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....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lies we tell ourself

We all lie to ourselves, its all part of a natural tendency to protect our own self-esteems and our ever precious ego.

Waiters are no exception.

It is nearly unbelievable the things fellow servers say to each other, especially when one of us is about to leave the flock.

Servers I have know who graduated college or decided to move on to "real jobs" are often derided and mocked for doing so.

"There's no flexibility."

"Really, what are you going to do with that degree, we make as much money as they do."

"Have fun in your cubicle, you're going to hate it."

These are often the words of the poor, deluded lost souls of the restaurant industry.

I have often tried to open the eyes of the blind, I have no issue with those in the "biz", however I walk with my eyes open and have no illusions on what this business is.

For better or worse.

For instance, the argument that we make as much as the "cubicle sheep."

That may be true, for now, but those cubicle sheep have things such as raises, bonuses and promotions and will quickly pass you by.

In our business you will make the same at 25 that you will at 55.

Tortoise and the hare.

As far as promotions go, in most restaurants waitstaff makes as much or more as their management. Which is why the best and brightest don't take that career path for the most part.

Flexibility? It may be harder to get a day of at a split second's notice, but in better employment you have such things as paid days off. Not to mention vacation pay.

At my last job I did have vacation and after working there nearly five years it was still only one week.

Minimum wage.

Which is shit, you might as well not even offer it.

Having cash money in your pocket is a big one.

The problem is most servers don't save enough to cover their taxes, let alone try to save or invest.

401k's in this biz?

As a general rule, forget it.

The big one though is health care. Many restaurant's either offer none, or marginal benefits at best. A friend of mine recently left his management position because it barely covered him, let alone his wife and kid.

The industry sees little sick pay, which I have discussed on here before.

Either you come in sick, cover your shift (good luck at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning) or you're fired.

My old company did offer sick pay.

However it was minimum wage and the only notification of it was buried in the back of the employee handbook.

I did an informal survey and only one person on the waitstaff was even aware of it. The assistant managers even had no idea that it was offered and I don't recall a single person taking advantage of this while they were ill.

They just came in and infected the rest of us and most likAdd Imageely dozens of customers.

All the while the poor smuck at the insurance agency, bank or accounting firm was nestled safely at home, without fear of loss of income or their job.

The biz is backwards, and we deride and mock those wanting out.


At 10:56 AM , Anonymous Ebay Powerseller said...

I was in the restaurant industry for nearly two decades before finally getting out and getting a "real career." This entry really struck a chord. I probably made all of those same comments and more about "the suckers who got real jobs" before I finally wised up, went back to school, and got one myself.

I'd probably add that the restaurant lifers at 25 are also kidding themselves if they think they'll be in the same shape at 55 or even 45. Serving is absolute hell on your back and your feet-I don't know anyone who made it past 40 without back problems, which of course are going untreated due to that lack of health insurance. work taught me a lot, but I don't know that I'd ever go back.

At 4:20 PM , Blogger G.H. said...

Thank God for this post!! I get so pissed at people I work with. They give me shit for going to school..
"You and your higher education think you're so much better..."

Or they get on me for only being available to work a few shifts a week
"I work harder then you, you're never even scheduled..."

Ya that's because I have 14 hours of home work, and 20 hours of Unpaid clinical hours a week...thanks

At 12:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been on both sides. I am actually thinking of leaving my current job with benefits to go back to waitressing. [However, you must realize that my current job is 'office bitch' with no promise of raise or promotion unless someone in a hight position quits.] I, too, have a college degree, but in an artistic field. I would never ever ever ever ever belittle someone for trying to better themself by getting an education and a job with benefits. My problem is that I have no time to devote to my artistic endeavors with my current job, and the flexibility of waitressing will give me that. There are pros and cons to everything. But if there were a perfect solution, wouldn't everyone take it?

At 8:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. I was a waitress for one very short week. Being a klutz didn't pay and I am sure that those I was serving was thankful that I left shortly after I came. It is a tough gig and while retail wasn't much fun, the flexibility was nice but similar to waiting tables. Your back pays dearly for standing all day, carrying stuff you have no business carrying, climbing in the stock room and getting yelled at on Christmas Eve as you are trying to close that they haven't gotten all of little Susie's gifts. . .

