You Told Waiters To Get “Real” Jobs, So They Did…Now What?
It isn’t news that restaurants have been struggling to find staff and that some businesses are offering all kinds of incentives to come on board. Chipotle recently announced they are increasing the pay for its restaurant workers to an average of $15 an hour and claiming that it’s possible to make up to $100,000 a year after just a few years on the job if promoted to manager. A restaurant in Baton Rouge, LA is offering $100 to anyone hired who completes training and a $200 bonus in their second paycheck. After 90 days, employees will get a $300 bonus. Darden Restaurants, which owns Longhorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and other chains including Olive Garden made a change last month; hourly restaurant employees will earn at least $10 an hour, including tips, instead of the federal minimum wage or state minimum wage. While this staffing shortage is certainly frustrating for restaurant owners and managers, it does seem unnecessary for them to whine about it on social media or place signs at the host stand complaining about their dilemma.
Despite all these incentives, servers and restaurant workers aren’t taking the bait. A few weeks ago, this website touched on some of the reasons why some servers aren’t able or don’t want to go back to work right now (spoiler alert: it’s not just because they’re lazy), but maybe there’s an entirely different reason.
In March of 2020 when the country shut down and hundreds of thousands of people found themselves out of work, restaurant employees were some of the worst hit. They didn’t have the option to work from home and restaurants pretty much evaporated, along with the servers’ salaries. For those service industry workers who were fortunate enough to have benefits provided to them, those disappeared too. Waiters, waitresses, hosts, bussers, food runners, kitchen staff – everyone was abandoned. They were disregarded as casually as a wet nap at a barbecue restaurant is tossed into a garbage can.
It probably wasn’t a surprise to servers that they were seen as unimportant. After all, anyone who has waited tables for longer than two weeks has had to answer the question “so what else do you do?” as if serving somehow isn’t enough. People who have made a career out of waiting tables have also most certainly been told to get a “real job.”
This article isn’t about whether waiting tables is a real job or not. It is a real job. Period. The taxes that servers pay to the government each week ought to be enough to prove that. But here we are: restaurants are reopening, but there aren’t enough employees to staff them. Why is that?
Maybe it’s because servers realized that they deserve more than they were getting. Stefanie Williams, a TV writer and restaurant worker put it this way. “I think Covid gave people an opportunity to take stock of their self worth, and how they plan to allow people to treat them in the future. We all just spent a year in shambles and for what? An entitled Karen to rip us a new asshole because she ordered fries, not a side salad?”
Isn’t is possible that servers have had enough? After years of being mistreated by customers, bosses, and corporations, maybe they just don’t want that life anymore. After being told they were worthless and that their job wasn’t “real” and then being neglected at the first sign of the pandemic, it’s no surprise restaurant staff are missing in action.
Perhaps servers just want some respect. If you’ve ever heard a waiter gripe about a bad tip and you responded by saying, “if you don’t like it, maybe you should find something else to do instead,” you’re part of the problem. It looks like servers took that advice and now the same people who complained about waiters and waitresses not having a “real job” don’t have anyone to bring them their and Diet Coke and free bread basket. Careful what you wish for, customers. You told servers to quit complaining and go get real jobs and that’s what they did. Now what?