The Insane Waiter

Running wild on customers, chefs, owners and managers since 1997. I bring to you, The Insane Waiter. What do bring to your table? A crisp bottle of San Pellegrino ? Perhaps a lovely seared Sashimi Tuna? Start off with a wonderful bottle from Tuscany perhaps? Why I'll be more than happy to bring you your White Zinfandel and Chicken Caesar. No you can't order the mac and cheese off the kids menu and sorry no, we don't serve cheese sticks....

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


So it is rather well known that most restaurants offer little to no benefits.

This includes sick pay, vacation pay (remember I received 150 for an entire week off), profit sharing, 401k, regular minimum wage and health and dental benefits...

Well I did have a 401k at a former spot which was nice...

And they do offer insurance where I am currently employed, unfortunately since I make $3.09 an hour my checks wouldn't cover it so I purchase my own private insurance.

One staff member had their insurance deducted from their checks, and at the end of the year it was realized due to the deductions, the taxes weren't paid to the IRS, thus they received a $2,000 tax bill.

Yet another reason I pay out of my pocket.

So I anticipate the arguments that we all need to get real jobs, after all restaurant employment is non-skilled and thus undeserving of benefits. I do believe that when you treat restaurant staff as real employees that they respond with doing a great job and actually sticking around instead of contributing to the ever high turnover of our industry.

Turnover which is far more expensive in the long term than insurance, for instance.

And I tell you pretty much everyone is glad when they can receive health care of all things.

Well the city of San Francisco has made an effort to require all businesses, including restaurants, help uninsured employees receive benefits.

Under a new law San Francisco requires employers to give them health benefits!

How radical!

This would cost between $1.06 and $1.60 per employee worked hour.

Not bad when you consider the low wage of service staff.

Of course this is unacceptable to the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (the same group which opposed living wage regulations for restaurant employees)

Here is the article from "The Examiner" by Joshua Sabatini.

"SAN FRANCISCO - A group of restaurant owners filed a lawsuit Wednesday that could jeopardize funding for The City's ambitious plan to provide health care for more than 82,000 uninsured residents.

Pushed by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Tom Ammiano, the recently adopted health care ordinance was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, but largely opposed by the business community, which will have to pay a portion of the program's estimated $200 million price tag. The program is expected to begin this July.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a nonprofit group representing the interests of restaurant owners, allege in a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco that The City's health care ordinance is pre-empted by a federal law, known as Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which sets national standards for employee benefit plans. The federal law prevents states and local governments from dictating specific terms of an employee benefit plan, which includes health care benefits.

"ERISA broadly pre-empts all state and local laws relating to the administration of federally governed employee welfare benefit plans, the lawsuit said. If implemented, the ordinance would intrude both directly and indirectly upon the administration of such plans.
The health care ordinance requires businesses with 20 employees or more to invest $1.06 to $1.60 for each employee hour worked for health care.

"The judge will rule that the intent of ERISA is violated by the funding mechanism of the health care program," said Kevin Westlye, president of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

While not having seen the lawsuit yet, proponents of the health care ordinance were quick to defend it against a legal challenge.

"This law was written very carefully to avoid pre-emption under ERISA," said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor and Research. "This law is like the minimum wage law. It sets standards for spending on health care. The law says nothing about the content of the health services, which is what ERISA addresses."

"I haven't read the details of the lawsuit but I am confident we'll prevail and it won't stop our momentum over the course of the next year to begin the process of implementing the San Francisco Health Plan," Newsom said.

Westlye and other business leaders wanted to explore other options to fund the program, such as a quarter-cent sales tax.

"[The lawsuit] is an example of what happens when a process like the health care mandate does not seriously take into consideration the financial impact of legislation on small businesses and restaurants," said Steve Falk, president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. "It doesn't surprise me that a lawsuit has been filed just out of frustration of not being listened to."

So restaurant owners are claiming that they can't afford to pay their employees a dollar more per hour because the policy could have an adverse effect on their profits.

These owners would risk having all people who would be positively affected by this ruling the loss of their health care, as this could hold up benifit plans in all industries.

They would rather have a tax hike that would effect everyone in the city...

Rather than pay their employees $1.06 more in the form of health care investments.

That is why I can't stand this business at times.


At 7:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a small restaurant owner i do think all employees should have health care. I'm one employee of my own restaurant that does not have healthcare and under your area's plan my small restaurant would only have two choices increase all the prices then go out of business or just go out of business right away. Are you prepared to pay the difference 10 fold because you will, when you go to your favorite after hours place that place will just raise the price in everything the amount they have to contribute for healthcare. it's great to feel strong about something and believe in it but you must consider the aftermath of your choice

At 8:06 AM , Blogger Jen said...

