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Quick facts

When is it?
Every May 16th
What's the official website?
nationalwaitersday.com
Tagged as
What are the hashtags?
Who founded it?
Fred Sirieix

Anybody who has worked as a waiter or waitress for even a couple of days knows just how tough it can be. Basically, the job is never, ever done. Already took one table’s drink order and brought that family their food? Great, now it’s time to bring that booth full of noisy jocks their bill. Done that? Looks like that elderly couple would like a coffee refill, so don’t keep them waiting!

Done that? Good, because that lady over there who ordered a salad with the dressing separately got her salad doused in dressing and is demanding another one. And while back in the kitchen, why not bring the aforementioned family their desserts, because their children are crying that they want ice cream, not roast beef?

National Waitstaff Day is perhaps a long-overdue day during which everyone should all take a moment to show their appreciation for those who work long hours on their feet, often for minimum wage, just to feed the people of the world.

The History of National Waiters Day

The history of this day probably goes back further than expected, to the times in the 1600s when waitstaff started serving drinks in bars and taverns. Women and men would sometimes run pubs where food was served, but it was often the proprietor who also did the serving and cooking.

It wasn’t until the modern restaurant began (in 1820s in New York City) that the concept of “eating out” took its position. Originally, in these contexts, waitstaff were often men who wore white gloves and performed “silver service”. Eventually, in the US especially, students started taking on the roles of waiters and waitresses as a part time job, especially in the mid 1900s when casual diners became more common.

National Waiters Day in the UK was created by Fred Sirieix, the General Manager at Galvin at Windows, the Michelin-starred restaurant on the 28th floor of the London Hilton. Sirieix thought it was high time to celebrate all such serving staff–from maître d’s in fine restaurants to Starbucks baristas, from diner waitresses to cocktail bar mixologists.

Fred Sirieix’s goal was to stop people who work as waiters, servers and more from being perceived as unskilled and instead as hardworking people doing jobs that require many skills and can lead to rewarding careers. Although the UK’s National Waiters Day has gone a bit silent in lieu of National Waitstaff Day, it still deserves a nod.

National Waiters Day Timeline

1620s

First waitresses work in taverns 

With the original purpose of serving alcoholic beverages to patrons, the first waitresses work in taverns and pubs. Previously, drinks and food were served by the proprietor.[1]

1850s

Wealthy Americans begin tipping 

Picking up the idea of the tradition from as far back as medieval times, Americans may have brought back the custom from European vacations where they would tip porters and other servers.[2]

1870s

The Harvey Girls make their mark 

Independent and intelligent young women are hired by Fred Harvey to work as waitresses at depot stops along the train lines in the western United States.[3]

1991

Minimum wage for waiters’ is set at $2.13 

The minimum wage for tipped employees in the US used to be 1/2 of the standard minimum wage. When it is changed to $2.13, legislation passes for it to stay there.[4]

2005

Waiting is released in theaters 

This independent comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Anna Farris is based on a true story that was written by Rob McKittrick while he worked as a waiter.[5]

How to Celebrate National Waiters Day

Observing National Waitstaff Day means appreciating others in a kind and generous manner. Try out some of these ideas for celebrating the day:

Treat a Waiter or Waitress Kindly

For those who are not a waiter or waitress, a bartender or barista, or anything of the sort, today is a great time to try to be extra nice to the people who bring you your food and drinks. While there is nothing wrong with asking for extra napkins or a straw when needed, if a waiter or waitress is obviously very busy, it might be necessary to be patient if they are slow to bring it. And don’t forget to thank them for their service!

Learn How to Tip Properly

One of the most important things to consider for National Waitstaff Day is how to tip appropriately for the times and the location. Some tipping standards depend on culture, but more and more cultures are learning to embrace the idea of the tip.

Few things are more frustrating for a waiter or waitress who has spent hours making sure you have everything you need and smiling despite aching feet than the customer failing to leave even a tip. This is especially true when the meal itself is quite expensive!

The average tip should be between 15% and 20%, with anything below that seeming rude towards the server. It’s true that the standard used to be something more along the lines of 10%, but this has changed over time and it’s important to keep up with modernity.

Learn More About Waiters and Waitresses

The legal protection for servers, bartenders and others in the restaurant industry in the United States is actually fairly questionable. It’s a fairly antiquated and grueling system that does not compare to the protection of other industry.

While most businesses are required to give their employees a paid 10-15 minute break every 4 hours and at least a 30 minute lunch break for every 6-8 hours worked, this is not the case in restaurants, where many servers work long days with double shifts and few breaks.

In addition, most American businesses must pay a federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but this is only $2.13 per hour for waiters and waitresses because the assumption is that they will make up for it with tips. It has remained the same since 1991.

So, the next time a waiter or waitress seems a bit sad, tired or a bit slow at dinnertime, especially on National Waitstaff Day, perhaps try to be kind and remember that it is understandable – because they may have been working since breakfast with very little rest or time to eat their own meals!

Treat Yourself!

For those who are a waiter or waitress yourself, this is the perfect day for you to take a long break from work and just treat yourself–you deserve it! So think of something you’ve been wanting to do for a while, and finally get around to doing it on National Waitstaff Day.

Have you been dreaming about a day full of massages and scented candles at the spa? Schedule an appointment and get ready to relax like you haven’t in ages! Has it been ages since you’ve been hiking or just spent the day on the beach with a book, listening to the waves and sipping hot tea out of a thermos?

Or maybe you just want to see the roles reversed by going to a nice restaurant with your significant other, and spending an evening enjoying the food, the service, and the atmosphere? However you decide to treat yourself, remember that being a happier person will make you even better at your job. All the more reason to go out and have some fun!

Commit to Kindness

Another way to celebrate National Waitstaff Day for those who aren’t in a serving profession would be to promise yourself to always be as nice as you can to your waiter or waitress – this may not seem like much, but after a long, busy day, a smile and a thank you can really go a long way.

National Waiters Day FAQs

How much do waiters make an hour?

In the United States, the federal minimum wage is $2.13 per hour plus tips. The restaurant must compensate if the server does not earn tips that reach up to the standard minimum wage per hour on average.[1]

How much should you tip waiters?

A standard tip for a waiter or waitress is 15-20% of the pre-tax bill.[2]

Can waiters make good money?

It depends on the type of restaurant and the location, but some servers make a good living while others do not even earn a ‘living wage’.[3]

Do waiters share tips?

While most waitstaff get to keep most of their tips, sometimes they are required to share  a certain portion of tips with bussers or other staff who are not usually tipped.[4]

Do waiters have to pay taxes on tips?

Yes. Waiters and waitresses are required to report the cash tips they make and then pay taxes on them as normal income.[5]

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