Americans — living the service industry dream?
Ellen is a writer and California native who works as a server to pay rent. She started out as an emergency bartender for a local art gallery in Oakland, and after falling in love with pouring drinks for party people, she took her newfound confidence to a high-end bar in San Francisco. But tiring of the city life, she took her skills to a place more inspiring.
“I work a rotating shift on the beautiful California coast now, and I get to bed at a reasonable hour,” said Ellen.
Our research found Californian patrons tip an average of 16.66 percent of their bill, and they ranked 13 on our list of best places to be a tipped worker. California requires employers to provide full state minimum wage, before tips, to every employee. Since most people base their tip on the total check and the quality of service, Ellen said it’s a game of efficiency, grace, and upselling.
“Being perfectly charming, upbeat, and timely in your service cycle is what gets you to that 20-percent average,” she explained.
It’s not incredibly common for patrons to leave big tips, but when it does happen, it makes a huge difference to workers like Ellen — a Facebook executive once handed her $200 after she “dazzled his employees” with her bartending skills. Despite this and despite the fact that Ellen is great at her job, every now and then she will work hard and find no tip at the table. That’s the risky reality of being a server.
In New York City, Matt commutes into Manhattan for work, where he’s the general manager for a large hospitality group. He’s been with the company for almost two and a half years and now makes a salary, and the industry has served him well.
Despite Fair Workweek laws passed in New York to improve scheduling for fast food employees, New Yorkers in service are still on the lower end of the list when it comes to tips and minimum wage. Residents tip an average of 17.14 percent on their bills, according to our data, and the state ranks 41st on our list of the best places to be a tipped worker. Although he’s not currently working for tips, Matt sees his customers as generous overall.
“I always received good tips when I was a server and bartender,” he said. “Even now, as a manager of a venue that has no tip jar, guests consistently try and tip me. When I worked the floor for tips in Boston and New York, I always received around 20 percent.”
New York, among other states, allows employers of tipped workers to practice “tip pooling,” where tips are pooled and divided between staff at the end of a shift. Employers in New York are required to pay minimum wage, but they are also allowed to take a tip credit, which is dependent on the size of the employer and what specific job duties the employee performs.