I'm a server and I have health insurance, and at tax time I owe every year to the state, which sucks. And I have to work 25+ hours per week in order to keep eligibility for insurance, and I pay $92 a month. I'm glad I have health insurance, but it's a pain in the ass too.

At 1:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The City's ambitious plan to provide health care for more than 82,000 uninsured residents."

Of course, those 82,000 are uninsured BY CHOICE. They could, like you and like me, purchast their own insurance.

Many, however, purchase that brand new car instead of insurance and driving a 3 year old car.

Some, of course, can afford neither. But I bet the majority are uninsured by lifestyle choice.

I never looked at health insurance as a "choice". It was right there behind rent and food. When money was tight and I was layed off, we scrimped and paid for health insurance. Sadly, most people don't see it that way anymore.

At 3:03 PM , Anonymous Small Biz Owner that pays insurance said...

Some simple math:
$1.60 per hour x 40 hour week = $64 per week x 50 weeks (assuming 2 week vacation) = $3200 per year x let's say 20 employees = $64,000 per year. So who gets fired? 4 waiters? 1 cook, 2 bus boys and a waiter?

I always love when the employee tries to decide how the owner, the one who risked his/her money and capital, should spend their money or profits. Or maybe there should be no profits? Just like you quit because the owner wouldn't adjust the work schedule to accomodate you because evidently your schedule is more important than others. What we learned about you in recent weeks: you think you are all about high class dining and disdain having to serve minions ranch dressing, you deserve to make your own schedule and you deserve the owner to pay your health insurance out of his pocket. So very altruistic of you.

You were right, you will and should get comments that you chose to work in food service so you chose to work in job that has no health benefits. Get a degree and get a job/career that has benefits. In the meantime suck it up and make choices and live by them don't make me or anyone else pay for those choices for you.

At 4:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, unfortunatly in the current enviroment healthcare/insurance is considered a right and not something that people earn. If you want benefits then move to a career feild that has them, if you want health insurance then work to pay for it, but don't use guns (aka the police power of government) to tell business owners how to operate their investments.


At 11:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waiter, I have to say, these comments are atrocious, scary as hell. Health Care is a hell of a lot more expensive thatn thse idiots think. Uninsured by choice? Are you kidding me? Nobody is uninsured by choice. If your choice is food, rent and transportation ove r health care, that's not much of a choice.
I run a restaurant, very small, in the midwest, and I pay my employees the very best I can, plus I insure them all. Yes, I make less of a profit by doing so. Yes, I have to drive a 1995 Honda. Yes, I own an old house that needs work. But you know what? I feel good about the choices I've made. Because I buy my employees insurance, they stick by me and my restaurant even when times have been tough. Because I give my employees insurance, some of them have married and had children (having children is expensive). I take care of my employees, and they take care of me and my business. It's shortsighted to screw your employees, treat them like dirt, and then expect them to care about your business. Byt because I insure my employees, they do stuff like work late, cover shifts, treat customers well, treat my product well (I'm also the chef), treat the dishers well, etc. It's not hard. Restauranteurs feel that they deserve the largest profit margins possible,that owning a restaurant is their ticket to a Hummer and a gated community. To me, it's more important to make a little less money and share the wealth with the people who work so hard to get me that wealth.

I think it's hilarious when guys like "small biz owner" bring up that they are the ones who put up "the risk", therefore should rake the profits: Where would you be without employees? Do you owe anything to them? Do you think it's not a "risk" to live your life without health insurance? I mean, if you get hit by a drunk driver and are hospitralized, you still owe. If you catch pneumonia or some other debilitating disease, and don't have insurance, you are still screwed. To treat your employees - human beings - like that is inhuman, and no profit is worth that.
How do you operate a business with employees who (presumably) hate you?

At 9:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should businesses give healthcare? Certainly. However it is the choice of the employee to work for one that doesn't. I won't get into the 'You're not skilled labor' argument, because even other unskilled labor jobs offer health insurance. What I will get into is this: Nobody held a gun to your head and made you be a waiter, much less a waiter at a place that doesn't offer health insurance. You chose it. As did all others who work such jobs.

"But I didn't have a choice! I had to work and couldn't work elsewhere"

I don't buy it. You chose not to work elsewhere. You chose not to work in a factory or on a production line (jobs that often do offer health benefits). You weighed the positives and negatives of being a waitor at a place that doesn't give benefits vs. any alternatives you may have had and CHOSE. Live by your choice, or choose again, just like you did with your 'new' gig. If the owners can't find help because they don't give benefits they'll change their structure or close shop.

