Woman: "What do you do for a living?"

Man: "I'm an actor."

Woman: "So how long have you been a waiter?"

Yes, almost every struggling actor has had a career as a waiter at one point, but there's a good reason: Waiting tables can be a kick-ass job. Check out these potential benefits:

  • You can make tons of money on tips.
  • Your schedules can be flexible, allowing you to attack other projects.
  • You get the chance to talk to people all day long (and spit in their food if you hate them).

But landing all of these benefits is not easy. To get the job, the flexible schedules, and the high tips, you need to be good at it, and being a good waiter can be incredibly tough. So before you tie those apron strings, let us serve you up some helpful "tips" for your journey into the hospitality industry.

By the way, while the word "waiter" usually refers to men, we're treating it as a gender-neutral term-much like the words "actor," "author," and "smurf" (yes, smartypants, Smurfette was a smurf). So keep in mind that when we say "waiter," we're talking about foodstuff servers off all genders, sexes, and chromosomes.


The best way to begin your life as a waiter is to listen to some of the advice of current/former waiters. Here's how to do it:

  1. Talk to a few of your friends who have worked or are still working as a waiter. (We promise, you have many.) Invite them over for dinner and ask them to tell you their most hideous, toe-curling waiter stories. (We promise, they'll have many). As they tell you their sob stories, picture yourself in that situation and how you would've handled it. Also ask them to give you an idea about some of their chores. They'll tell you about filling up ketchup bottles and salt-and-pepper shakers, lugging ice up from the basement, sweeping, mopping, polishing, and scrubbing. And that's only the beginning of the fun...

  2. The next time you go to a diner, tell the waiter who's serving you that you're thinking about joining the waiter workforce, and ask what advice he/she has for you. We're sure the waiter will have many hideous, toe-curling stories of his/her own.

Notice the common element? Hideous, toe-curling stories. Being a waiter can be incredibly annoying because many people are jerks and like to boss other people around. Customers change their minds, lie, don't pay their bills, yell, get drunk, spill things, harass people, and generally act like animals. Most customers will never think that your service is fast enough or that their food is hot or tasty enough. That's just how thing's work. And much of the time it won't be you're fault. You can't help it if the cook didn't read your order correctly, or if the food tastes bad, or if you have to handle 20 tables because the rest of the staff quit. And the worst part is that with the exception of outright harassment, the customer is always right. "But I'm right, dammit!" you shout. "She DIDN'T ask for anchovies!" To which your boss will reply, "Would you rather be right or would you rather NOT get fired?"

We don't mean to scare you away. As we mentioned before, being a waiter also has tons of perks: you get major tips if you do a good job, you get the chance to talk to people, and-if the restaurant isn't packed-it can be rather laidback. You might also get some free food and have the chance to meet new people. But don't be fooled: it IS work. You'll be on your feet for hours, carrying heavy items, and managing many requests at once. And you'll have to look happy while doing it. This is not a good job for people with high-strung personalities

Something else to consider: You have to be able to multi-task. As you walk down an aisle of tables, people will be calling out for more coffee, a clean spoon, pepper, ketchup, a toothpick, and the tail feather of a Brazilian Mooneybird. You have to be able to remember and accomplish these tiny things without getting panicked or stressed out. You'll may have to memorize the menu and prices too, as well as daily specials.

Bottom line: think it through. Save yourself the hassle if you know up front that you don't have the patience, endurance, or ability to flash a fake smile.