Why Do Waiters Get Paid So Little [+ How To Make More Money]

Have you ever wondered why waiters get paid so little? You might think that they earn a lot from tips, but that’s not always the case. In fact, many waiters struggle to make ends meet, especially in countries where tipping is not customary or mandatory. 

In this article, you will discover some of the reasons why waiters get paid so little and what they can do to increase their income. Whether you are a waiter yourself or you just want to learn more about this profession, I hope you will find this article informative and engaging. 

So, let’s dive in and discover why waiters get paid so little!

1. Tipped wages

Waiters often get paid so little because their salary is based on the expectation that they will receive tips. This is a common practice in the United States and some other countries, where employers can pay less to employees who receive tips.

In many countries, it’s common to leave extra money as a tip for your waiter or waitress at a restaurant. However, this practice can make it difficult for them to earn a steady income because they are paid very little as their base salary. 

This means that they often have to rely on tips to make ends meet, which can be stressful and unpredictable. In the United States, there are two types of minimum wage: one for regular jobs and another for jobs where employees earn tips, like restaurant servers. 

The minimum wage for tipped jobs is only $2.13 per hour, which is much less than the regular minimum wage. This means that the customers are expected to give extra money in tips to help the waitstaff earn a decent income.

2. Restaurant economics

Running a restaurant can be tough because there’s not a lot of money left over after paying for things like rent, food, and employees. One way that restaurants try to save money is by paying their servers very low wages. 

This can make it hard for the waiters to make ends meet. On top of that, sometimes restaurants don’t make as much money as they need to because there aren’t enough customers or because the economy is bad. 

All of these things can make it difficult for restaurant owners to pay their employees more money.

3. Competition and high turnover rate in the industry

The hospitality industry is known for its high level of competition and turnover rate among its workers. This means that there are many businesses that offer similar services and products and that many employees leave their jobs frequently. 

One of the consequences of this situation is that waiters get paid so little. This is because the employers have a lot of bargaining power and can easily replace the workers who demand higher pay or better conditions. 

Moreover, the customers have a lot of choices and can switch to another business if they are not satisfied with the service or the price. Therefore, the waiters have to work hard and fast to please the customers and the employers, but they do not receive adequate compensation for their efforts.

4. Perceived unskilled labor

One of the factors that affects the wages of waiters is the perception of their work as unskilled labor. Unskilled labor refers to tasks that do not require specialized training or education and are often considered easy or simple to perform. 

However, this perception may not reflect the reality of the work that waiters do. This includes memorizing orders, handling customer complaints, working under pressure, and providing quality service. 

Moreover, the perception of unskilled labor may influence the social status and respect that waiters receive from customers, employers, and society at large. This may lead to lower tips, lower minimum wages, and fewer benefits for waiters compared to other occupations that are seen as more skilled or valuable.

5. Seasonal variability

Seasonal variability is another reason why waiters get paid so little. This means that the demand for restaurant services changes depending on the time of the year, the weather, and the holidays. 

For example, during the summer, people may prefer to eat outdoors or at home rather than in a restaurant. This reduces the number of customers and tips for waiters. On the other hand, during the winter, people may seek comfort food and warm places, increasing the demand for restaurant services. 

However, this also means that waiters have to work harder and longer hours to meet the customers’ needs. Seasonal variability makes it difficult for waiters to predict their income and plan their expenses. It also exposes them to financial insecurity and stress.

So, how can you make more money as a waiter?

A waiter - lmshero

1. Shift selection

Shift selection is the process of choosing which shifts to work as a waiter, based on factors such as customer demand, tips, and personal preferences. Choosing shifts as a waiter can be an effective way to earn more money since waiters earn most of their income from tips. 

By working during peak hours, such as lunchtime or dinner time, or special occasions, such as holidays or weekends, waiters can increase their chances of getting more tips. However, shift selection also has some drawbacks, such as increased competition, stress, and fatigue. 

Therefore, waiters should balance their shift selection with their physical and mental well-being, as well as their personal and professional goals.

2. Working at high-end establishments

Working as a waiter at high-end establishments can be a practical way to make more money, despite the low base pay. This is because high-end restaurants usually charge more for their food and drinks, which means higher tips for the waiters. 

Additionally, high-end restaurants may have more loyal and generous customers who appreciate good service and reward it accordingly. 

Furthermore, working at high-end establishments can provide valuable experience and networking opportunities for waiters who want to advance their careers in the hospitality industry.

3. Offering catering or private events

One of the challenges that waiters face is the low and unstable income they receive from their work. However, there are some opportunities to increase their earnings by providing catering or private event services. 

Catering or private events are occasions where waiters serve food and drinks to a group of people in a specific location. This may include a wedding, a birthday party, or a corporate meeting, among others. 

These services can be more profitable for waiters because they usually involve higher tips, fixed rates, or commissions. Additionally, catering or private events can help waiters expand their network of contacts and gain more exposure to potential clients. 

4. Mastering wine and beverage knowledge

One of the skills that can help waiters increase their income is mastering wine and beverage knowledge. This can benefit them in several ways. First, it can help them sell more expensive drinks to customers who are looking for recommendations or suggestions. 

Second, it can help them provide better service and satisfaction to customers who have specific preferences or questions about the drinks. Third, it can help them earn more tips from customers who appreciate their expertise and professionalism.

5. Diversifying income streams

Waiters often face low wages and unpredictable tips, which can make it hard to earn a stable income. One possible solution is to diversify income streams or find other ways to make money besides waiting tables. 

This can help waiters reduce their financial stress and increase their savings. Some examples of diversifying income streams are:

  • Starting a side hustle, such as selling crafts, tutoring, or freelancing online.
  • Investing in stocks, bonds, or other assets that generate passive income.
  • Creating a personal brand, such as a blog, podcast, or social media account, that attracts sponsors or advertisers.
  • Taking advantage of employee benefits, such as retirement plans, health insurance, or tuition reimbursement.
  • Seeking additional education or training that can lead to higher-paying opportunities.

Diversifying income streams may not be easy or feasible for every waiter, but it can be a worthwhile goal to pursue. By exploring different options and finding what works best for them, waiters can improve their financial situation and achieve their career aspirations.


Are there any potential solutions to improve waiter wages?

Potential solutions to address low waiter wages include advocating for fair labor practices, implementing minimum wage regulations, and fostering a culture of appreciation for hospitality workers.

How does the tipping culture impact waiter earnings?

Tipping culture varies widely across different regions and cultures. Some areas rely heavily on tips to supplement waiter income, while others have adopted alternative compensation models.

What challenges do waiters face in advocating for better wages?

Waiters may face challenges such as fear of retaliation from employers, lack of collective bargaining power, and societal stigma surrounding discussions of wages and compensation.

Is there a correlation between restaurant profitability and waiter wages?

Restaurant profitability can have a significant impact on the wages of waiters. Some establishments prioritize cost-cutting measures to maintain their financial viability, even if it means sacrificing worker compensation.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, waiters get paid so little because of the low minimum wage, the tipping system, and the lack of benefits and protections. These factors create a precarious and unfair situation for many workers in the industry, who often struggle to make ends meet and face discrimination and harassment. 

To augment income, waiters need to think outside of the box and find more ways to make money beyond the suggestions listed above. We also need to support the waiters who serve us every day by tipping generously, being polite, and leaving positive feedback. 

By doing so, we can help create a more just and humane society for everyone.

You can also learn more about why jobs pay so little.

Thanks for reading.