Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why do I wait tables?

Someone asked in a comment "Why do I wait tables?" She suggested that since I have multiple degrees (I have a graduate degree as well as my undergrad) and I only make $40-$60 a night I should do something else.

First, I don't only make $40-$60 a night. If I did, I would've gotten out of this business a LONG time ago. I have co-workers who make that a night because they suck and don't care, but rare is the shift that I make under $80, and most nights are beyond that. Honestly, I am disappointed in less than $100 per shift (but yes it happens). It's not worth my time (especially in winter) to drive into work for less than that. I have a fairly long commute by city standards to get to my restaurant. There are other Red Lobster stores (and other Darden owned restaurants) closer to where I live, but I work at my present store because I can make more money there than at most of the other regional stores. I've worked in enough Red Lobsters to know a good one when I find it. Good being a relative term of course.

Hypothetically, let's say I work 5 shifts a week for 30 hours. In those shifts if I average $125 per shift, that is $625 a week that I am taking home (with health care and the pittance that we get as tipped employees, we never see our hourly wages). Figure I work at least 49 weeks a year and that is over $30,000. And honestly, there are people in my store who make more than that, all for a "part time" job. Plus I get paid vacation. Plus we get stock options. And dental/health care is available.

So part of it is the money. The health care is actually a bigger reason for me, as my outside interests don't afford me health care options. Out of pocket health care plans are absurdly expensive.

The biggest reason I wait tables is it affords me a schedule I like. I have worked where I work long enough to be toward the top of the shit heap. That means I generally get a steady schedule of shifts that I can plan around. I don't bounce from shift to shift much because I work nearly as many hours as allowed most of the time. And when I want to pick up a shift (if I am far enough under the 40 hour mark to avoid over time) then I know my management team will approve me for whatever that shift is, no questions asked. I can open, close, etc. - any shift there is, I've done it and trained others for it.

So with this flexibility, I can pursue other interests. Some of which are money making, some of which are just personal hobbies. Red Lobster hasn't been my only source of income for a long time, and I don't expect that to change. I'm a hard working guy, probably working too many hours when you add everything together, but I guess it is what it is. My Red Lobster dollars are the most steady money in my life, so I need to keep that going while I work on other things. My hope is that someday my outside interests will overtake my waiting and force me to quit, but thus far it hasn't gone that way. It will though, I am confident of that. And that too is why I have never gone into management, it would force me to give up my outside things, and push me into a rotating schedule that is the schedule from hell. Red Lobster pays their management team fairly, but I think their work schedules suck donkey balls.


Anonymous said...

This is where I stand now. I have two part-time jobs, but Red Lobster is the one where I make the most money. It also pays for my health care. I've done this for a little over two years, six months of which I was a CT / Serv Pro, but I resigned from those positions due to disagreements with my GM. After using good ole Excel to run some numbers, I've learned that as servers, we actually make more per hour than our managers generally do (GM excluded). Without doing any of the CT/Serv Pro stuff I was doing, I'm averaging more than $4.00 an hour more just from serving. I've been asked to jump back on the path to management, but I really don't know if I want to, for I'd have to give up that other part time job, and would essentially make less per hour as a manager.

BizTone said...

Love the blog... Posting a quick shout out to you on mine. Keep up the awesome posts.

purplegirl said...

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Are you cranky? Do you hate the asshats you have the schlepp food to every day? Or maybe you usually don't mind it, but one day somebody just pissed you off. Maybe you prefer to keep your blog more civilized and don't want to casually throw around the swear words .... but sometimes you just want to write something hateful and vitriolic. Maybe you want more blog traffic. Or maybe you actually have a good story to share. You know, whatever. This cranky blogger wants to feature your stories.

Anonymous said...

i also am a slave at red lobster... just wondering if you're loving the $3 and $4 coupon drop at the same that discover sent out their $10 coupons. i finished my lunch shift with $47 in coupons...each table (except my last) had one or two coupons per table. that's my main gripe today, there are definitely many others lol. love your site.

Max said...

Darden has me on a leash as well, my question to you is this, do your managers send you on guilt trips over the dumb little things you realize you could have done differently?

I recently had a guest mention to me that some of the pieces of lettuce in her garden salad were hard, she told be this after her entire salad was gone and she was giving me her plate to bring to the bus room. Of course I asked if she would like another salad, or if there was anything I could do to make it up to her. She said it was not a big deal, and I gave her her main course and she enjoyed. Of course later during her meal my manager swung around and asked how everything was, she mentioned the salad thing to her (my manager). At this point in time, my mother was in the restaurant and I was serving her (I hadn't seen her in a month, and she drove an hour just to have me serve her since I'm a busy guy), and my manager felt the need to chew me out in the middle of the dining room about how I should have found her and reported the incident immediately.
I have only worked at RL a few months, but I think I handled the situation properly, it is a pain in the rear to have to find a manager while you're serving, it ruins your flow and plus when you finally do find a manager, they act as if they have more important things to do...
Your opinions on this?

Robert said...

You were mostly right, and it's certainly inappropriate for management to chew you out in front of guests regardless of the situation. Ideally, you would want to do exactly what you did, but mention the issue next time you happen to bump into a manager. I wouldn't suggest searching them down immediately, especially when the guest has indicated they're fine, but it's one of those "better you tell me ahead of time than have me find out on my own" situations.

mrclm said...

I'm not a server any more, but I had a lot of years of practice at Red Lobster! What Robert suggests is roughly what I used to do. If I got a complaint, I would tell whichever manager was "supposed" to do the table touches that shift. I would usually phrase it something like "Just so you know, when you stop by table 11, they complained about some hard lettuce. I offered a new salad but they said they were fine..." It's a classic CYA thing. Some managers are good at table touches, and others rarely do them, so if I had a manager I knew was jogging around the dining room sucking up regularly, I made sure to tell them right away. Other managers I knew might never walk through my section, so I told them when it was convenient for me. And it was handled differently with regular guests too. Some people complain about everything, and you know that, so you don't worry much. Others never complain, so when they say something you know it was bad.

BlueMascara said...

I love the blog! You are hilarious and sarcastic and I enjoy every moment of it. I'm curious, did you major in when you went to undergrad and graduate school? I am finishing my master's in psychology and am considering picking up a second job at a local food chain for extra income. Any recommendations?

Lobster Boy said...

I was a bit of an over achiever back in my college days getting a couple of degrees actually. My first degree was a History degree, so when people ask, that is generally what I give. Since History by itself for someone who doesn't want to teach isn't all that marketable I completed some other degrees to add on to that. I was going to head into law school, but life happened and I've never returned to those thoughts. Where I am at in life now, I'm certain I wouldn't entertain law school. My hope is to use my business skills to build enough passive income in the next 5-10 years so I can view real work as optional. I'm part of the way there, but not enough so that I don't have to work, and I need the insurance too at this point, so I'm tied to having a real job for a while longer yet.

If you want recommendations for what restaurant to work at, my suggestion is look at the menu and favor places that will have higher ticket totals. Second, look at who is busy. Find a place that is regularly busy that has medium to high ticket totals and you'll be well paid if you know what you are doing.

Lobster Boy

Workers Write said...

Hi,I just came across your blog. It's wonderful! I'd like permission to reprint one of your posts, "Why do I wait tables?," on WorkersWrite, a website I edit for the National Writers Union to get workers (of all stripes!) to tell stories about their working lives. I'd love to include this post of yours. Of course, we would credit you, and link back to your site. Please let me know if that would be okay. Thank you!
Editor, WorkersWrite