It is fairly common knowledge that salaries in the restaurant industry are not always the best. In addition, shifts are often long, hard on the body and take up the evenings and weekends when most others are off-the-clock. But why do some positions earn significantly more than others, even if the tasks can be equality demanding? We’re here to sort it all out.

As a server in the restaurant industry, your work is often going to be hard. You need to keep track of new guests, know the menu inside out and backwards, bring food and drink to your guests and even clear tables, all with a smile on your face for 11 hour, sometimes without a break. Sitting down or taking a walk in your “spare moments” isn’t likely. At the same time, you are likely earning less than the cook standing in the kitchen preparing asparagus or the bartender, shaking cocktails a few hours every Friday and Saturday. Why is this?

Jobs with more responsibility demand higher pay

Many restaurants in Sweden base their salaries on recommendations from HRF (Hotel and Restaurant Union). Working in Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö does not automatically mean that you will command higher wages. At the same time, larger cities often have more fine dining establishments, where you’ll find the “better” positions that do pay more , such as sous-chef or bar or kitchen manager. Managerial positions like these will most often receive a higher salary than the chef or bartender. More responsibility equals higher salary.

Base salary vs. OB vs. tips

One of the biggest factors in how much you earn is tips. In larger cities, it is possible for a server to earn more from tips than they do from their base salary—so relocating for work to find these higher paying positions is not uncommon.

In addition to the base salary and tips, OB compensation for working “inconvenient hours” can account for a decent portion of a server’s salary. The recommended amount for working evenings and weekends is just under 24 SEK per hour—a sum that barely corresponds to the hard work required for evening and weekend work.

The biggest raises go to 17 -21 year olds

If you want to receive the highest wage increases, it literally pays to be young: 17 to 21 year olds receive the biggest raises, especially those working in service. Much of this has to do with changes in what young people are allowed to do as they get older—being allowed to work longer hours or handling alcohol.

And, again, this is where responsibility pays off again. If, for example, you have completed training in responsible alcohol handling and/or are given responsibility for serving alcohol, you have a more responsible position in the restaurant, which often commands a higher wage.

Read more about salaries for younger adults on HRF’s web site!

Education makes more of a difference than experience

The biggest factor in increasing your salary isn’t linked to experience, location or even age. If you’ve worked as a server or chef in the same place for 20 years, you may know everything about the restaurant and your clientele—but if your areas of responsibility have not expanded, your salary probably has changed much either.

This is where education comes in. Restaurant and tourism programs at high school can give you a good foundation in the hospitality industry, while continuing education can expand your knowledge in areas such as personnel management, service and hospitality, entrepreneurship and business management. With these backgrounds, you are better positioned to get the jobs with more responsibility—and higher paycheques.

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate

Last but definitely not least, your salary can also be dependent on how well you have negotiated your level of pay. If your workplace has a collective agreement, then you already have a guaranteed minimum wage. But you can use your education, experience and new roles or areas of responsibility to negotiate for an even higher wage.