There is this accepted belief that servers/service industry people in general are there to “earn” their wages by being your servant, and that it’s okay to treat them poorly. I agree with you that THAT’S the hardest part of serving, and that needs to change.

Comment by Nicole

I will not deny that the money is great! You are misinformed in the responsibilities that are expected. I for one have worked in the industry for 15 years 7 of those with one corporate company ill leave nameless. In reality as a bartender and server I have the job title of three people. A typical night goes like this. Get tables greet, bring drinks take order bring food check on table run payment and clean table. Multiply that by 5 or 6. Now lets discuss the drinks I make for the entire restaurant the dishes I have to wash and put away on top of entertaining bar guests and regulars. In the back I get ice to get drinks sweep so it stays clean run dishes so the cooks have clean plates to put food and run others food cause they are in one step or the other of waiting on a table. As I stated before there is really good in waiting tables but I for one am grateful for the technology because there is a lot more responsibilities on the wait staff. So tip accordingly people I dont get a paycheck!

Comment by Crystal

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