How Stressful is it to be a Server?

Server Life

How stressful is it being a server?

I recently read an article that scientifically measured job classifications based on how much control and how psychologically demanding each was. I think every diner everywhere should read and internalize the message of the article. It resonated with me personally and I think it will with you as well.

Here’s what it says: It’s more stressful to be a server than to be a neurosurgeon!

Not only does this legitimize our profession in many ways it also validates the sense of pride and integrity with which we conduct ourselves. For many of us, we have actually chosen to make a living turning tables.

Let’s be real, none of this is news to any of us! The fast pace, turn and burn, Friday night shift that makes you say “Whew! What. Was. That. ALLLL About! I can’t believe everyone made it out alive!” It is a known fact among servers that the worst service experiences for guests happen more often than not on slow shifts. No server does their best work with only one or two tables, we crave the fast pace, 10-things-to-do-next, high pressure nights that are sweet $$ for all involved.

There is so little we as wait staff can control on any given shift. We could have four tables spread out over two hours or we could get four tables in a half hour. The kitchen could be short staffed or a dishwasher could walk out mid-shift which creates a nightmare for serving the demanding guests we have sitting at our tables. You have probably also been a part of the Registers-Are-Down nights where you drag out the ol’ credit card manual swiper emergency kits and everyone starts handwriting all checks to kitchen and bar all while also handwriting the guests’ itemized bill, adding to subtotal, then taxes too!

Wait, what in the heck IS the tax rate here, anyway?

Let’s say, you are opening a bottle of white wine and can not find the sleeve to keep bottle chilled tableside, then both the white wine glasses you grab are nowhere near polished! (Why would they be?!?) Once you finally think your ducks are all in a row, you head to the table to open the bottle, only to realize you, yourself are missing a key component to any servers spec attire, your wine key!!

Meanwhile, for the 10 minutes it takes to get ready to serve and finally actually serve the bottle your other guests at table 12 whose entrees are nearly gone when you check back with them because they got their food 9 minutes ago and were starving vultures!

“Oh, sorry sir, you didn’t get your side of steamed asparagus with drawn butter on the side with your meal?”
“Your steak was well done when you requested medium.”

As you figure out what to do next with table 12, you can feel the searing stare table 6 is aiming in your general direction because they need their 3rd refills of diet coke. Then, of course, there is table 8 who have been waiting 5 minutes to pay for their meal.

The demands of restaurant guests can seem extremely petty, minor, and even ridiculous in every way, however we must make it our priority to integrate the level of service they expect into the needs and demands of many other guests, all at once.

Not only is your job stressful, you can’t show you are under any stress when interacting with guests. You — and ALL the best servers know this — are all really actors on a stage, playing the “role” of server!

We take care of every guest with a smile on our face and nothing but pleasantries coming out of our mouth (while we are on the floor anyway.)

I’m out of breath just typing this all!

But the bottom line is this.

THAT is why a server’s job is more stressful than a neurosurgeon.

You deserve applause for every shift you serve. Don’t you agree? Comment below.


P.S. By the way, if you’d like to read the article I referred to, above, you’ll find it here: