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Why do waiters make more than cooks?


Fat Guy
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I can say that from my experience, which includes both side month's worth of pay, at 90 hours per week.  Forget no OT; more, no pay.  Never paid the straight time back.  And this is not unusual.

This is what is amazing to me.

How do owners get away with not paying OT?

Is it because we are afraid of not being able to get work in the future?

I went thru this once and it was extremely screwed.

2317/5000

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That's one way, I guess. I don't see this as yet another way for greedy owners to stiff the staff. Companies try all sorts of compensation schemes to try to link the quality and quantity of contribution to an employee's pay.

Hell, there are whole industries out there dedicated to dreaming up new compensation arrangements.

Why should kitchen staff necessarily be any different? In fact, I'd want the cooks to be every bit as motivated to do good work as the waiters.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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This is what is amazing to me.

How do owners get away with not paying OT?

Is it because we are afraid of not being able to get work in the future?

I went thru this once and it was extremely screwed.

I worked two summer seasons on a resort island in the middle of the lake. The first few weeks OT was paid, all staff. Then someone did some research and justified that we were a seasonal resort and as such designation, OT at time an a half was not necessary to pay to the employee. Grrrrr. I was too aggravated by how many ways employers exploited it's summer staff I still haven't the urge to research the legality of that! :hmmm:

Despite it was the island life I adored, I can't bring myself to even visit old friends that still work there just yet. The bad taste is still present. Maybe next year....

edit: grammar! :blink:

Edited by beans (log)
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Thanks for the kind words Beans

In talking about fair earnings I would focus on career professionals and not the transient types which our industry sees so much of. Its hard to isolate a few examples there are so many types of restaurants.

It is important to have those server jobs that provide for students to be able to work a few hours and leave with 50 or 100 bucks and get back to class. This works well for the owner who needs all that staff for a short time. Harder to pay for school as a cook though. They are more likely to be in it for the career possibilities.

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I have been cooking for almost 10 years, and in my experience when the restaurant is owned by the chef it usually has better pay. There is a very old unwritten rule in the kitchen and that if you dont like working for free or not getiing paid for overtime, we can find someone who will. I have seen cooks try to do things about this and ben labled as "troublesome". These days, people tend not to go out to a restaurnt for a "show". They go out to eat. People base which restaurant they want to go to because of the food not because of service. As much as waiters would like to think they come for the service, people come back to restaurant for the food. I am in no way trying to minimize the waiters role in a good meal but the money aspect of the situation is completely unbalanced. As an industry, how can we attract the best and brightest to the kitchen if they know the labour practices are so unfair.

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Thanks for the kind words Beans

In talking about fair earnings I would focus on career professionals and not the transient types which our industry sees so much of. Its hard to isolate a few examples there are so many types of restaurants.

It is important to have those server jobs that provide for students to be able to work a few hours and leave with 50 or 100 bucks and get back to class. This works well for the owner who needs all that staff for a short time. Harder to pay for school as a cook though. They are more likely to be in it for the career possibilities.

Waiters make more for the simple fact they usually sell items to the guest. Chefs dont sell anything. It business basics.

They put on smiles in front of people they may hate, they have to deal with chefs egos, strict dress codes, being personable bot not overbearing. That deserves higher pay. Service is more important than food. Wages reflect that. Im not saying its right, thats just the way it is and will continue to be for a long time. Its much easier to staff a kitchen full of talent than it is to staff a dining room full of talent. Example...how many waitstaff training programs vs chef schools are there out there. Supply and demand. The restaurant world has focused heavily on the food end and not enough on the service end. Once again, wages reflect that.

Edited by inventolux (log)

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They put on smiles in front of people they may hate, they have to deal with chefs egos, strict dress codes, being personable bot not overbearing.

Not sure if that deserves higher pay, but yes it helps when good ole annoying regular customer "Uncle Joe" shows up each and every day and is a bane to the entire barstaff! :laugh: Chef egos -- aw, they're fun, so long as the screaming isn't directed at you! :wub:

"Service is more important than food." :shock:

As a in the biz person, I'm not the typical guest in another restaurant. Food is more important than service, overall, however I've had a few less than pleasant moments with some poor, inept or rude service. bleh.

"Its much easier to staff a kitchen full of talent than it is to staff a dining room full of talent."

So true.

