Everyone has gone to restaurant at least once in their life and noticed the servers running around like crazy. Has anyone ever wonder why they depend on tips? My journey on this trail of finding out the true meaning behind tipping a server at a restaurant began in March of 2017 when I was observing my mentor teacher, Mr. Holmes, for an observation class I was taking. He was in the process of teaching his students 4th grade math and how to count money and take percentages of money when he started to talk about the importance of tipping people at restaurants. Not only were the fourth-grade students learning something new, so was I because I always thought one had to tip the server because it was part of the restaurant policy. I didn’t realize that servers depended on that tip in significant ways.
Since my curiosity for this subject had increased significantly, I ended up getting a new job weeks later at a restaurant. I have been at Olive Garden for approximately two weeks now and I have seen the impact of tips on the servers. In much of the nation including nearby New Jersey, waiters often earn the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour from their employer, a number that hasn’t changed since 1991 (Claude). Servers get paid less than minimum wage because restaurant businesses believe that the servers will make a living on their tips. Yes, some servers will make a great profit with their tips on a busy restaurant day but others will not. Also, servers get paid less than minimum wage due to the tax bracket. When taxes are coming into play, servers must include their tips. They work hard and most of them get compliments throughout the day, but others I have seen have bad days such as them dropping their glasses and breaking them, or even having a customer complain that the server rushed them even when the server was just doing what the customers asked. I decided it was time to dig in a little deeper.
“Mary Kate” has been a server for six years and she has one beautiful son who is six years old. She said one year she was working at this tiny restaurant that was 5-10 minutes away from her old house and that the guests were rude. She went on about this elderly couple that screamed at her and told her to grow up and to serve with a smile instead of being a grouch, but on that same day she had received the news that her son’s father was killed. She tried her best to keep her head in the game because she couldn’t take a day off since she needed the tips to get her son his necessities. Those small wages (less than minimum wages) that servers are receiving are typically swallowed up by taxes (Graves). What most of us don’t understand is that even though the waiter or waitress may seem upset or not on track we shouldn’t take it out on them money wise. Everyone has those bad days and everyone has those good days but everyone has a reason on why they have a job and everyone has something they need the money for whether it is for bills, college, or a family that is waiting at home for them, we still need to tip. Eventually she got out of that little restaurant and now works at Olive Garden where she is very well known and tons of guests request to have her. Every now and again her little boy comes to visit and he is one of her proudest tippers.
I talked to my friend Krysta, who also works at Olive Garden, about her life as a server and from my understanding, it is not as easy as it may look. Krysta has been serving for three years now and she is a full-time server. When Krysta is serving, she is honestly back and forth from the kitchen to tables and constantly on her feet. Servers do not get breaks at the restaurant we work at unless all their tables are eating and the server gets that good 10 minutes of “relaxing” before they need to check on their tables. When servers get to relax, that means they get to sit back in the kitchen in this small room that is usually packed with bags of chips and snacks, people rolling silverware into those fancy cloths, other servers, and our To-Go Specialist. When the servers go back into that little room it gives them a good 5-10 minutes to make a quick phone call or send one text or even shove five or six Cheetos into their mouth. Servers get assigned certain tables in a section. For an example, if you walk into Olive Garden and enter the left side of the restaurant and then look to the left at the first section of booths they are numbered on the Ziosks (those electronic tablets that you can order appetizers, drinks, or even play games on.) Those booths are numbered 80, 81, 82, 83, and 84 clock wise. A server will be assigned in section 80 (the booths) but are only allowed to claim 3 tables. Therefore the servers usually take 80, 81, and 82. Sometimes they take 82, 83, and 84. Normally they have new servers take the other two tables in the section so the new server can practice.
I have asked Krysta about her life as a server and how much she makes. She now makes 2.83 an hour when serving and averages anywhere from 50 to 150 dollars a night in tips depending on the customers. Krysta claims that she lives off her tips because after she receives her paycheck after taxes she makes zero dollars. Krysta makes around $250 - $750 a week depending on how much she earns in tips that week. Honestly, if a server has a bad week of tips they pretty much are really broke.
Servers make their income by the people that they serve and by the tips that they receive not the actual company. In 2009, the federal government raised the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour—but, under lobbying pressure from the restaurant industry, it did nothing for the many thousands of people who work for gratuities (Graves). I don’t agree with the pay that servers receive because it is not fair that they work very hard and are constantly running around the restaurant to please the guests yet only get paid 2.33 an hour and sometimes they don’t make much in tips. I have seen it with my own eyes, a server that had only 2 tables the entire four hours that she worked because they finished eating and sat at the table talking for 2 hours. Everyone keep that in mind when you see a server that is out of place or even when you go to a restaurant to eat, always tip the server.
Claude, Solnik. "Bare Minimum." Long Island Business News, EBSCO.
Gangewere, Nikki. Personal Interview. 04 April 2017.
Graves, Lucia. "Why You Should Always Tip Your Waitress." The Atlantic, 04 Sept. 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/09/why-you-should-always-tip-your-waitress/431277
Klobosits, Krysta. Personal Interview. 14 April 2017.