Op-Ed: Tip Your Waiter! Their Lives May Depend on It

Did you know that the server at your favorite restaurant may earn less than three dollars per hour? That’s right! Food industry employers across the entire nation are required to pay their servers (“tipped employees”) just $2.13 per hour. This minuscule wage is not livable, especially as the cost of living surges in urban areas like Houston.Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local restaurants have had trouble keeping themselves open for business. Many shut down, and those restaurants that managed to survive indeed had to sacrifice a lot. To cut costs, “sacrifices” are made by letting go of staff. We must understand that these staff cuts are often vital to the survival of a said business. They save money when they have fewer workers to pay, but the spared employees must work twice as hard to make up for it. As a result, restaurants are often understaffed, and staff on the job are overworked.

Remember that not every workday in the foodservice industry is good. There are plenty of days where establishments have little to no business. Let’s say that at “Hugh’s Diner,” the workday is six hours, from 6 AM to 12 PM, and there is one server on the job, Dana. Dana earns $10.24 in tips during this six-hour time frame, equivalent to two hours of the minimum wage (on top of the base minimum of $2.13). For the other four hours, Dana earns only $2.13 per hour. Without tips, the manager or owner must make up the difference out of their own pockets to ensure the servers earn minimum wage.

Major restaurant chains such as Denny’s and IHOP often undermine this, and employees clock out of work with almost nothing. This is deeply disheartening. You may think, “just go find another job,” but many employers are not hiring at this time, for the same reason mentioned earlier. Whenever you eat out, make sure your waiter/waitress does not go un-tipped. Their lives may depend on it.
Every server is human and has responsibilities and a life, just like you. Your server may be a young teen in high school trying to provide for their family in need, or they may be a parent doing their best to provide. Keep your server’s livelihood in mind.

The problems do not end there, however. On the other side of the food industry, the popularity and usage of online food delivery services have skyrocketed. It is quick and easy–a decision you don’t think twice about. Many of your fellow students indeed love to indulge in it. Many of us fall guilty. We completely understand why you would prefer eating out over having school lunch. However, from what we have seen personally, many who often order food delivery dislike giving tips. We understand you are a student, and your paycheck may depend on your parent’s wallet or your skimpy, hard-earned wages. You tell yourself, “it is no big deal. They probably make enough money.”

The average pay for an Uber Eats driver is about $14.50 per hour. You may think this is good pay, perhaps compared to your own. However, these drivers have plenty of overhead, including frequent gas stops and inconsistent workdays. Once you factor all that in, your Uber Eats driver may take little to nothing home. Some only do this as a side hustle, but for others, it may be all they have.

What we are genuinely trying to say in the end is, be sure to tip your server or driver. They work hard so you can enjoy your meal.