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If you've never worked at a bar before, there are typically set hours in which servers, hostess, bartenders, and runners will work. The hours that the kitchen is open, are the hours that those jobs will have the shifts available, besides bartenders. Doesn't seem like a lot does it? On top of that, imagine being paid $7.50/hr, plus tips to serve for possibly only two hours or so, before you're cut for the day. There's no secret formula to figure out when it will be busy either, even if your restaurant is running a special.
For bottle girls or bartenders who are working at night, the restaurant is shifted into a bar usually at 10 PM, when the kitchen closes (or whatever time the kitchen of that particular restaurant closes). This night will not end until even after last call at two AM in most states. Staff will still be staying past hours to help clean up for the opening crew the following day. Hopefully during that 10 PM-4 AM shift you made good tips so it's all worth it.
Servers know all too well that they are paid too little for the work that they do. Running back and forth from the kitchen to the tables, getting drinks, taking orders etc. Assuming you've all been to a restaurant, you know the drill. Servers are paid a whopping $7.50 an hour, while bartenders range anywhere from $9, to minimum wage. Keep in mind that minimum wage is different in every state, as well as the pay for each bar could differ, this is just a majority of bars.
Bottle girls... you guys have it good. While the hours may not be the best, you're definitely getting compensated for the work that you're doing. Bottle girls sometimes are paid server wage with tips, or some bars only allow them to collect tips, which doesn't sound legal, but that's their business.
What do you do?
As a server, you're taking care of guests as they arrive. Seating them, and going through your rotation of the other severs that are on the clock. There are many times that you're sitting around, because no one wants to come in. It's great when there's an event nearby, or if you're near a college, because there's typically a steady flow of people coming in to dine or drink. Some management are more strict with a no phone policy, no sitting, or you always have to be doing something. However, most of the time, the management staff knows that there is nothing to do, and can't help, but empathize with your boredom.
At 10 PM the bottle girls will get ready for the night, the bartenders will set up their stations, and the crowd will start flowing in. Throughout the night the bottle girls are running back and forth getting bottles for their tables from the back, and trying to rack that tab up at high as she can to get that tip. Bottle girls are primarily tipped 20 percent of whatever that table spent throughout the night.
Bartenders sit back, and relax until an order rolls in. They're happiest when there's a large group that comes in ready to have some drinks. Other than that, they're just a bored as the servers.
But... is it fun?
There's many people that enjoy serving, and don't mind the down time. If you're someone who likes the calm before the storm then this might just be the job for you. And of course, every location is different, so don't think that because this is based on a few bars in a particular location that they're all the same. As long as you can make friends on the job, and entertain yourself, you're good to go!