There are tons of factors to weigh when considering moving to any new city—cost of living, job opportunities, location, etc. —but if you’re in the restaurant industry, there’s even more to consider. Because rules and regulations around tipping in restaurants vary across the country, restaurant workers have to do a little extra digging.
Luckily, there are plenty of reports out there that have analyzed exactly this, but who wants to scour analytics after a closing shift? No one.
So we’ve done it for you! After analyzing information from several sources—Sirvo’s 2016 list, Payscale’s Restaurant Report, and ValuePenguin’s compilation — which all overlapped a bit but varied as well, we’ve come up with a few of the best cities for restaurant workers to live and work in as far as waiter and waitress salary and tipping goes.
San Francisco, CA
According to Payscale, San Fran is the place to work if you’re a server.
“Servers in the Golden Gate City… tie with fellow tech mecca Seattle, WA for highest median base pay ($9.60 per hour), but San Franciscans tip their servers better than Seattleites—waiters and waitresses in San Francisco report earning $13.00 per hour in tips, while Seattle servers only report earning $7.40 an hour in tips.” There is the cost of living factor to consider, which is pretty high in the Bay Area in general, but this is the place to go to earn the most.
Las Vegas, NV
The amount of sheer selection is what puts Vegas on the list. From casinos and hotels to bars and restaurants, the whole city caters to tourists—and tourists in Vegas are especially focused on eating, drinking, and having a good time. “As one might expect,” ValuePenguin explains, “there are many opportunities for servers in Las Vegas, 30,160 in fact, according to our data.” While cities like New York and Los Angeles offer more jobs, it’s Vegas’ low cost of living that makes it stand out, clocking in at roughly 6% cheaper than the national average.
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Sirvo also calls out Vegas as being the best city for bartenders specifically.
Minimum wage starts at $7.25 and most bartenders report generous tips from travelers. “The median amount a bartender takes home is $22 an hour in Sin City,” Sirvo explains.
The same list puts Boston in the top spot for cooks and chefs. While the minimum wage in Massachusetts for tipped workers in abysmally low ($3 an hour), “the job market favors chefs and cooks in the foodie hub of Boston.” The median income a cook can expect to take home in Boston is around $14.40 an hour and, considering that rent varies by neighborhood, with a bit of extra looking, cooks can land themselves in an affordable set up still within the city limits.
While Las Vegas is the spot for those already in the biz, Sirvo ranks Austin as number one when it comes to the best city in which to get started out. Unemployment in the Texas capitol is hovering around 3%, which is driving up wages as well as prospects for beginner workers. “The city is known for Tex-Mex and southern barbecue, but fine dining and international cuisines are on the rise,” Sirvo reports, which means there are plenty of spots for newbies to begin to carve out a niche.