How much does the highest paid waiter in the US make?

I waited many a table back in my high school and college days, and I always heard talk about the money made by waiters in fancy restaurants. Also, right this second I’m in a restaurant getting a to-go order and the bartender is relatively old for this profession.

So, share your stories (either from personal experience or what you’ve heard) of waiters making big bucks. Surely there are a couple of waiters somewhwere making a shitload.

A friend who is waiter in D.C. told me that career waiters in fine dining restaurants in certain cities can make in the $60K - $100K range. They are salaried positions (I don’t know how tips figure in to the salaries he quoted). Sommeliers can make more than $100K.

Wouldn’t working at a really expensive restaurant pretty much be a given? I mean, assuming people tip 15-20% on average, no matter what the cost, if your average table spent several hundred dollars minimum for dinners/drinks, I would guess that might translate to a fairly large tip per table.
I suppose then it would make a difference if the restaurant was always full, and you had enough tables.
That said, it would be interesting to know what waiters at really, really upscale and popular restaurants earn.

Yeah, my guess would be the top earner probably grosses $100K-$125K a year.

If you expand the idea of waiter to bartenders, the best flare bartenders can make huge money too.

I’d guess the waiters at very expensive restaurants make more tips per table. But then again, at very expensive restaurants a waiter probably doesn’t have more than two or three tables at once. Also, meals tend to take longer, so by the time all the courses are done it’s been several hours, so maybe each table only has two or three parties per evening.

So you get more money per table, but this is somewhat balanced out by having smaller sections and less table turnover.

My brother is a career waiter in his early 40’s. He has worked at some big-ticket joints in NYC and currently is at Foxwoods in one of the celebrity chef restaurants. He probably makes, in a good year, 75K, and a bad year 60K.

Good money, right? That said, it is not easy work, it’s exhausting.

On your feet, constantly moving, no 15 minute breaks twice a day, no hour for lunch, on your feet moving 10 hours a day. Anyone who has had to stand and move at work, factories, the trades, etc., knows how much it starts to wear your body down. Then add the no breaks-no real lunch factor, and then add 2-3 hours over the standard 8-hour work day, every day.

Still sound easy?

How about working nights, including both weekend nights, and not getting home until 2 or 3 AM? Not that hard in your 20’s, but in your 40’s? With infants at home who don’t sleep through the night? And an exhausted wife who needs your help in the morning? Not easy at all.

It kicks your ass after a while is what it does. Sure he could work weekday lunches and have more time at home, but there goes the money. Where it’s at money-wise is nights, especially Friday/Saturday/Sunday.

On top of all that, add any horror stories these boards alone have related about working retail, and remember that the higher the amount being spent, the amount of straight up entitled assholes and narcissists you have to deal with, for 2-3 hours at a time, gets a bit higher as well.

Add to THAT he is in a casino that until very recently was the largest, in money terms, in the world, and the proximity to New York and New Jersey (read: Guidos, and yes they do exist people, and a goodly few of them act just like the worst stereotypes you know), and having some hairy grandpa in a $5000 suit and $10000 worth of man-jewelry snapping his fingers at you and humiliating you because you didn’t get his $2000 bottle of Petrus from the sommelier fast enough, and does it still sound like easy work?

Fuck that shit people. No wonder he wants to be a school teacher. But he’s gotta support his family, you know? It’s a vicious cycle. I feel for the dude.

Kids, this is what happens when you chase your rock’n’roll dreams into your late 30s. Don’t let it happen to you!

Anecdotally, at Ed Debevic’s in Chicago Mrs. Homie and I were waited on by a waiter who stated that he lives in New York and flies to Chicago to work at Ed’s every weekend.

I’ll let that sink in.

Assuming he’s getting a helluva deal on airfare (say, $200 round trip JFK to ORD), the guy’s still spending $800 per month on travel expenses.

He must be raking it in. :eek:

This isn’t really an answer to the question, but years ago (mid-80s) I had a friend who waited tables at a fancy Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End. My friend made enough money to put himself through Harvard. There was a particular customer, Mr. Scott, who was treated like gold there because he treated waiters like gold. He usually left a tip of a couple hundred dollars, which my friend said “that’s half you night”, meaning that it was usual to make $300-400 a night in tips. One night Mr. Scott came in with a large party and they ordered the best stuff, including some expensive wine. The check came to $4000, and he left the waiter a tip of $1500.

What would that be in today’s dollars?

My cousin waits tables in a high end restaurant in San Francisco when I was talking to her a couple of months ago she told me her take home pay averages 5-6K a month. She does well and does a lot of traveling but she wants to change careers so she doesn’t end up being a waiter when she’s in her 30s but the money is hard to walk away from.

To be fair, Ed Debevic’s hires actors who also happen to wait tables.

