Online readers respond to "Cooks vs. Servers"
I have been in and out of the restaurant business for about 15 years. I have worked in both the front and back of the house. It is definitely a trade-off. Yes, servers can make lots of money—significantly more than cooks. But this only happens when it is busy. On a slow night servers get absolutely killed.
For example, I remember working a weekend at a convention where I made about $400 in tips over the course of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On the Monday after the convention was over, I made only $6 in tips all day.
Servers face a feast-or-famine situation. The best thing about being a cook is that you get paid a steady wage regardless of business. Unfortunately, the worst thing about being a cook is that you get paid a steady wage regardless of how busy it is.
Servers also have to face all sorts of abuse from customers. It is stunning how disgustingly vicious some people can be. I hate to say it, but I have found young yuppie women to be the most insufferably rude, obnoxious, and unreasonably demanding.
Many people would be stunned by the abuse you have to take. Unfortunately, you cannot fight back. You have to smile and apologize and say, "Oh, we are so sorry about that" when what you really would like to say is, "Oh, go fuck yourself." That takes one hell of a toll a person's psyche and self-esteem.
You also have to face busting your butt on a table and being stiffed. In fact, that is one of the inadequacies of the article. It sounds like you implied that all servers make that kind of money all the time. No, they don't, they can do that on a good night.
Lastly, wait staff is also taxed on their sales. They have to pay taxes on what they sell. Cooks don't. These are the reasons I prefer working in the back of the house. I do like the ideas of compensating cooks for a busy night. Great notion. Victory 44 sounds like a great idea and fun place to work. That is all, check please.
I think Victory 44 is a restaurant that should be followed up on. Not having professional servers is the best way to realize their value. By the way, American Express has done many, many surveys and found that the biggest reason a customer won't return to a restaurant is due to service, usually about 67 percent, while customers not returning because of food is about 35 percent.
This back-of-house-biased article is very entertaining. I love her use of extreme differences of pay comparisons, using the worst-case scenario for cooks and the best for servers. Restaurants are hurting these days, and whose pay is affected more: servers, who work for tips and count on business, or the cooks who have a guaranteed wage? I used to like Hutton's articles, but now that I realize she's full of shit I'll take them with a grain of salt.
What seems to get left out of these conversations many times (as is the case here) is that this is not restaurant-industry specific. Within organizations, operations staff are usually compensated with a static wage/salary while sales staff are compensated in a base-plus-commission format. It takes a different type of person to live with that kind of variability in their day-to-day expectations, busyness, and cash flow. Yes, there is a greater reward for being compensated in this manner, but also a greater risk. If you are bad at managing money, and/or you are a bad salesperson/manager, you won't last long in a commission-based role. I wish these guys luck.
Forgive me if I am incorrect, but I was under the impression that neither owners nor managers can force servers to tip out any of their wages to the rest of the staff under law. In the restaurant that I work at, we have unwritten rules that 10 percent of liquor sales are tipped to the bartenders, 10-20 percent tipped to server assistants, and about 60 cents per plate tipped to the food runners. This promotes good relations among the staff, but if a bartender or other staff member feels that they have been "stiffed" by a server, a manager cannot intervene or do anything about it. So how can Sharma lawfully force his employees to tip out back-of-house staff? I've heard of this at other restaurants and it always sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Well, well look. I already told you: I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don't have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?
Big Herb Dickerson
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