This is a job that employs everyone from college students trying to earn some extra cash at a café to tuxedo-clad professionals serving filet mignon to businessmen.
Yes, there are flexible hours. But they might involve working the breakfast crowd starting at the crack of dawn or a late shift that ends at midnight. Weekends and holidays? Forget about it, you’re probably working.
The job also has a fair amount of stress: during busy hours, the wait staff is under pressure to get food to hungry and sometimes picky customers.
But waiters and waitresses often say they love their jobs, sometimes because of the flexible hours, sometimes because the restaurant can be a social hub.
“I like the interaction with a bunch of different people from different walks of life,” says Jai Covey, a floor manager and former waiter at Novo Restaurant and Lounge in San Luis Obispo, Calif. “What I don’t like is when people are in a bad mood and are difficult to deal with.”
To make a living as a waiter, he says, sometimes it requires working a double shift or opening and closing the restaurant. “You have be someone who wants to work more or longer,” he says.
According to the BLS, in 2011 there were about 2.3 million food servers making an annual mean wage of $20,890 a year. This would be below the level to pay federal taxes. But, as Mr. Covey notes, “If you don’t pay taxes it does not mean you are relying on the government.”