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how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?

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how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« on: December 14, 2004, 04:32:24 PM »
I'm seriously considering quitting teaching, moving back home, and working part-time while in law school.  As far as I can tell, waiting tables may be my best bet to earn the most money.

How much can a decent server expect to earn in a week (I'll probably end up working at a place like Red Lobster, Olive Garden, etc.) 

To anybody who's worked these jobs before, your advice and input would be greatly appreciated.


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Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2004, 04:49:58 PM »
It all depends on where you live and what your lving expenses are.  I fully supported myself and saved quite a bit of money as a waitress at a nice steak restaurant after I graduated from school and was looking for a "real" job.  The nice thing about waitressing is that you wear a uniform (don't have to buy lots of expensive, nice-looking clothes as you would for an office job), you get discounts when you eat at the restaurant (in my case, eating nice steak dinners for $5 with leftovers for the next day), and you work weekend evenings (thereby working at times you would otherwise be spending lots of $$ out at bars). 

Money-wise, I would think you could expect to make about $100 a night Thurs-Sat.  However, Fri and Sat night shifts were hot commodities at m workplace and you were lucky to even have one of the two.

Also, do consider cost of living.  Supporting myself was easy since my rent (at the time) was only $250 and my expenses were slight. 

However, waitressing is super stressful - beware!


Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2004, 05:41:48 PM »
like mememe, i supported myself through college by waiting tables.  in fact, i worked at the olive garden for a few years.  waiting tables is definitely better money than most part time jobs, but there are drawbacks.  depending on where you work, you could have to work very late hours.  i currently work at a bar and grill and often don't get home until 2 or 3 am.  it definitely makes it difficult to go to morning class after doing that 5 nights a week.  at a place like the olive garden, you wouldn't be there till 2 am, but there were a few nights when i was there until midnight or so. 
also, like mememe mentioned, there is lots of money to be made on friday and saturday nights.  but in order to get those shifts you usually have to end up working some monday lunches, too (or another similarly crappy shift, where you work 4-5 hours for $12). 
if you do decide to start waiting tables for a part time job, i'd avoid corporate if at all possible.  there is just too much bs going on.  at olive garden and red lobster for example (i keep bringing them up because you mentioned them, and also i have experience with the company) you are only allowed to have 3 tables at once, and there are tons of stupid rules.  you have to split tables of 8 or more, and will be sent home if you're not wearing black socks.  not to mention that in the 3 years i worked there, we went through about 18 different managers. 
finally, if you are going to law school full time, i wouldn't recommend working 20 hours a week.  in fact, i think there is a rule limiting full time law students to a maximum of 6 hours a week (according to the northwestern rep, i think). 


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Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2004, 06:28:52 PM »
I love working as a waitress - but a word to the wise - don't expect to jump right in at most places as a server - unless you have experience they are most likely going to start you as a busser, host/ess or throw you in the kitchen washing dishes. Just something to keep in mind - if you apply to smaller/less corporate places you might have better luck... Or if you take the time to get experience now.

Also, you probably won't start out in the best shifts - so it can be like an investment - stick with it if you want it to be a good source of income (which it def. can) good luck!


Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2004, 06:35:03 PM »
I worked as a waitress in Nebraska, at a chain restaurant called Village Inn - it's like Red Lobster or Olive Garden, maybe a little lower down as far as meal price. I did not make very much money; however, because I joined the restaurant when they were still under construction, I had my pick of shifts. So if you really want to be a server, try to find a restaunrant that's not open yet, but hiring, because you are then at the top of the food chain (ha! cheesy pun) within just a few months as all the riff-raff stop showing up. Then you get the best tables, the best shifts, and can pawn your cleanup duties off on the bus boy for $5. :)

Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2004, 08:39:41 PM »
A few things.........(some have already been touched on)

1) Try to get a job at a fine dining restaurant that is not a chain.  The meals will be more expensive and you'll make more money.

2) The problem you are going to have is that if you only want to work 20 hours a week, you aren't going to be able to make as much cash.  They will most likely ask you to work at least two lunch shifts (where you'll only make about 7/hour or so, even at a nice place) and then schedule you for a dinner shift or two.  And usually the newbie gets the smaller tables, worst shifts, etc. unless they have experience and prove themselves early on in their employment.