So college and cubicles was my answer and sure, the con is I have to request time off, not just a whim. But the benefits of health insurance, steady hours, sick and vacation pay with raises and promotions outweigh the pros of retail.

I would still love to work in a restaurant but cooking. A pipe dream that will have to wait for another day.

At 2:52 PM , Blogger The Bitchy Waiter said...

I too am looking for a new job. Blog post to come about that. Want to exchange links? I am at


At 3:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wait tables because I don't let my job govern my status. I'm also a musician, and waiting tables really does offer flexibility and easy money necessary to play music.

Of course, the amount of money you'll be making ranges largely depending on what it is that you're doing in said office, much the same way your money will vary in the industry depending on the strength of your skills and where you work. You'd be surprised how closely these amounts will match..

I'm not necessarily knocking being stuck in a cubicle for eight to twelve hours a day, working side-by-side the nauseating, diet coke gulping blowhards that you probably once waited on (and grat'ed), getting "office ass" while playing on the internet half the day while pretending to be working, etc...Oh, wait, maybe I am knocking it~

Look, insurance works if you have health problems or kids to take care of.. But for those who are healthy, independent, and have no real interest in having a family, insurance is actually a huge rip-off. I say this from experience.

I've worked for different companies in a cubicle environment for years before I waited tables. I made decent money, but I hated being there, hated what I did, who I worked for, who I was becoming (a shadow of my former self) etc. So much so, that it burned me out at the ripe age of 24.

I'm almost thirty now, and I'll never go back to the soul-sucking, forced hours of bleak, banal office life. I'll take split-checks and blisters any day, baby...

At 8:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people don't get out of school and plan on being a waiter forever or making that their career. It just kinda happens. You think it's good way to make some temporary money until you move on to a REAL job.

That's when you get sucked-in and become a lifer. Me too.

At 12:24 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

I love your blog - I've been reading through the archives. It's both funny and depressing to know that it's all the same everywhere...even in Canada. :)

I wait tables in an upscale steakhouse in a university town, so most of the people I work with are students and headed on to different things. For us, the tables are turned in that the lifers are the ones who feel self conscious and left out, as everyone there has a shelf life of 3-5 years. There is very little ridicule, but the lifers certainly don't like it when the university students talk about wanting to get a 'real job'.

I myself have been waiting tables for six years now, and am so, SO happy that waiting tables has given me the freedom to travel the world, pay for school and take time off to find a degree that will get me a job that I actually want. How many people can say THAT about their part-time work?

At 11:51 AM , Anonymous teleburst said...

I turn 55 this year and have been waiting tables continuously for almost 12 years now (and 4 years of managing a restaurant before that). I've had intermittent back problems my whole life but haven't had those type of problems for years now, so, being on my feet is probably a good thing. If I have any problems, it's in the feet. They tend to cramp up more and I have a little lump in my right instep (a common inflammation of the tendon). Of course, every year means that it's a little harder to get out of bed, get to sleep after a long shift and there are a few more aches and pains than the year before. But I think this is a function of aging regardless of what you do for a living.

I have the opposite reaction when people leave the industry. I joking say, "You're escaping - I'm jealous!".

I still think that it would be better if servers thought of the job as a "real career". It's worked out well for me. The main downside is the difficulty in building a retirement nest egg and that's something that is rushing at me like a speeding freight train :g:.

"So You Want To Be A Waiter" blog

At 12:42 PM , Blogger schmuckraker said...

Very interesting perspective, I know what you mean.. When I got the 'real job' years back and left the restaurant industry, I felt nice at first but funny enough I gained about 30 pounds in 6 months--I wasn't moving. So I had two reasons to get a second job at a restaurant: Extra money and exercise. ha

So now I had the "real job" for 8 years and part time work for 7 years of it.. Before that the restaurant world since I was 15 -- this will nearly 15 years in the industry

ANd you're right. The minimum wage and tips never really make much of a difference. People are leaving the same amount now than they did years ago. In this industry you;ll never get ahead

That's not saying someone can't make a career of it.

