The median hourly wage (including tips) of waiters and waitresses was $8.81 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.54, and the top 10 percent earned more than $14.41.
Many waiters and waitresses get their earnings from a combination of hourly wages and customer tips. Earnings vary greatly with the type of establishment and region. For example, tips are generally much higher in upscale restaurants in major metropolitan areas and resorts.
Many entry-level or inexperienced workers earn the federal minimum wage. However, many others earn more per hour because they work in states that set minimum wages higher than the federal minimum.
Also, various exceptions to the minimum wage apply under specific circumstances to disabled workers, full-time students, youths under age 20 in their first 90 days of employment, tipped employees, and student learners. Tipped employees are those who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the employer may consider tips as part of wages, but the employer must pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages.
The majority of waiters and waitress work part time, and many work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. This is especially true for those who work in full-service restaurants, which employ 76 percent of all waiters and waitresses.
Those who work in resorts are normally employed by the resort for only a few months each year.
Many employers provide free meals and furnish uniforms, but some may deduct from wages the cost, or fair value, of any meals or lodging provided. Waiters and waitresses who work full time often receive typical benefits, but part-time workers usually do not.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition