High-end -- or upscale -- restaurant waiters work at some of the most exclusive establishments in their respective cities, so they're expected to know the menus, interact with customers and provide stellar customer service. After reciting the main menu items, they often spend more time describing food selections, as people are less familiar with many of the delicacies. High-end waiters serve the foods, keep the drinks and bread plates filled and suggest the best desserts. Their income can vary widely by experience and geographic area.
Most high-end waiters have at least a high school diploma, but some may attend trade schools or restaurant academies sponsored by specific restaurant associations, including the National Restaurant Association. Upscale restaurants also often run comprehensive training programs for these waiters, instructing them on interacting with customers, suggestive selling and resolving complaints. Other essential qualifications for this job are a neat appearance, physical stamina and listening, speaking, team-working and customer service skills.
The average annual income for a high-end waiter, including tips, was $35,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Indeed. Some high-end restaurants, such as Sushi Yasuda in New York, pay their waiters higher salaries, according to ABC News. Most high-end waiters, however, earn closer to the minimum wage for employees who receive tips, according to the U.S. Department of Labor -- $2.13 per hour. While tips can vary according to state minimum wage laws, high-end waiters still earn the bulk of their incomes with tips.
In 2013, average incomes for high-end restaurant waiters varied the most within the West region, according to Indeed, where they earned the lowest incomes in Hawaii and highest in California -- $23,000 and $38,000, respectively. Those in the Northeast made $30,000 and $43,000 per year in Maine and New York, respectively. If you worked as a high-end waiter in Louisiana or Washington, D.C., you'd earn $30,000 or $42,000, which were the highest earnings in the South region. In the Midwest, you'd make the most in Illinois or least in Nebraska or South Dakota at $39,000 and $26,000, respectively.
High-end waiters likely earn more in high-profile restaurants that draw bigger crowds: Jean Georges in New York City, Moto in Chicago and Manresa in Los Gatos, California. These waiters may earn more in tips in upscale restaurants because of the bigger crowds and higher prices. High-end waiters also earn more as they gain experience; they get to know the best customers over time, address them by their names and suggest entrees they are most likely to want. Even if they don't know customers, experienced high-end waiters are more knowledgeable about the menus and can suggest menu items based on customers' preferences.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics only predicts a 9-percent increase in employment for waiters and waitresses, including high-end waiters, from 2010 to 2020, which is slower than average. Jobs for high-end waiters are usually contingent on the economy, as people tend to eat out more when they are gainfully employed and have more disposable income. Job opportunities for all waiters may also be tempered by increases in take-out and "ready-to-eat" foods, as more people patronize grocery stores for meals.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Waiter or Waitress
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Waiters and Waitresses: Job Outlook
- The Reluctant Gourmet: Where Do Waiters Go to School
- U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division: Tipped Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
- Indeed: Upscale Restaurant Waiter Salary
- ABC News: Upscale Restaurant Gets Rid of Tips, Pays Wait Staff Reasonable Wages With Benefits
- Indeed: Upscale Restaurant Waiter Salary in Maine, and New York
- Upscale Restaurant Waiter Salary in Hawaii, and California
- Indeed: Upscale Restaurant Waiter Salary in Louisiana, and Washington, DC
- Indeed: Upscale Restaurant Waiter Salary in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Illinois
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images