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The battles between FOH and the kitchen deserves its own thread, but IMHO, pooling the tips, and sharing with ALL who work that shift makes for a better team spirit.All elements are important, service, food, clean plates, clean resturants etc etc etc.Another positive thing is that if we are short staffed for a shift, the boys reaction tends to be,"no worries, think of the extra tips" :wink:

I don't pay overtime, i pay for every hour worked at the same rate.David is salaried, and does the hours necessary for the job.Hes first to leave at night, but first in the kitchen in the morning.

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Lots of good stuff said. There's no rhyme or reason for a waiter to make more than an experienced cook, EXCEPT, that's the way it is, at least in most places. No different than other aspects of society where less skilled, less educated salespeople make oodles more than those who actually do the prodcuction and manufacturing. It's usually the ones that sell that walk away with the lions share of loot. Cooks are non-revenue generating, at least directly, while waiters (and other salespeople) are not. Look at real estate agents, pharmaceutical salespeople, etc. Should the latter be making more than the scientist who develops the drug? Not fair, but that's how it works, generally speaking.

[accountants have a beef too, but I won't get into that.]

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Very interesting topic,

You could go and work in Europe,

NO tips = automatic service charge is added to the bill which in turn is used to pay the staff.

As far as I can remember pay was fairly even in the restaurants.

A kitchen commis made about the same as a commis on the floor.

Now over here in North America it seems off balance, I'm not sure what the solution is.

Here's a question,

I've heard this one, which boggles the mind.

A waiter in a busy fine dining room makes more money than the manager, what is the incentive to work longer hours, get more shit and make less ??

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We try NOT to think about it. We just go back to work every day, remain in the kitchen 12-14 hours a day, and not think of the others that come in just in the nick of time to grab the last bite of family meal from us and hear them say "man it's hot in here..." I'm aware, I've already been here for 7 hours...

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While that is not customary where I work, if one has gone the extra mile to do something that knocks the guest's socks off, well, the hook up is a given.  I'll slip a decent bill into their pocket or make sure, if we're all going for after shift drinks, their tab is handed to me.  But that isn't the norm for the entire FOH staff.  There are a few that will always make sure one's efforts are appreciated.

Geez Beans:

I hope the BOH staff appreciates you. You are a rare individual that understands the interconnection between BOH and FOH. Just out of curiosity, if a BOH staff member has a VIP guest come in that you take care of at the bar, is there reciprosity?

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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There is a bit of FOH/BOH labor-migration in the business as well. Is it more common for cooks to become waiters or for waiters to become cooks, and what are some of the reasons for these changes?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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FG, I don't know which is more common, FOH to BOH, or vice-versa. In my case, I had cooked French food since I was old enough to read. Although I came to FOH to make money and pursue life as an actor, I had always wanted to be in the kitchen. There was a romance to it. When you finished, you came out in whites, exhausted, and the staff would pour a goblet of red wine for you. More, I appreciated the artistry of it.

Then I woke up. Usually in the middle of a shift, flying about 2" off the ground (and 2" off my sanity) with FOH losing their shit because customer __ had to wait too long for a goddamned rack.

FOH was to me disgusting whoredom. But, there was a certain self-righteous joke that only I was in on; I was charming, I could smile, and sell, and only I knew I truly didn't give a damn about what they ordered or wanted, for the most part. Still, I knew and honored some truly career BOH people I had come to know. Many of them were young guys, like me at the time, who had emigrated from "old houses" in NY to L.A. These guys knew what they were doing, were old school though young, and would retire doing it. I was always aware I sucked compared to them.

Invento -

Can't agree that service is more important than food. Granted, truly rotten service will kill a place. But merely mediocre food will as well, at least from my experience.

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Just out of curiosity, if a BOH staff member has a VIP guest come in that you take care of at the bar, is there reciprosity?

Katie:

If any BOH VIP came in, they usually are comp'd a couple of drinks from the bar and usually proceed to be seated in the diningroom and are taken care of by the chef's server of choice. (These are usually moms/dads sorts of groups). If a buddy, brother or girlfriend/wife/SO sits at the bar, well, I'm permitted $20.00 comp tab without question and at my discretion and/or I just advise management about it and they will sign off on the tab.

FG: Currently we have a guy who was a sous elsewhere that came to us to wait tables. He said he needed a break, was burned out and frustrated. Our chef just learned of it and there may be a spot for him in our kitchen should he wish to pursue it. We also have a girl that serves two shifts a week and does prep three mornings/week. She's attending a local college studying hospitality management.

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  • 3 years later...
Waiters make more for the simple fact they usually sell items to the guest. Chefs dont sell anything. It business basics.