3) Go to a place that serves good wine (I'm not talking about the Olive Garden here).  This is clutch.  Almost any city is going to have a few restaurants that are known locally as the best in the area (and aren't chains), and if they serve nice wines (maybe even have a cellar) then you're golden.  That's where the money is.  Of course, I have no idea what your experience is as a server, but don't expect to get a good serving position with no experience. 

4) If you have no experience, realize that serving can be extremely stressful.  Couple that with being a law student and you're going to have some loooooooooong days at times.

5) The better you are at selling, the more money you'll make (obviously). 

I worked at a wine bar and restaurant for two years as a server.  I made great money.  But, the money came with lots of practice, learning the menu and learning all about the wines and liquors served.  It definitely paid off, when I could pull in $200 in 4-5 hours.  On a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday we would make nothing less than $100 and up to $400.  Even if you were first out, meaning you started the dinner shift first at around 4.30 and ended at 8.30, you'd still make 100 bucks or more and would be out early with no closing duties.  That's sick money for a student.  So, the money potential is there, but you really just have to find the right place.


Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2004, 09:22:16 PM »
I agree with the above posters. Location is big - where you are working by state, city, in that city, establishment, and where you are in that establishment. Locals will give you the best advice. That said, my worst day I OWED money (if someone skips out on paying their bill or steals your stuff...or car). The average during a hot season and location was about $300 to $400 a night. What I heard from ppl working at Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc. was more like $75 to $100 a shift. Keep in mind you might have tip out and uniform requirements (ie you have to pay the bar, busser, kitchen, and buy the uniform from the place). You may also need to get a serving license (to serve alcohol), which is similar to taking a defensive driving class (not hard, costs a little money, the bad part is usually the time and location). Each place is different. I would strongly suggest getting a job before May, when all the kids get out of school.

ooooh this reminds me, i have a rant:  on saturday night, i worked from 4:30 pm to 2 am.  i was already having a bad night because i only made $100, which is horrible considering that i'm the closer, who has to work the hardest.  well at about 1:30 some assholes walked out on a $90 tab!  so on a 9 hour shift, i made $10!  oh wait, that's before tip out.  so i needed to pay $10 to work 9 hours.  >:(   

the only redeeming part of the night:  when i realized that the table had walked out and that i was going to have to pay more than i had made that night, i got a little teary-eyed (who wouldn't??).  well this really nice guy saw, and asked the bartender why i was crying.  he told him, and the guy felt so bad for me that he gave me $20.  so at least there are some nice people out there.....

Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2004, 07:08:42 AM »
like everyone pretty much totally depends on the location and type of restaurant.  I worked at a local family chain (9 stores) that was popular in my state.  Right across the street from the airport so we were almost always busy.  Though you do get stuck working Monday and Tuesday's for $25 a night, the weekends day and night were the money sdays obviously.  I always wanted to try a place like Cheesecake Factory (ALWAYS busy) or a local (providence, federal hill) italian fine dining restaurant but it was widely known they only hired men, assholes.
 ;) is very stressful, depending on the pace of the restaurant.  Some people thrived on getting triple sat - I was not one of those people.  Though at the end of the night you walk your tired feet to your car with $150 and up in your pocket...not a bad deal. 


Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2004, 07:15:04 AM »
I can attest to both sides of this coin. On the one hand, I spent a summer waiting tables at a restaurant where $50 was a great shift; on the other hand, Mrs. Buster waited tables at a restaurant where $250 was a disappointing shift.  :o


Re: how much can a waiter make working 20 hours a week?
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2004, 09:26:21 AM »
jayhawk:  You were forced to be Hospi, too?

I spent some miserable time at the OG.  I have waited tables at several locations, and this was the worst by far.  Old people in western PA are not going to buy wine.  The few families/couples in that area that will are not going out to the Olive Garden.  Combine that with the pressure on wine sales, and it makes for an irritating way to serve.

I worked 20hrs/week, though, and usually took home 325-400.  Those who extolled the values of fine dining jobs were right, but they are often much harder to come by.