Should businesses offer insurance? Certainly. Do waitors deserve insurance? Sure. Should businesses be forced to? Not by any means other than the market. If you're willing to work without it then you really can't complain. If you're not willing to work without it, then don't. Your argument that businesses will gain more from giving benefits than they will lose paying for them is valid. Your sense of entitlement, however, is not.

At 9:53 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well it seems that you hav'nt had to make payroll with neg. cash flow or made payroll and the owner was the one who went without a check.

Yes I belive everyone should have Ins, but your figures are way off .
I own a small Rest. My wife and I are on a plan that cost me $1000.00
a month for basic coverage. It's hard for a small Rest to buy healthcare. Big Bro won't let the NRA create a pool to buy Ins at Large group rates nor will the State of Iowa.

Ca. min wage is close to $10.00 per hour and the price of dinnig out reflects the healthcare cost. Is the customer ready to pay ? Who pays for Healthcare at the big companies ?

It's not that we don't want to, it's a matter of can we.

I think your future as a Financial
advisior is very dim.

At 2:07 PM , Anonymous BES said...

When did we decide in this country that it is an employer's job to pay for health insurance? The idea that an employer who doesn't provide it is somehow "bad" is ridiculous.

Let me ask you this: if restaurants across the country increased their employees' wages by $1.06 / hour, how many employees do you think would (or could!) use that money to buy health insurance? Not very many, would be my guess.

And even if health insurance could be purchased for such a paltry sum (hint: it can't), why, again, is it the employer's job to buy it?

At 3:49 PM , Anonymous Loved by my employees. Chefs make bad owners. said...

Hey Mr. Ohio Restaunteur and God's Gift to Employees: I totally resent your closing line of "How do you operate a business with employees who (presumably) hate you?" We have never had an employee quit, since 1999 starting with 12 employees and now over 40 not once. And as I said in title we do provide insurance, I am commenting on forcing other businesses to not. Given the industry I am in is slow this year I have taken less than 50% of the income of each of the last two years, hit my equity line on my house to pay personal bills like a mortgage, kids schools costs, clothes etc. So for some dickhead like you to insuate because I think some whiny waiter bitching because our gov't won't force businesses to pay for his health care (although if he goes to any hospital emergency room they must treat him--just like with the illegal aliens here in Calif)is off base that my employees hate is assinine. I am so glad that you are so saint like with your 9 year old care and run down home and you give it all to your so loyal employees who even have had kids! Golly Gee! That is your choice, don't expect or demand that everyone make the same choice.

Pontificating from the holier than thou faction of this country makes me puke.

At 4:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Waiter, I have to say, these comments are atrocious, scary as hell. Health Care is a hell of a lot more expensive thatn thse idiots think. Uninsured by choice? Are you kidding me? Nobody is uninsured by choice."

You are completely ignorant and talking out your ass.YOU are the idiot that doesn't know what it costs.

MOST uninsured people are uninsured by choice. I see people ALL THE TIME driving $30,000 cars telling me that they can't "afford" health insurance. That's a complete load of bullshit. They spend more on their cell phone bill than insurance would cost.

And before you go spouting off your nonsense again, let me give you the facts.

Blue Cross Breakthru 80 for a 30 year old includes preventative care, maternity, comprehensive, $10 prescription drug benefit, and the premium is $144/mo. I GUARANTEE that's less than most of these whiner's cell bills. Office visits with this plan are $20.

If you want a more basic plan for a healthy person, the Breakthru 50 is $42/month. Give up a 6 pack a week and you can pay for it.

You folks with this "nobody can afford it" diatribe are too fucking lazy to look up the facts. That, plus you're afraid if you do, you'll realize that you CAN afford it, but you might have to give up a luxury like a cell phone, or drive an older car. And, YES, a cell phone is not nearly as important as healthcare.

You just want someone else to pay for it, and that's bullshit.

You are also missing another point. A small business's profits are the owners PAYCHECK. No profit, no pay. None of the employees have that risk.

At 8:59 PM , Blogger Hoodlum said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So for some dickhead like you to insuate because I think some whiny waiter bitching because our gov't won't force businesses to pay for his health care (although if he goes to any hospital emergency room they must treat him--just like with the illegal aliens here in Calif)is off base that my employees hate is assinine."

This sentence makes absolutely no sense, insults me for no real reason, and is filled with spelling errors.
And it's absurd in other ways - namely about Emergency Room Care- it's provided (doctors take an oath in med school that they can't turn away sick people), but it ain't free.
Also, I don't think I'm holier than thou because I drive an older car or own a home that needs work.

