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Waitress taking order in restaurant

The restaurant industry employs 2,564,610 waiters and waitresses.

There are 123.76 million full-time employees in the United States. That means the restaurant industry employs nearly 2% of the population as waitresses or waiters. So what’s drawing so many people to work in this industry?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that for a waitress/waiter salary averages at $9.61/hour or $19,990 annually.

In an industry dominated by discussions around minimum wage, you know that it’s got to be about much more than the average salary of a waiter or waitress.

Despite minimum wage increases, 24% of restaurant employees have noticed a decrease in their salary.

In the restaurant industry, employees often aren’t even impacted by minimum wage increases, as tipped employees have their own separate wage mandate. In fact, Upserve’s data shows that despite minimum wage increases, 24% of restaurant employees have noticed a decrease in their salary.

For a waiter or waitress, “salary” is a concept that is very fluid. It can change based on tipping, time of year, weather, time of day, the list goes on.

The salary that a waiter or waitress makes also changes based on where they live. But by how much?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the disparity can be as high as $19,450 annually, depending on where a waiter or waitress is working.

Annual mean salary of waiters and waitresses
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Perhaps it’s not about the federal minimum wage, but perhaps it is. We took a look at what the minimum wage requirements were, by state, for tipped workers.


At the end of the day, one thing is clear: for a waitress or waiter, salary is a term we throw around pretty loosely. It’s about much more than that, isn’t it?

What drew you to work in the restaurant industry as a waiter or waitress? Tell us here.

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In a perfect world, Theresa would spend her days reading good books and writing all the time... and she'd own all the shoes her heart desired. When she's not on the hunt for shoes, you can find this Rhode Island transplant on the hunt for food that comes close to "Long Island". Her favorite? Caffe Dolce Vita in Providence's historic Federal Hill.
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