Take 20 percent of a $500 check and you’ve got an impressive portion for an evening’s wages. Draw ten percent of a $7 bill and it’s a different story. No doubt, the size and style of a restaurant has a big impact on a server’s salary.
As New York Magazine notes, a waiter at a top spot in New York can clear upward of $50,000 annually for serving guests and doing light prep-work. Some waiters, at very high-end establishments (or at $5,000-a-bottle clubs) reportedly pocket two or three times that. But, of course, not every server is so fortunate. A 2011 report from the D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute revealed that many in the profession fall below the federal poverty line.