UnderCover Waitress: Hunger and Waitresses

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hunger and Waitresses

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Discussion of food service jobs on a forum I frequent included this comment by one participant: "The good thing about food service is you never go hungry." I beg to differ.

In the world of low-wage waitressing, Ehrenreich in Nickel and Dimed introduces us to "Gail," a full-time waitress who lives in her truck. The money she makes is not going toward square meals; the poor woman is barely getting by. The hostess at that restaurant also lives in her vehicle, and showers in the motel room/home of another waitress. These people were hungry.

Coffee shop laborers and fast-food laborers may get to bring home stale items that are no longer able to be sold. Depending upon where a person works, she may be allowed more to eat by a more generous manager.

Even in the world of well-paid waitressing, some restaurants are less generous than others and wait staff may go hungry. Some have staff meals, but some don't. Some allow employees a discount that they may or may not be able to afford.

I remember serving a Mother's Day brunch and a happy patron asked me, "Oooh, have you eaten yet?" I smiled and told her I had not. I didn't tell her that my employer had no intention of allowing me to.

I am not saying that every restaurant must provide employees with three course meals. But never assume: just because one works around food does not mean she is not hungry.


  1. i think people think that servers and other restaurant staff graze and eat whatever is just sitting around. what they don't realize is that is called theft(at worst) and just disgusting (when taken off a plate that's in the window (at best))

  2. I've worked at places where you can buy staff food at discounted prices (but sweet talking the chefs would get you extra fries etc) and now I work for a place that feeds me for FREE, it's amazing!!!! 1 meal per shift, the average shift is 4hrs so if I work a split that's lunch AND dinner. As long as we don't take the piss and ring it through properly, we're fine. The management LOVE us eating restaurant food, so we can recommend it to guests. I am very very lucky.

  3. That's excellent, Maxi! I've always thought it made good business sense for owners to let wait staff try anything because then we can describe it to customers. That's great that you are working for somebody who treats you so well in this way.

  4. During half of my shift, I'm usually starving. I eat before work, but the 1 hour commute to work, then the constantly movement gets my appetite going. I don't always get a break if I work under 6 hours. 6 hours is a long time when you're burning calories being on your feet. Sometimes I get my 30 minute unpaid break 1 hour into my shift, meaning if I work 6-8 hours, I'm going to be STARVING before my shift ends. That 30 minute break doesn't allow me to get food elsewhere and bringing my own meals to work isn't appealing considered it would be stored in the smelly locker room. We have no employee fridge or microwave either, so it's PB&J, pretty much. Servers get 50% off, meaning I pay a minimum of $5 for my meal, usually 8-10, even for lunch.

    I've been told by so many people "Just demand that you take your required 10 minute breaks." I can't. If the restaurant is full, there's no one to cover my section.

    One last thing is sometimes I don't have time for breakfast in the morning. It's not uncommon for me to close (not get off until between 1 and 2:30), then work the next morning. Sometimes I only get 5-6 hours of sleep between shifts. I once worked 4 shifts in a 48 hour period. If I'm rushing out the door, I might not eat because being late could make me lose my job. The other day I went almost 20 hours without any food, just a cup of coffee, because of my previous late night shift and the restaurant was too busy to give breaks before 3pm.

    People who haven't worked these jobs don't understand that. I love my job, but it has its downsides too. (Sorry that was long)


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