Which is Better Working for Gratuities or Working for Salary

When I was in my 30’s one of my goals was to become a Maitre’d or Restaurant Manager in a Fine Dining Restaurant somewhere in Canada.
I had just received a promotion on the cruise ship I was working on to Maitre’d from waiter in the dining room. It was going to be great! More money , using what knowledge I had learned from working in various dining rooms , and especially my 3 years up to that time working on the ships would serve me well.
Now what do you think my salary was going to be a month for being a Maitre’d?
It was going to be a mind boggling $50 a month. Yes you read that right , a measly fifty dollars a month. So why do you think I was so excited. It was because I was going to receive double the share of the gratuities that a waiter would earn. In other words if the waiters made $3,000 a month in gratuities I would make $6,000. A significant increase indeed and justified too as the added responsibility I would undertake would mean more hours and crisis to solve.
When I returned to Canada to work and started in management positions I noticed a big difference in take home pay. I was working longer hours at salary than the waiters were and making less money. I quickly reverted back to waiter and dismissed any idea of being a restaurant manager.
Now perhaps I should have stayed in Europe when I got off the ship to earn the big bucks that restaurant managers make over there and are still highly regarded by the population. But just having married with hopes of seeing my family down the road with little take home pay and long hours did not appeal to me.
So here I am approaching 50 and a waiter who earns gratuities and is able to make a decent living and a good lifestyle as well. By the way my wife is also a waiter and does well too. We both could have been managers in our own right.
Although I mention often of reaching for the top in the Hospitality Profession you have to do what you have to do in order to fit your own needs.
My barometer of whether to work for gratuities with a small hourly wage or a salary comes down to this , how much are you taking home each month? Is it enough? If not you may have to go back to waiting on tables or find a position where there is profit sharing or bonuses for the successes you bring to your place of employment.
If you are not willing to go back as a waiter then starting up your own business might be the best outcome.
As one person said to me a time ago , it’s not what you make but what you keep that makes the difference. I am happy I made the choice I did and that was to put aside my ego and do the right thing and make some money and see my kids.



  1. Hi Steve, thanks for stopping by and showing interest in my site. I have subscribed to your posts as I look forward to reading more of your interesting adventures in the business. Many people think restaurant managers earn an excellent living while others question why would you become one. I often tell them that its a great stepping stone that provides valuable experience. For sure, waiting tables can earn you significantly more income. I believe it is a matter of what you want and what you hope to be. I am glad to know that you and your wife have made decisions that you seem both satified with. That’s already a hard step for many people, which is knowing what is best for them.

  2. Thank you for your comment.You are absolutely right.The challenge is greater and the rewards different and certainly there are restaurant managers who earn a great deal too.I just wait on tables because it provides enough and I have some more free time with the family.

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