by Kris Mason
You get paid for the problems that you solve. I was told that by an old boss in relation to my dislike for cleaning the public restrooms at my first job. He said, “It’s a minimum wage task; and you are a minimum wage employee.” After that, I applied it to everything at work and it held up to be fairly true. Ultimately, it was a far better answer than, “Shut up and clean the bathrooms,” because it still applies to how I look at business today.
When I hear somebody say that CEOs of major companies shouldn’t make as much money as they do, I believe that they realistically get paid for the problems that they solve. If all your decisions end up where the proverbial buck stops, that’s probably worth a few million dollars to steer a ship that large.
Like any professional coach, if you have a losing season and you can guarantee that you will be looking for a position with another team next year; as for the CEO, have a losing year or even a bad third quarter and you’re out. Winning coaches make loads of cash too by the way.
So, what does that have to do with being a waiter?
You get paid for the problems that you solve. A greeter says hi and seats the table. A manager may or may not swing by your table to check on them. The same person that said hello says goodbye. Everything else in between hello and goodbye is on you.
I’m not saying that from my stand point, “It’s all about you.” I’m saying that from the guest’s perspective, “It is all about you.” Who handles everything? You do. Who is blamed if it’s too cold or the music is too loud? You are. Who is blamed if the food is taking too long or isn’t cooked properly? You are. In addition to all the things that you do control, like taking the order, bringing the drinks, refilling, delivering the food, presenting the check and cashing out, you are saddled with dozens of things over which you have no direct control.
A CEO can’t control whether a hundred year blizzard keeps people from going out shopping during the crucial holiday season; but if sales are down and stockholders lose money, it’s on him. You are the CEO. You are the Head Coach. You are the Ambassador of the restaurant. You are directly getting paid for the problems you solve.
The waiter that complains about only ever getting tipped 10% or worse isn’t solving enough problems. Great business people never blame the weather for a bad quarter. Great coaches don’t complain about bad calls from the ref. Great waiters handle things. Great waiters always earn more money no matter where they work, regardless of what station they end up in. Great waiters solve more problems.
"They hated us because we out earned them, in half the time. It even seemed as though we enjoyed ourselves doing it."
In most cases, the servers in the restaurant will earn more than most (if not all) of the management team. This is where job title and perception don’t line up with income and wages. That is a huge disparity that I can only explain with the adage, “You get paid for the problems you solve.” Granted, from the overall business standpoint, managers earn salaries in a range from 25K to 35K, and the wait staff is paid “minimum wage.” But once you add in a server’s tips, it’s not even a close race (when comparing two full time incomes).
I stopped waiting tables once to take on what was perceived by my friends and family as the responsible thing do and I took on a management roll at the restaurant where I worked. Although it gave me a fresh look at the day to day business side of the restaurant, it was the most miserable year and a half of my life.
There I was, the responsible adult with a job title, watching high school and college students earn more than me while only working half the hours that I was expected to work. I no longer interacted with the guests because of the massive (and by my observation, useless) paperwork, busywork and emails that were required at the management level. It had little or nothing to do with how the people spending money at the restaurant were making their decisions or how they were being encouraged or discouraged to return.
It was a valuable lesson. I finally understood why all my managers seemed like they hated their wait staff at such a core level. They didn’t hate us because we were needy and interrupted them while they were trying to get their checklists properly filled out; they hated us because we out earned them, in half the time. It even seemed as though we enjoyed ourselves doing it, something I never did when I was in charge.
It’s not that I think of myself as more important than management, it’s that my manager’s bosses and their bosses have never had to pay me $25 to $30 dollars per hour to do my job. They feel that my $2 per hour is what reduces my importance to the “People in Charge.” When you’re 50 years old, would you be more comfortable telling people that you managed a $1.5 million a year restaurant or that you waited tables for a living?
My decision to go back to waiting tables was the best thing I ever did for me and my family. The perception of my importance was far outweighed by how much money I could put in the bank each week. Whether you wait tables as a part time thing to get you through school, as a second job to cover some bills or as a full time career choice, waiting tables is lucrative.
There have been studies that show incentive based pay (tips, commissions, etc.) doesn’t improve quality of service. This has never been my experience. It has always been an effort based return in my eyes. I have always known that I was getting paid for the problems I solved.
Nobody ever says, "I had such a great dinning experience last week… all because a nice high school girl that sat us at our table and a lovely manager who asked, 'Is everything okay here,' as he whizzed by the table, seemingly disinterested." It's all about you. So take on the positive mentality of the CEO or the mindset of the winning coach.
Solve more problems; make more money.
I do Waiter Boot Camps at your restaurant. Contact me to schedule a meeting. 480-600-6973