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How Much Money Does a Waitress Make?

Updated on May 25, 2015
How Much Does a Waitress Make?
How Much Does a Waitress Make?

If you are considering becoming a waitress as a job while you are in school, or as a career, you will want to know how much money you can expect for your labor. So how much money does a waitress make? What is the average waitress wage? These estimates are based on my work experience as a waitress at five restaurants over the past seven years.

I've worked in the field since I was 16 -- while in high school, until now as a college senior. Two of the establishments were family diners, one was a fast-food chain, another was a middle-range bistro, and one is a high-end restaurant, which is where I am now.

Federal and State Laws for Minimum Wages

  • The wage laws for waitressing vary according to which state you live in. What these laws all boil down to is that you need to be able to make at least the Federal minimum wage between what your boss pays you and the what the customers tip you.

  • Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. So you should expect, at minimum, to make this amount each hour you work. You should calculate over an 8-hour shift to get your hourly average. This means you should make at least $58 per 8-hour shift.

  • The good news is you can make a great deal more than $7.25 per hour as a waitress. (Just stay off of weekday shifts if you can. Lunch hours are usually not enough to make up for the absence of customers during the rest of your 8-hour shift.)

What is the average waitress wage?
What is the average waitress wage? | Source

How to Get More Tips as a Waitress

  • Try to wait tables with at least two people in them. Families are even better. The more people you wait on, the higher your tip will be.

  • If you are comfortable, flirt with your male customers (as long as they aren't with women). It sounds sexist, but it works. (In high-end restaurants, however, this is done very subtly, if at all.)

  • Wear makeup and make sure your hair looks stylish, even though it will probably be pulled back. All types of customers react more positively to attractive waitstaff.

  • Always watch your tone with your customers. No matter how stressed you are, don't snap at them or get defensive about anything they say.

  • Check back at least twice to ask if they need anything else.

  • Keep their free drinks full (water, soda, coffee, tea refills) without them having to ask.

How much does a waitress make in a diner?

  • In an 8-hour shift on a weekend, in a busy place, you can expect to make $60 to $80 per shift.

My first job at 16 was as a waitress in a diner. I was able to pay for my car insurance, gas, clothes, and saved up for my community college tuition all in my two years of working there.

How much does a waitress make in a chain or middle-range restaurant?

  • You can expect to make $80 to $120 on a busy 8-hour weekend shift.

Chain restaurants are great in that you can sometimes get your first job at one of these places. The customer base is usually couples and families, so you will need to work with a range of people, from crying babies to stressed-out parents.

How much does a waitress make in a high-end restaurant?

  • You will bring in great tips working at one of these establishments. A normal, busy, 8-hour weekend shift will make you about $160 to $240 per night.

This sounds like good money and it is, but getting a job at a high-end restaurant is highly competitive. You must have impeccable manners, a very polished appearance, and an excellent work record.


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