I’ve often wondered if the first line a budding actor learns is “Would you like to hear tonight’s specials?”

just stumbled upon this website and liked the conversation about a typical waiters salary…and to be fair and also brutally honest an “average” waiter in New York City, {which is where I happen to live and work} is around 30K per year to 40K per year. But that is average. From experience and also as one who spent many late night hours wishing I was working at a Holy Grail type of restaurant…that “holy grail” or mythical figure that is thrown around under whisper throughout the professional front of house staff in my vicinity after a few whiskeys of course (vicinity in question happens to be the uber in process before your eyes type of gentrification area in downtown manhattan). I worked for quite a while at an upscale busy restaurant that I was happy with for the most part…mainly because it was my “first” real restaurant job in which I was actually front of house (prior I was a room service agent at a High end hotel)…I was making the bare minimum as far as wages go…bartending from 6pm till 3 AM 4 to 5 nights a week while juggling a rock band as well as a girlfriend seemed extremely extending financially…and so it was…about 500 dollars per week seems about average…I quit to open a new restaurant via extremely overrated and attention starved David Burke…only to realize that my hopes and dreams of doubling my paycheck with said move were a farce…super corporate, shitty food, no creative vision, and way too high of expectations for a waiter of mine and my colleagues experience should ever have to endure…(flashbacks to long talks about mis en plafs, and why they are so important…which of course they are but seriously??)…long story short…I quit in a rage, drank as much of David Burkes booze during that last hurrah in which I was fired by David himself then asked to come back ten minutes later by our robot GM (since I had a section of 5 tables in which one was already at around a 2500 dollar tab) regardless…waiting anywhere is shit…makes you want to drown the world in wine or whiskey…your choice…I choose wine now because its much easier to enjoy…I absolutely despise the industry I work in and before my current place of employment I vowed to not work in a restaurant again…and on my first day I let my GM know that I had reservations as to taking a new job let alone any job within the service industry…

to cut to the chase…all reservations left me when I was shown the fiscal side of the latest…and hopefully last…restaurant that I will ever work at…the Holy Grail was staring me in the face and I realized if I am going to torment my body, mind, and spirit with the unsettling career of being a food/wine/cocktail liazon to the rich…it may as well be at this place. (thisplaceleft out to keep it anonymous and as forthcoming as I can…

to answer the question…
an average 4 day, 36 hour work week at one of the top restaurants in Manhattan I gross about $1400/week, give or take…great money for someone who has been a waiter forever…but not enough to keep one satisfied…am I in the wrong to be interested in a real estate brokers job? Could both be maximized to their fullest or should I just put all the chips in one basket and go for it…

+DIsclaimer…Drunken Rant…+
hot Dogs with cream cheese are where its at!

I once briefly dated a woman who had just started working as a waitress at the Brass Elephant, one of Baltimore’s most expensive restaurants. She said the management would be surreptitiously monitoring her performance for a while (and she had done a good bit of waitressing before), so it was obviously exacting work. She said she had verified that waitstaff made in the neighborhood of $50k. This was in the mid-1990’s.

In 1985, $4000 would be about $8219.09 now, according to Wolfram Alpha, which calculated it based on the Consumer Prince Index.

Well, last year, Republican Governor candidate Tom Emmer tried to claim that waiters got over $100,000 per year and were making more than the restaurant owners in Minnesota. That got a huge amount of criticism from waiters/waitresses, and was later shown to be made up – the restaurant owner Emmer cited denied making that statement, and and no waiters making anywhere near that amount. That Emmer could make such statements showed that he was either vastly out of touch with working people like waiters & waitresses, or a bold-faced liar (or both). Probably part of the reason he lost the election.

Factually, in 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average yearly earnings for waiters is $22,730, including tips.

That’s a lot of hot dogs and cream cheese.

I have been in the industry off and on for almost 20 yrs. I started at a mom and pop restaurant and worked my way up to fine dining. I currently work at a 4 diamand restaurant in a 5 diamond resort in Scottsdale AZ. Because I am the trainer and have the ability to pick my schedule and work 5 to 6 nights a week I am able to make 55-60k a year. That being said…this is not easy work nor is it for everyone. You do deal with a lot of people that treat you poorly. (for some reason people tend to look down on service workers even though most of them have college degrees, a business on the side or just enjoy the hospitality aspect). Its also very physically demanding. Basicly you are ALWAYS on stage and have to project warm hospitality while being under tremendous amounts of stress. Where I work the shifts are short but intense. You are often drained by the end and there is a high burn out rate for service staff.
Personally, I enjoy the work and love creating an experience for the guest. The money is sufficient for me as I have no children to support…just an adorable dog! But when you are thinking about tipping keep in mind that at high end restuarant the servers tip anywhere from 40 to 65% to other staff (ie food runners, bussers, baristas and so on). I keep roughly 35 to 50% of the tips I bring in. Like all jobs it has its positives and negatives. It’s more about finding a job that fits YOU!
I hope that info helps someone!

Or he has a relative who works for an airline and can fly free.

In an older thread about people making $200K+/year, this post by brickbacon was very helpful on the subject of waitstaff pay. Rest of the thread has little to do with this topic, but thought it might be useful.

A server at a nightclub here in Chicago just got a $20k tip from a single customer (some Russian billionaire). Not that it’s common, but in clubs where d-bags are shelling out thousands of dollars for bottle service, the gratuities have got to be crazy big.