Wages for waitstaff at high-end restaurants?

A current thread on tipping had me thinking about waitstaff, their wages, their tips, and so on.

In many typical waitering/waitressing jobs at, say, diners and the like, the staff makes about $2.something per hour, plus tips. That is, their actual wages are negligable, and they make their money on their tips. However, the servers at these restaurants are rarely in it for the long haul; they’re often students, or have other career aspirations.

That said, what about “professional waitstaff”, such as you would find at pricey restaurants in large cities? The people who are career waitpersons, and are considered the top tier in the industry? Do they work on the same pay structure as diner waitstaff? Do they receive the same $2 plus tips, or are they paid some sort of salary? I’m guessing that, with the large tips they receive (based on the high cost of meals at these restaurants), they wouldn’t really need any additional wages, but then, I don’t personally know any career waitstaff who could verify this.

I’m surprised no one has responded to this yet. Here is what I know. Generally, even life long professional “servers” get less than minimum wage plus tips. Pretty much all payroll software does a calculation on the wages plus tips to ensure they are getting at least minimum wage. Employers must make up the difference if an employee does not make minimum wage for a given pay period.

I have worked at union places where servers are paid substantially more than minimum wage. (7 or 8/hr) plus tips. This is less common, but it does happen. Upscale places may pay more than 3 or 4/hr, but not much more. As the price of a dinner goes up, so does the tip. Profit margins in restaurants are nortoriously slim - between 8 and 15%. Wages much above minimum for servers would put most restaurants in the red.

Source: http://www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/q-a.htm

The above is direct from the DOL web site. You comment about “even life long professional ‘servers’ get less than minimum wage plus tips,” is incorrect insofar as there are different minimum wage rates. Servers not not paid less than the minimum wage.

Me ex-girlfriend works at one of the top steakhouses in the Milwaukee area while she’s been going into and out of school. On a few busy weekend nights, she would take home over $500 in tips for a 6 hour shift. Granted, the times when she brought home this much, it was usually for a large party that bought multiple bottles of expensive wines, but take home tips of $200 for a normal night was common. Lifers, as they’re known in the restaurant industry, can make a pretty nice living if they’re skilled people-persons and work at a top-tier restaurant. I wouldn’t even compare them to the staff at the local corner diner.