A few weeks ago our writer, Jennifer, talked to a waitress in New York who earned a six-figure salary which can be done without a university degree. In her words, I sat down with Katie last night, who was earning $100,000 salary. The high amount of money she was earning was also due to not paying taxes, which is why I´m only referring to her by her first name.
Q. How much were you paid at your first waitress job?
A. My very first waitressing job was at a jazz club where I earned about $55 a night. I started earning good money when I was a bartender at a nightclub in New York. Even though I was only working part-time there, I often made $400 a night or more, and I was only working part-time.
Q. How did you manage to get hired at the place where you earned the six-figure salary?
A. It’s a high-end hotel bar in New York where I always had wanted to work. I knew the manager for some reason, and he actually called for my roommate at the time inviting her for an interview. I told her, but she wasn´t interested in the job offer, so I turned up instead. There is a lot of competition in jobs like these, so I told them “You have to hire me and you won´t regret it. I´m a hard worker, and I really want this job.”
Q. Can you explain how you made $100,000 as a waitress and how much your actual salary was?
A. My actual salary was $10 an hour, but the rest were tips, which were between $4,000 and $6,000 a month. I sometimes even managed to make my rent in one shift. I wasn’t actually making $100,000 but as most of my income wasn´t taxed. The amount will total to a six-figure salary without considering the taxes. In my mother´s opinion being a waitress was ‘beneath me,’ as she had been a teacher for 25 years, but I made considerably more money than she did.
Q. How much did you declare and pay at tax time and did you ever get audited?
A. I declared my salary and about 10% of my tip revenue. Luckily I was never audited, but one of my friends was, who had to pay a fine of $10,000 for unpaid taxes. Auditors know we are earning more money in high-end places than we claim. I also had to pay off a hefty student loan in New York at that time which was why taxes weren’t so much of an issue for me. One of my regulars asked me one day, how much is left to pay off my student loan. I replied just a couple of, and I will be free in a month from my student loan debt. But he gave it to me in cash saying it was on him.
Q. I think you’re physically very attractive. Do you think you made a lot of tips due to your looks?
A. Not that much as I wasn’t the prettiest but I often made more than the rest of the team. The bartender, who was a 70-year-old man made the most tips for all of us.
Q. Why were you able to out-earn your coworkers? What´s the difference between an average server and one who earns $100,000?
A. I want to be amazing at something, and I wanted to earn a lot of money. It is really hard work serving a large crowd of demanding, high-end clients. Rich people often think they are entitled to order things which are even not on the menu. I spoilt them a lot. For example, if they wanted rosé and we didn’t have it? I called a neighboring hotel and got it for them or gave them free drinks if they had to wait too long for their food. At one point I had many regulars who requested being served by me which ensured good money in the form of tips.
Q. What key skills, in your opinion, helped you to thrive in such an environment?
A. I have the ability to read people, and I have a good memory. Despite bringing people their food, you also need to sharpen your experience in your job. Some people want to be entertained, some want to hear stories, and others only want quick service. You need to be able to read the customer to get it right. Usually, it's a challenge for many servers to identify and give the credit cards back after they paid the bill. But once I could pull it off because I was assessing which name they looked like and you can imagine how impressed they were. Everyone likes to be remembered, and people appreciate it if you can remember what they ordered or if you remember what they liked the next time they come in.
Q. What advice would you give people who are just starting their hospitality career in New York making a lucrative career out of it?
A. Give everything and be awesome at it. Treat every single customer like a king. Tipping depends on each person, but if you give everything, it gets noticed by many customers and will be rewarded. Networking is very important, and you should keep in touch with your coworkers and managers you meet whilst working in New York. Hospitality jobs have a high turn-over rate, so it becomes easier to find connections at the places you want to work.
Q. What are your best memories in the job?
A. I loved my coworkers with whom I had the funniest times at work. Even though it was often very stressful, we always had a lot of laughs.
Q. What did you like the least about the work?
A. When a client got upset or when I failed to make them happy. Once I got into an argument with Russell Crowe and ever since I refuse to watch his movies.
Q. Which other celebrities did you meet?
A. I served Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie met Tom Jones in the elevator and met several former prime ministers. I was even proposed to a dictator’s son. I think the most famous table I served was probably Bono and The Edge having drinks with Eddie Vedder.
Q. Can you give us any ‘tips’ on how to earn higher tips?
A. Be on it and try to fulfill the needs of every single customer the best you can. Figure out what they want and how they want it to provide it. It´s also a matter of experience, attitude and the kind of show you offer them.
To excel in Hospitality, you really need to like being around people and pleasing them. Without a genuine desire and going that extra mile, one can not thrive. And once you go that extra mile, people will reward for that.