There was one place near me that offered full time salary and insurance benefits -- plus tips. HOwever new owners came in and the 'family' atompshere of the place died away.

All that glitters is not gold. The bar looks shiny and the tables look perfect. But the server or bartender is typically struggling -- even if it's a second job it's still a struggle and constant back or knee pains.

At 3:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

speak for yourselves! i typically make $250-300 on a weeknight, and about $400 on the weekends.

i work in a fairly upscale pub that also serves food until 11pm. nothing special about it.

the money is determined upon the level of your skill, because i'm usually the only server on the floor, but i've worked in several places (also bars serving food) where i've made the same type of money, and it's no fluke.

almost every waiter and bartender that is worth their salt knows how to rake it in: avoid chains (for your own sanity), stay busy, be honest with guests (if something on the menu is sub-par, or you think they may benefit from being talked out of a wine selection, tell them so. people appreciate a genuine experience, not a waitbot), and smile till your face freezes.

i started a savings account when i was 26, and i'll be 29 in december. i'm not too worried about my future as long as i can hustle in the industry.

as far as i'm concerned, this is my career. i simply have no interest in doing anything else, because above all, i enjoy my freedom.

At 12:14 PM , Blogger PP said...

This post really struck a chord with me, I'm a junior in college and I wait tables and bartend. Though many people at work are supportive off my schooling and encourage me saying "I wish I would have just gone to school," there also those who don't understand why I would leave the business. I can honestly say that at least for a while when I begin my "real job" I'll probably still work at a bar on the weekends, because I love it: the people, the money, the flexibility. But, like you guys all said, at the end of the day I'm not going to be able to do it forever.

At 12:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blog! Check out for similar stories!!!

At 1:00 AM , Anonymous Previously Ospite: of Buon Appettito said...

It's been awhile since I've been on here, and now I'm not really sure why I slid out of this little underground world of ours.

We restauranteurs are one particularly cocky lot and I simply love this stark look into the headlights of the future. I'm glad you've kept the dialogue going, and I certainly will be back for another jerk back to reality. Ciao bene...

At 5:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!

At 9:12 PM , Anonymous Vijay Eswaran said...

Hey, got linked here through Barmaid Blog.Great post. Looking forward to read more..:)

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At 1:54 AM , Blogger Blair said...

Hey this is a really cool blog, are you interested in linking up? I run a site called, it posts funny waiter stories daily. Please check it out and let me know if you are interested! Great Blog!
You can email me at

At 7:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only do we deride and mock those wanting out, we never admit if/when we want out ourselves.

Most of us never admit when we're burned out, either, even though it's usually clear to see.

I know a lot of servers who have no problem admitting to other servers that they're "lifers", while going to school, but have no problem telling guests they won't be serving much longer, they'll soon have "real jobs".

Insane, it's awesome that you're still around, even if it's a little less than you used to be!
RagewithRibeye Forums

At 8:35 AM , Blogger Pete said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:37 AM , Blogger Pete said...

Does anyone know the owner of this site? I'd like to do a link exchange with He can reach me there.

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G'day from Australia, can we exchange links?


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At 1:38 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Insane Waiter!

I am a huge fan of your site! I have been a server in fine-dining restaurants for 6 years, working in the restaurant industry for 10. You are sooo right. If only the general public could understand...

I was hoping I could tell you about the unique resources I am offering to the restaurant industry.

I hope you find this interesting, and are inclined to write about it in your blog! I welcome reviews, and am open to discussing cross-promotion opportunities in return for any positive feedback or endorsement on your site.

Best Regards,

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PO Box 240339 Boston, MA 02124
Phone: 866.674.3395
Fax: (866) 879.0282
Making the service industry easier.


THE WAITER DEPOT - Finally, a resource that is tailored to the restaurant service community!

Scour the internet and you will find several, if not dozens, of bartending sites, chef sites, uniform sites, and restaurant equipment sites. Until now, there hasn't been a single place for restaurant servers to find the items that they need for their jobs. is the answer to this hole in the industry.

