Cook V. Waitress

Who has it worse?

The rivalry between cooks and waitresses started the first time a caveman cook asked a caveman server to bring food to someone. If cooks and servers could agree that both have difficult jobs, both are underpaid and overworked, both work long hours and both of their feet hurt equally, the debate would have never been started.

Alas, they can’t agree, nor will they. Nor will The Sober Sous Chef. There are equal points to be made for both. The cook will always say he is the superior restaurant worker, and the lesser appreciated, and the server will echo, ten-fold, the same about herself.

Here’s why no one will ever take the cook’s side:

  • He’s a jerk. Generally speaking, of course, he failed to learn that you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. He lashes out over seemingly simple things. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to re-plate, or re-fire a steak that was rung in wrong, or that the guest doesn’t understand how to order. It is a big deal, especially in the middle of a busy period, and he makes sure everyone knows what a big deal it is.
  • He keeps a running tally of the server’s errors in his mind, of which he is the absolute authority, and automatically multiplies each by three. If the server makes two mistakes, he will claim she made six. It’s how his mind works. He isn’t good at math, hence his constant complaining about not making enough money. He knew what he signed up for, and if he had any other skills he would likely be doing something else. Those skipped math classes come back to haunt the cook, in more ways than one.
  • The best argument to be made for the cook is the disproportionate pay between him and the server. Customers generally pay better than employers. Servers only make about $3 per hour in Massachusetts, but the customer usually tips about twenty percent. A good server will leave a busy shift with about one-hundred dollars more than a good cook. On a slow day, however, the server may get sent home penniless.
  • Often times the cook controls the server’s tips. A poorly run kitchen will have long ticket times and the server suffers. What if the shoe were on the other foot? What if the speed of the server getting drinks for her customers was directly related to the cook’s pay? How would that go over in the kitchen?
  • Ultimately, though, the cook will lose the debate for this most simple of reasons: There are ten good, well spoken servers for every one qualified cook. That cook is stuck with a bunch of bozos trying to fix every mistake, from the front and back of house, and doesn’t have time to get caught up in the fray. The other, lousy cooks, will argue the point till they’re blue in the face, in an effort to hide the fact that they aren’t cut out for cooking.

Here’s why no one will ever take the server’s side:

  • Servers don’t have each others side. They are constantly bickering with each other. They can’t stand in unison against the angry cook because they snicker when he lashes out at a server whom they are trying to get to quit. They will all but purposely sabotage her.
  • This could easily turn into a man vs. woman debate, so The Sober Sous Chef will leave to the reader’s imagination all of the nasty, conniving things women do to each other, in all settings in life. The restaurant is no exception.
  • And in no way does this imply that all servers are women, but the majority are—the floor (dining room) is dominated by women. That being said, the server complains too much. She complains about not making enough money one day, and then complains about being too busy to keep up the next. She complains that the food is taking too long at one point, and complains that the food came out too fast at another.
  • Her feet hurt at the end of a long shift. Considering six hours to be a long shift really bites at the ankles of the cook. Her “double-shift” is the cook’s normal shift. She doesn’t have the luxury of rubber mats to stand on, as does the cook, but she only has to endure it for about half the time of the cook. Remember, she will make almost twice as much money as the cook.
  • When the shift ends, the server’s clean up, or side-work, is a joke to the cook. The cook has to get on his hands and knees and scrub. He has a twenty-yard round-trip walk to turn off the equipment, which he does a half-dozen times—obsessively—before he can leave knowing the building could burn down if he doesn’t. If the server skips a job on her list, for a week or two consecutively, the consequence might be a fruit fly or two—and a lot of bickering over who’s turn it is to do it.

Finally, the argument usually comes down to this:

The Server says, “But I have to deal with customers and cooks.”

“I have to deal with waitresses,” replies The Cook.

“But I have to deal with you,” says The Server.

And The Cook, “I’d rather deal with customers than you.”

Unfortunately, most cooks don’t ever get the chance to “deal with customers.” They ought to, just as servers ought to cook for a shift or two, and learn a little about each trade’s difficulties—and rewards.

Most restaurants are like families, and there will be fights among siblings, and even mom and dad. At the end of the day, though, they all love each other. They can be bitter rivals throughout the shift and then close down the after party together. Whether it’s just a job, or a career, all would be advised to remember the other job is just as hard. Restaurant work is not for the faint of heart.

