Editor’s Note: Please give a warm welcome to my fiancee’s (aka Mrs. TM) second foray into the blogosphere. She made way more money than me all through university by working in the service industry so I asked her to tell our readers about the realities of waiting tables. Today she tackles the reasons why so many students love these jobs, and later this week you’ll get an insider’s view on the darker side of the industry. Let’s be honest, we need a little more of a feminine touch around here anyway!
While I pursued my undergrad degree at the University of Manitoba, I worked as a server at a restaurant/bar near campus. Now, before I get into all the reasons the hospitality sector could be right for you, there are some things to consider. In most cities, when you are hired by a restaurant or bar, you have to pay your dues. You cannot expect to become the Saturday night bartender after your first shift. In most cases, you’ll start at hosting and/or busing tables for a few weeks. These jobs are neither fun nor glamorous, but don’t be discouraged. Because serving is a “coveted” job in the world of student employment, think of this more as a weeding out process. Once you’ve proven to your employers that you’re competent and that you’ll stick around (restaurants have notoriously high turn-over) you can expect to be promoted to serving and start making some cash! Without further adieu, here are my three server-tested and server-approved reasons to consider the gig.
1. Shift FlexibilityAssuming that you’re working at a restaurant that serves breakfast and also has a bar, you have your choice of working mornings, afternoons, or evenings, every day of the week. Serving shifts are scheduled a little differently, and are usually only given a start time. This is because you can never predict how busy any given day/evening will be, and so to air on the side of caution, restaurants always schedule enough staff to cover a busy shift. This means that if you’re scheduled to work Wednesday at 5 PM and the restaurant is still empty at 7:30, the management will consider sending one or two servers home at 8. Some servers hate this uncertainty, but personally, I loved it. When I was scheduled for a shift, I would always assume that that meant I was committed to my job for 8 hours. If an opportunity to go home early presented itself the night before I had a paper due, I would opt for the shorter shift that night. Because most of the people I worked with were students, we always allowed the person with the most pressing academic demand (finals to study for, labs to finish, etc.) the opportunity to leave first. On a night when I had no assignments to worry about, I could offer to close that evening to make up for the evenings I had shorter shifts, and this always seemed very convenient to me.
2. Work Environment
When I began working in the hospitality industry, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my work environment. I admit that work environment varies greatly restaurant to restaurant, but I will use my place of work as an example. The restaurant where I worked was about 2 miles from the University of Manitoba, and because of this close proximity, was staffed largely with university students. Working with other students meant that I was surrounded by smart, hard-working young people who had similar interests as me! It also meant that for all of us, school was our first priority.
Well… tied for first with having a good time anyway. One little-known fact about the service industry is that everyone within it tries to take care of each other. Bar tenders and bouncers know where there bread is buttered (literally where their food gets made when they go out to eat) and vice versa. This means that servers generally have the best work parties you’ve ever experienced and rarely have to wait in any lines since they are always “VIP”.
Tips are a huge reason why I think that serving is a great job for a university student. Before I started serving, I worked a minimum-wage job in retail, and I saw first hand that when you’re trying to pay for tuition, books, rent, bills, and groceries you need to be working full time to make ends meet. This is next to impossible when you’re also going to school, and it’s definitely not fun. When you factor tips into what you’re making on minimum wage though, you can afford to work half as much. Most of my shifts I made easily more in tips than I did in wages. Working for tips also provides you with a sense of control over the amount of money you can make, because in most cases, the harder you worked, the more money you made.
Are there any other servers in the house? Any love/hate relationships with your server job and its associated tip jar?