The Future of Waiting and Bartending As I See It

With the minimum wage increasing here in Ontario to over $9 an hour and $8.60 per hour for waiters I couldn’t be more elated. But I would just like to voice a concern or caution as to what effect this could have on waiting on tables in the future.

First of all I want to make it clear that in these hard times I couldn’t be more happier than walking into work and 5 hours later leaving with money in my pocket. It pays the mortage , kid’s school savings , car loan payments , etc.. over a course of a month.

But over the past 25 years or so I have seen how the service industry has changed at least around these parts. You see as costs have risen over the years to run a restaurant the service industry personnel have had to share in the burden of operating the business.

Let me give you an example , a few years back I never heard of a waiter paying a percentage of his sales to the kitchen staff. Or , in some places there may even be a very small percentage toward breakage that takes place during service in a restaurant. All this on top of the tip outs to bussers , hosts , if you are a waiter to the bartender , bartender to barback , kitchen manager , general manager , and even a percentage in some spots to cover the cost of credit card transactions to the house. All the waiter or bartender seems to be doing is paying out the extra from what they are making to support the salaries of others.

Now this is what I see happening in the next 5-10 years of the service industry at least here where the minimum wage is going to be increasing , unlike the US where the hourly wage is really low still.

Employers know that to attract good managers they have to be pay them a very good salary but if they have to pay more to waiters who they know already make pretty good tips where do you think they will make up for their higher costs? The waiter’s tips , right?

So despite the increase in minimum wage that I will make per hour I know that in a few months companies will find a way to increase my tip out , albeit a small percentage , to make up the difference.

But here is the dilemna , the amount of money that people tip is not going to increase with my percentage of tip out. And to say that I make a whole lot more than I did 25 years ago with respect to cost of living would be misleading. Back then I would have made enough so that my wife would not have to work. So my take home pay has diminished substantially with respect to inflation.

Eventually , what I see happening is there will be an automatic 15% gratuity added on to the check that will go to the house. Then at the end the tips will all be divided amongst the staff. The tips will be less to the wait and bartending staff. To make up the difference the service people will be paid a higher hourly wage than minimum to make it seem like no matter how busy it is at least they will be making $15 an hour or something and some benefits will be thrown in for good measure. Sort of like the way it is in Europe where there are no gratuities paid out in a lot of countries , like Switzerland for example. Cruiseships , since I have worked on them , more and more have a no tipping policy.

As well governments would like to see the waiters and bartenders paying their share of taxes to support the aging baby boomer population that is soon to retire. This will happen even without the actions of an owner – operator doing what I have just mentioned in the above paragragh.

To add onto this , factor in how much can a restaurant charge for a meal without all the customers taking a hike and not coming at all ?

I hate to say this for those of us who make a good dollar bartending and waiting but this is where it is heading. To attract the excellent managers of the future that will stick around for a while the employer will have to pay them more than they are paying now. Waiters and bartenders then will be more inclined and motivated to make the jump into management because they will be compensated better for the hours put in and their responsibilities. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A logical next step for a bartender and waiter.

In conclusion , I believe we are beginning to see the end of waiting and bartending being as lucrative as it once was despite an increase in a minimum wage. All the minimum wage will do is hasten the way an owner – operator will conduct his business regarding how his employees will be paid. This will affect in a negative way the take home pay of a waiter / bartender.

The days of the $250 nights will come to an end.

My suggestion as to where you will still be able to make a lot of money as a waiter / bartender a decade from now is work where it is super busy , not seasonal , warm , and people are on holiday.

Any thoughts????

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4 comments

  1. In my markets we are hearing from more and more bartenders how the economy is hurting them. Tips are smaller. Orders are less. Its a tough nut.On the other hand, I was speaking with an Aussie who referenced how their good bartenders earn $30-45/hour…no tips of course.

  2. Barschooldude…that is where I think it has to head like the Aussie way. People in the industry will have more to rely on in their earnings in the future than the uncertainty that is prevalent right now. Throw in benefits and it is not so bad. However a lot of restaurants will fall by the wayside cause that wage for a lot will be unaffordable.

  3. I have never thought much of tipping out, and even less of splitting tips. I work hard for my money and even when it is me getting tipped out, I will refuse the tip. Why? I didn’t work for the money, that server did. If I want more money, then I better hustle a bit more for it. If I am not making the money I need to, then I need to get a second job or seek other employment that will enable me to bring home the money I need. Years ago when I was a busgirl, I never got tipped out. I believe I made 3.50 an hour back then. It was unheard of to tip anyone out. Servers got their money and shared with no one. It never crossed my mind that I was entitled to any of their money.I could go on forever with this subject but I won’t. And I won’t even start on splitting tips!

  4. Chris..I hear you but tipping out in these areas is the norm.

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