So, who’s got it worse? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

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7 thoughts on “Cook V. Waitress

  1. First off, a waitress is a female, and as alluded to in your argument the majority are females, however this should apply to make servers as well.
    Second, I think you will find that the average table server makes between 15 to 18 percent. They shoot for 20, and those who work in the restaurant business will leave this, but there’s a vast majority that will not. Also, many servers are required to tip out to bartenders, hosts, busers etc. Their tipout is usually on their sales, not how much they make. So if you have a $100 check, who leave you $15, and you have to tip out 3% of your sales, you’re now taking home a 12% tip.
    Next, sidework is not always easy for a server. Sure, stocking sugar packets and ketchup isn’t hard, but taking apart an expo line, melting the ice, and cleaning out ranch dressing that has been simmering under a sixpan for 10 hours doesn’t seem pleasant. Also, I would like to see how you feel to be forced to roll 80 rolls of silverware after completing your “difficult sidework”.
    Lastly, I’ve cooked. I hated it. I was hot and crowded and sweaty. I do not envy it at all. However, I don’t think you can say either side has it harder or easier. It takes a certain type of person to do each job and I have seen many fail at both.
    Good article, but we will never agree.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve been in both positions – cooking and serving, and I do have to say that cooks do have the better position. Granted, if it’s about salary, I agree – waitresses and waiters will always make more if they’re good at their job. However, dealing with the public and their food (especially in today’s “everything on the side, with zero calories and a soda” culture) is very difficult, and being so accommodating while keeping a smile is exhausting.
    I’m also not sure where waitresses work 6-hour shifts but I would have liked to have worked at that place during college. I would serve from 5:30 until 3AM when our kitchen closed – the same shift as the cooks.
    I do think servers have it a bit tougher, but that also depends on the establishment, of course. Regardless, neither job is easy and I wish the public would consider that the next time they choose to eat out! I know after having done both jobs, I certainly do.
    Thanks for this post! It brought back a lot of funny memories from that job!
    Good luck with your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Butts in Chairs—Cover Counts, Speedy Service and The Closing-time Guest | The Sober Sous Chef

  4. I waited tables for years and you make good points about both sides of the pass-through. Though in the places I worked, the cook always had the upper hand because management would always side with them. The attitude seemed to be it was much easier to replace a waitress than a cook (and maybe that was true). So consequently, many of the cooks I worked with acted like little kings who had control over whether you had a good night or a bad night.

    Also, you other commenter made a good point about the tips. Waitresses are required to tip out to bus boys, bartenders and sometimes even cashiers. In my experience that ended up being about 20% of my tips. However, I had to declare all my tips on my taxes, even the money I had to tip out. So in terms of pay, it might be closer than you think.

    That being said, a cook does have it tough – it’s hot, crowded and difficult. Especially if you have an incompetent wheel man and/or expediter.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As a cook, there are three things that any server can do that I absolutely loathe . 1. Hang a ticket and not tell me. ( When I’m around the corner doing prep. 2. Blame their forgetfulness on the cook when they knew we were out of something. 3. Hold their tickets and then blame the cook for being slow.

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  6. As a cook there are four things that any server can do that will make me very angry.
    1. If I’m around the corner doing prep, the server sneaks a ticket on the rack and doesn’t tell me I have an order.
    2. The server holds multiple tickets to make it more convenient for them, when in reality, the customer is very angry they don’t have their food because the server didn’t turn in their ticket for 10 minutes.
    3. The server doesn’t write the table number on any tickets so I do not know which tickets are eating together.
    4. The server knows we are out of something but lies to the customer and tells them the cook didn’t let them know, when in reality, they had been told over and over. Just didn’t want to get the blame

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  7. I think that both have it hard, but where as I work 8-10 hour shifts, most servers I know work 4-6. I also have waitressed and even though dealing with the people sucks, they still get more breaks than most cooks do. I don’t normally take any breaks unless we are dead, but servers have mini breaks all the time. They will have just taken out the food, and they get a 10 min break while the customer eats. Cooks send out the food, clean the food prep surface, then restock all the prep tables . Both jobs are hard, but in my opinion being a cook has more difficulties. Especially since where I work cooks and servers make almost the same wage….50 cent difference.

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