They put on smiles in front of people they may hate, they have to deal with chefs egos, strict dress codes, being personable bot not overbearing. That deserves higher pay. Service is more important than food. Wages reflect that.

I kinda have to disagree with that. For some people, service is more important than the food. In those cases, I could see why wages for FOH would reflect that. But, for others, like me, the food is more important than the food. I'll be willing to go somewhere where the service is abysmal if the food is good enough. Yet, in both cases, the FOH is rewarded more.

I would argue that you're seeing the biggest wage disparity at the high end restaurants, where the FOH can really make serious coin even as the line chefs and other chefs in the kitchen do not share this wealth. Lower end restaurants, there's still a baseline for chefs but not the same upside for FOH.

And, if the above statement is true, then from an economic point of view, the reason this is because we're witnessing a upward sloping earnings profile for chefs in that situation. In these high end restaurants, line chefs and other chefs are underpaid and willing to be underpaid because of expectation that they will be compensated for this experience and thus rewarded in the future. What these chefs are essentially doing is building up their resume, where they're willing to get paid less now, with the expectation that they'll be rewarded in the future with executive chef positions and salaries. But, they need the experience and the prestige of the restaurant on their resume to get to that point.

With waiters, they're getting paid an efficiency wage because they don't have the same motivation as the chefs. There's more or less a ceiling on these waiters. There's no point getting paid less today because they're not going to get overpaid in the future.

I think the tip should be split, where some of the money goes back to the chefs. When I'm tipping, my tip does not reflect just the service, but the food as well. By keeping a percentage of the tips, the waiters would still have incentives to perform a good job.

Of course, I could be totally wrong here. You're talking to a guy who seriously thought he was going to fail his economics class and get kicked out of school.

Edited by leviathan (log)
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Can't agree that service is more important than food.  Granted, truly rotten service will kill a place.  But merely mediocre food will as well, at least from my experience.

I'd have to disagree with you there. If those statements were true, how does anyone explain the existence of plcaes like TGI Fridays, Chili's, hell even McDonalds, etc? I mean, more often than not those places have both mediocre service and mediocre food...and they are amongst the most successfull concepts invented.

I think that more places get away with serving mediocre food well, as opposed to serving outstanding food badly.

Now, I'm not saying that food isn't as important as service, and in great places both work seamlessly to wow the diners, but I tend to think that bad, rude, snotty service is going to drive more people away than bad food.

I think the money issue is the main source of friction b/t the FoH and BoH. Like many, I've been on both sides of the coin. But I like to think that when I was a server I took care of the cooks as much as possible...be respectful, make sure I knew the food and the menu, etc. Also, getting those guys a glass of water or a soda every once in a while helps too. I can't say that when I was FoH I ever tipped out the guys in back, but I will say that a couple well timed cases of beer help the mood as well :biggrin:

I remember vividly one time at my last job I walked out onto the floor on a Friday to clock in (I had already been there a good hour and a half, but the dinner cooks couldn't clock in until 2) and overheard one of the servers bitching to another about how they only made like 520 dollars that week...which I guess was low for the place I worked at. I wanted to strangle him....I made about 75 dollars less a week for proabably a good 20 or slightly more hours of work a week. Threw in sharp relief the contrast right there.

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My 5-year-plan has me owning a restaurant at the end of it. Pay--and levelling out the disparity therewith--has been much on my mind lately. What I'd like to do is have waitstaff tip out barstaff 20% of their bar sales, tip out BOH 20% of their food sales, and keep the rest. IN RETURN, if a customer is disgruntled and stiffs, then the B/T and BOH pick up the tip for that table; 20%. Which is fair.

I'd also like to make sure that everybody workds BOH and everybody works FOH. No, I don't expect the dish dog to sell $1200 a night; but it would be very useful to get some of the waitstaff used to the idea of how a medium-rare steak is cooked, and how much work is actually involved in chiffonading the scallions they strew so liberally all over their service station (They're not magic; they don't make themselves!). It would be very useful to have the sautee guy understand how difficult some of the customers can be, even on slow nights. I guess that's what slow nights should be used for, ideally; cross-training. I've worked in too many places where waitstaff are hired more for their looks than their skills, and few things make my fists itch faster than prima-donna attitudes. I used to work at a restaurant where the waitstaff would sit at the bar long after close and drink for free; kitchen staff, OTOH, had to exit the premises immediately after clocking out. Another place had the bartenders in supervisory roles over the kitchen--when we were done cleaning, the senior bartender would come make sure we'd "closed correctly." Maybe I'm a little bitter.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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i've got a friend who would probably choose to remain anonymous who runs a very well-known restaurant in san francisco and (s)he goes completely apoplectic on this topic. waiters typically make $100,000+ because of tips while salary-based cooks--even those who have been with the restaurant for decades--rarely clear half that. and, according to him/her because of state of california laws, as an employer she is not allowed to make changes in established tip-sharing practices unless he/she revamps the entire structure. which will probably mean the introduction of service compris pretty soon. he/she also said that when the restaurant introduced a computerized check system, they saw an overnight 40% increase in revenue, which, presumably, had been going out the back door or in waiters' pockets before then.

