Waiting tables in a restaurant is a common means of earning money in the United States. Although restaurant waitstaff needs fluctuate, about 2 million Americans hold waitstaff jobs, according to Carol Chemelynski, author of "Opportunities in Restaurant Careers." If you have a friend or family member in the restaurant industry, you may be able to obtain a job as a waiter with little or no experience; however, a waiter job can pose several disadvantages.
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As a waiter, you must typically keep a flexible schedule so you can work when the restaurant needs you, rather than when you want to work. This means that your schedule may vary from week to week, making it difficult to plan social activities with friends or family members. If you have children, working irregular hours as a waiter can also make securing child care and attending school functions difficult. Also, your employer may call you to request that you work on short notice, which can add to personal scheduling difficulties.
Waiters do not enjoy the same minimum wage protections as non-tipped employees -- as of August 2011, federal law only requires your employer to pay you $2.13 per hour in most cases. Some state laws require higher hourly wages for waitstaff. The majority of a waiter's income is derived from tips paid by restaurant patrons. Some days, you may enjoy generous tips and a full restaurant section throughout your shift; other days, you may have a mostly empty section and stingy customers. As a result, your income can fluctuate dramatically, making it difficult to plan your finances.
Lack of Benefits
In most cases, restaurant owners and operators consider waitstaff part-time employees and do not offer benefits. As a waiter, you may not have access to benefits such as a retirement plan or health insurance. You may open an Individual Retirement Account on your own to save for retirement, but you will not have access to matching employer contributions to build your account balance quickly. Although you can obtain individual health coverage, you will typically pay more money for less coverage than through an employer's group health plan.
Lack of Job Security
Waitstaff jobs, like most non-management food service jobs, are rarely difficult for restaurant owners, operators and managers to fill. The restaurant you work for as a waiter may have a backlog of applicants waiting for an open position. This can translate to a lack of job security, because a manager may see you as being easily replaceable.