I just feel that as a business owner, one that operates in a free-market system that allows me to profit and work doing what I love, in a community that supports me unconditionally, in a country that makes it pretty darn easy to open your own business if you're willing to work hard, I owe it to the people who allow me to do this to take care of them the best that I can. I've been open 16 years now and while I can't say that I've never had an amployee quit, I can say that I'm not a dickhead and my employees are loyal to me. My food costs are much lower than other restaurants I've worked at, and I think a large reason why is that my employees don't steal from me, like they do at the big chains or restaurants where the owners/managers treat them like shit. It's a samll investment to make, for me, a small sacrifice, and one that allows me to sleep at night knowing that my employees don't have to choose between getting their kids braces and paying their electric bill.

At 4:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK it's official
the votes have been counted


At 12:42 AM , Blogger briliantdonkey said...

Very interesting topic. As a waiter/bartender for many many years(and new small restaurant owner myself), I can see both sides of it. I agree that it IS all about choices that YOU(or I) make. People are responsible for their own choices and putting the blame on others is nothing more than an excuse.All those years that I WAS waiting tables or bartending were a choice that EYE made. I COULD have stayed my arse in school and became an architect like I had planned but I chose not to do that. That was noones choice but my own. I am guessing most other people 'stuck' in a waiting job are(if honest with themselves) in the same boat. I don't care if you are 45 even NOW there is nothing stopping you from going back to school, getting a degree in a quote 'real job'. Too many people IMO look at it as if their boss whether it be Ruby tuesdays, outback,chilis or some small mom and pop restaurant OWE them a living or something and that is simply NOT the case. You can't change cell phone providers,cable companies, or gas stations based on 'who gives you the best deal' and then turn around and get mad at restaurants because they pay you as little as they can get away with. To do so is very hypocritical. All that being said, I hope(HOPE) to be ABLE to provide my employees with benefits sooner rather than later. As a long time server I know that money talks and bullshit walks. I will be glad to(if able) provide it to those that deserve it and will view it as nothing more than investment. I will NOT however ever feel like I OWE it.

Just my opinion for what it is worth.


At 7:25 PM , Blogger Shodan25 said...

random factoids -

The statement that doctors take an oath to never turn away the sick is baloney....

The minimum wage in California is $7, not $10.

Uh, in California, more than 90% of restaurants go out of business in the first year.

Last year, I paid out $150,000 in health insurance for 35 employees (not a restaurant). That's about $350/month per person, or about $2.25/hour for a full-timer. The insurance is a choice of Blue Cross or Kaiser. The mid-level plans, not the top or bottom ends.

Catastrophic-only coverage is a lot cheaper, and is usually sufficient for younger folks.

IMHO, there's a LOT of horseshit posted above...

At 11:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You restaurant owners have been getting out of paying real minimum wage, relying on your servers to supplement the support staff wages and make a killing out of shorting the "illegals" you so love to bash for using county medical. The least you can do is offer a fair insurance plan. I am sorry if your restaurant's struggling, but you also aren't working for $2.13 an hour. Unlike "real" business owners, you are the minority that doesn't have to pay a fair wage, you rely on the goodwill of others to pay your staff. Perhaps you are the one's that should consider getting an education and a "real job". If server's got a so called "real job" who would wait on the customers? It would be the best karma to see your bottom line then.

At 6:49 PM , Anonymous DSM frequent patron said...

It would be great to get a list of local restaurants that provide insurance and decent wages to their staff. If I had this information, I would definately eat at the restaurants who practice fair labor laws. About SF law...I doubt it would have a big "doom and gloom" effect since ALL businesses would be required to do so. I'm sure prices would rise, but in my opinon, it's worth it.

Why we haven't gotten rid of tipping in America to begin with is beyond me. Make these restaurants pay living wages...everyone else does. Also, having national universal healthcare for those who don't have it would be good too.

At 11:54 PM , Anonymous Craig said...

All of you waiters who think you're so valuable and irreplaceable need to realize that waiters are a dime a dozen. If you quit, someone will show up to replace you tomorrow. Like waiter said, you're unskilled labor.

Health insurance is provided to lure and retain employees, not to be altruistic. The more expendable an employee is, the less likely he'll be provided insurance.

At 5:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This "it was your choice" nonsense is particularly tiresome. I would like you to say that to some of the people who wait tables as a supplement while they pursue things like acting or the arts, which almost always negate getting a 9-5 job - if they really plan to make it in their preferred career.

It's only a "choice" for you if that person has yet to succeed. Tell Jennifer Aniston or someone who waited tables that was "their choice." But, those people were probably rich anyway - your people - so great choices, right?

A** holes.

At 5:05 AM , Blogger R W Employee Benefits said...

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