Local servers struggling to make ends meet in the service industry

By SHENA CRAWFORD

Servers, or waiters and waitresses, are paid a minimum wage of only $2.13 per hour. The law allows servers to be paid so little because a server’s wage is supposed to be made up of mostly cash tips, but what if patrons do not tip the server properly? Are servers really able to pay all of their expenses by just waiting tables at one restaurant?

Warren Pettis is a server at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, a high-volume restaurant in Marietta. Pettis has been waiting tables there for four years where he makes $2.13 per hour and cash tips.

“The ups are flexibility of the schedule and the money you make,” Pettis said. “You come home with straight cash every night so you can kind of plan your finances a lot better or if something comes up, you can always pick up a shift or two to handle that and other unexpected expenses.”

Unlike working in retail, a server’s wage depends directly on the customer he or she is serving. If a customer is upset, they might not tip the server. This would result in the server making less than minimum wage for the night.

Pettis claims that, on a weeknight, he brings home $130 in cash tips while working a normal five-hour shift. On an eight-hour weekend shift, he brings home $250-$300.

Pettis says he can pay all of his expenses by just waiting tables at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen.

Sherita McCormick has a much different experience than Pettis. McCormick works at Benihaha, at a high volume location.

“The most I have ever made there is $100”  said McCormick, working the same eight-hour weekend shift as Pettis.

On January 1, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service declared that restaurants could longer add automatic gratuity to guests with a party of six or more people.  The IRS has stated that gratuities, which are automatically added to a restaurant bill, will be considered service charges rather than tips for Federal Income Contributions Act, or FICA, tax purposes. Restaurant owners will need to treat them as wages. If a server’s cash-based tips do not meet at least the required normal minimum wage of $7.25 a hour, then the restaurant will make up the difference in tips by paying the server the normal minimum wage, in which taxes are taken out of.

This ruling has negatively affected some servers such as McCormick.

“At my restaurant, we get a lot of parties,” she said. “Since gratuity is no longer required, we often get stiffed a lot on tips. I can’t even pay my bills. ”

In other countries, such as Italy and France, tipping is unnecessary because the tip is included into the bill. In the United States, a server’s pay is dependent on patrons of a restaurant. Many people argue that incorporating the server’s tip into the bill would make the price of the meals at restaurants higher and result in a lower volume of customers. According to the Department of Labor, Georgia is among the 21 states that pay tip-based employees the lowest minimum wage.

It might be time for the state to raise the minimum wage for tipped-base employees in order to assist the inequality of pay for men and women in the service industry.

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