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Please remember to factor in that servers paychecks are usually $.00, tip outs can be as high as 40%, the hefty income tax each year...Then discuss how much everyone makes.  And without waitstaff, you're at a cafeteria.

Not here in Ontario. The waitresses where I work make 8 bucks an hour plus tip. They tip out the kitchen a measly 10% that is split between myself( the sous chef) and another prep cook and the dishwasher. The split tips are based on the number of hours worked. I work for a caterer who has a banquet facility. The weekend of Feb 11th, we had a Sunday brunch. I worked 15hrs total and my tip was a whopping 7.50cents. Not even 1 extra dollar an hour.

My boss( the owner) says that she would no way want to wait on ppl. I still go out into the FOH and talk to customers so basically I do have contact with ppl even though I'm making way less money in the kitchen. I've heard for around these parts I'm paid well. I've seen line cook positions adverstised for 4 bucks less an hour than I make. There is NO way in hell I'd work for that.

My spouse says to me that people are hiring a cook not a lawyer who cooks which is why I probably think I'm way underpaid( I cant practice law in Canada because my degree is from the US)

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I'm somewhat surprised that no one has has acknowledged the real reason for the disparity in pay between BOH and FOH. It's something that everyone in this business is aware of, but generally either denies or ignores.

I could, for probably 95% of the kitchen positions out there, take an undocumented (read:illegal) worker and plug him into the line while paying him sub-minimum wage.

However, in FOH, where both communication skills and appearance are critical, this would be impossible.

The pay disparity referenced in this thread is in reality nothing more than none too subtle form of economic racism.

I'm so awesome I don't even need a sig...Oh wait...SON OF A...

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A few people have stated some of the reasons for the disparity, but I'll add another.

I hate to admit it, but it's the truth. Most cooks are monkeys, and most cooking can be done by monkeys. I mean honestly, what jobs really take skill in the kitchen? At age 19 I was a Chef de Partie in a fine dining restaurant, at age 21 I was a first cook, and now at age 22 I'm a pastry chef (after turning down a few exec jobs). I've worked every station you can in a restaurant, I've been a manager at several, and I've cooked styles of food ranging from classical French, Italian, Ukrainian to Barbeque... When I was a manager in one kitchen, I trained the 15 year old dishwasher to be a better line cook than the monkeys we got rid of... I remember days at another restaurant (fine dining), the chef would send every other cook home, and just the two of us would run the kitchen - and we were still putting out food that was above anything else the city has to offer.... The job I'm at right now, I don't have to deal with them, but the hotline staff are almost retarded they're so dumb...

Cooking is manual labour - anyone can cook good food, you just have to follow procedure. If a chef can teach well, and push them enough, then any monkey can produce results. I've come into jobs so drunk I could barely stand up (in my younger, wilder days - I don't drink anymore though), and had the chef come up to me at the end of the night, and tell me great job. I've walked out of shifts before, come back the next day and kept my job. I've told chefs to go @#$% themselves, I nearly knocked out one chef with an elbow (he thought it would be funny to go around grabbing cooks' asses, I didn't) - he told me later he was actually out cold on his feet, but recovered quickly - and yet I still kept all my jobs. A few chefs were even afraid to confront me about anything (showing up hours late for instance), fearful I'd quit, because despite my behaviour and shortcomings, I'd get work done better than any of the monkeys. I even applied for one job, was told that there wasn't any space for me, but if I really wanted to work there the chef would just find someone to fire to make space for me.

Recently a few of my old chefs have offered to set me up in restaurants abroad - anywhere I want in Canada, NY, or France, they'll try to find a place. But honestly, working for next to nothing in top restaurants isn't something I want to do.

Anyhow, just a little rant - in my experience (most of) the cooking profession is a joke, I'm getting out myself.

Oh, and do cooks deserve more money? They still work for their shitty wages, they still come in to work, so as long as they're willing to do that they don't deserve anything more.

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