So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

How to make an extra thousand a year

There’s one thing certain about most servers (yours truly included) – it’s really frustrating to get a table at 9pm, especially when your last table closed out 30 minutes ago but the management hasn’t cut sections yet. The tendency is to say “Gee, I have to stay an extra hour and a half for a deuce that might only pay me $10”. And that’s a reasonable thing to think, believe me. Sometimes, if we get the chance, we’ll dish the table off to a closer or someone who already still has some tables working.

It’s hard to get out of this mindset, especially if you’re one of those people who likes to go out after your shift, or you have a turnaround lunch shift the next day. And I’m not saying that it’s unreasonable – that you should be glad to stay late and never think about dishing the table off.


…you can shift your thinking a little and get a payoff by hanging in there. There are several ways that this can pay off. First, dishing off even a $10 table a couple of times a week can add up. If you hang in there, now you have another thousand dollars in your pocket at the end of the year. Yes, it means another hundred hours of work a year, so that’s worth thinking about. 

You might also try to think of it as paying for a lot of your tipout for the night.

And if you work in a high-end restaurant, you certainly risk losing a lot more than $10 on a deuce. As anyone who works in such a restaurant knows, any table any time can be the one that makes your night and changes it from a $100 night to a $150 -$200 night, even with a small table. I can certainly testify to that. One thing to consider is that some of the heavy hitters in your restaurant like to come in after the rush.

This is a quality-of-life issue that everyone has to make for themselves. I’ve certainly been a serial table-dropper offender in the past myself. But I do it less and less. I find myself changing my mindset in subtle ways. I look at it as a way to do my closing sidework at a leisurely pace. I look at it as paying for my tipout. I look at it as “well, it’s only an extra hour or two and, who knows, I might pick up an extra table or two from people who are bustin’ to get out on the town”. 

This is just another way to look at getting by during these times of shrinking business. Remember, there’s almost always someone who is thinking of getting the hell out, so, if you can come to an accommodation with yourself, you could definitely profit from someone else’s “lifestyle choice”.

It’s another option that you have available to you; one that you might not have considered from all angles.

Oh yeah, one final thing to consider – management will come to depend on you as someone who doesn’t mind staying and doesn’t bitch about getting that last table. This can subtly influence their seating habits and you might start getting a higher quality of table in general.


2 responses to “How to make an extra thousand a year

  1. waiterextraordinaire July 1, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I stay till the bitter end.

  2. Jeremy February 24, 2011 at 4:17 am

    I’d say 90%of the time the last server out makes the best money. I’m not including obvious closing shifts. I’ve just always found if I stay and let someone else go I normally end up ahead moneywise.

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