THE WAITER DEPOT,, is an online store for servers to find the items they need (such as crumbers and corkscrews), as well as unique ideas for streamlining their tools (such as the Waiter Caddy™, Lighter Leash™, Corkscrew Holsters, and the Waiter's Xtra Pocket). Their approach is economic and useable; every item in their inventory is waiter-tested and most are under $10 - all items are under $20.

The Waiter Caddy™ is an organizer for servers - a long-awaited alternative to using old, decrepit check presenters to take orders and put your closed checks in! The Deluxe design is $19.99, the Original $12.99. The Waiter Caddy™ is designed to look like a check presenter, but has 6 pockets layered on each other in such a way as to make this organizer very versatile. One pocket is secure enough to hold money or closed checks, another is meant to hold the back of your order pad (if so desired). There are two regular pockets for general use, and two patented display pockets that are designed to hold standard restaurant printer paper of 3-1/8" wide or less.

These display pockets are clear and meant to be learning or reference tools for servers. How many of you servers out there struggle to remember your beer list, cocktail list, new menu items, daily specials, or ice cream flavors of the day? And how many of you have wine tastings weekly or monthly? Write down your notes and slip them easily into the front display pockets in the Waiter Caddy™, and you will have them down in no time! Easily reference your notes every time you open your Waiter Caddy™, and all the while your mind is recording the repeated information. has a page dedicated to How to Use the Waiter Caddy™ to Make More Money (, with many insightful ideas and focus tools that work.

Though this site is starting small, approximately twelve items, THE WAITER DEPOT (online February of 2010) will be expanding quickly. Their catalogue of server-tested items will expand to two dozen by Summer of 2010, and will double that by the end of the year. New items will include aprons, unique apron designs, Dansko clogs, custom-designed bags for waiters, and expanded corkscrew and accessory options.

The site is officially up March 4th, and both Waiter Caddy's™ are on sale due to high-volume demand and back ordering. For a limited time you can buy the all new Waiter Caddy™ Deluxe for $15.99 and the Original for $9.99! Expected delivery by March 30th, 2010. is re-defining the service industry with innovative tools to make your jobs easier.

At 10:25 PM , Blogger 樸素 said...


At 2:54 PM , Blogger Stefan said...

I completely agree with you. I feel like most of the people that will defend the restaraunt industry till they die are the career servers. The one's who have done nothing but work in restaraunts and are now 34, have no real career skills or goals, and are just comfortable with where they are at. No judgement on those people because regardless someone is going to have to wait tables. I on the other hand do hate the fact that there are no sick days, there are no real heatlh benefits (in fact working in the food industry does nothing but test your health) ,and most of all there is not light at the end of the tunnel. While i'm young yes it's easy and quick money, will i do it forever? I'd sooner die.

At 10:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank u........................................

At 7:29 PM , Blogger Zen and the Art of Waitering ( said...

--Not having vacation time is a big one: yes my job is flexible and I can take time off almost whenever I want (except for actual holidays - more on this in a moment), except I have to have enough money saved not just for the vacation itself but also to cover the time I won't be working.

--Having to work sick - unless I can't stand up I'm downing copious amounts of DayQuil and powering through. No work, no money. Sure hope I don't get anyone else sick...

--Not having holidays off. I get three days during the holiday season, and that includes Christmas Day or Thanksgiving Day, which we're closed on anyway. I've spent more New Year's eves handing out complimentary champagne than I care to remember. Only once in eight years of working Christmas Eve has a customer said to me, "Man, it's kind of rough that you have to work Christmas Eve." Thank you! And you'd think people would be hooking me up with $100 tips left and right. Not so much.

--Last but not least: one day I hope to have a job where if I have to go to the bathroom I can just walk to the bathroom. I don't have to wait until there's time.

Zen and the Art of Waitering

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Unable to give you a heart. so have a reply to push up your post. ........................................

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would you be interested in a link exchange? I own and can put you on my sidebar which is on every page.

Do you prefer any particular anchor text?

I prefer funny server T shirts

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At 12:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know everyone always leave a restaurant and goes to a "real" job.. but often times.. they come right on back! I don't know how many coworkers I've worked with over the years with degrees and even masters degrees..

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