For the most part, the life of a server in a restaurant is thankless.
You spend long hours on your feet, juggling hot dishes and cold drinks while cranky customers and surly managers grate on your last nerve. When it comes time to punch out, you count your tips, only to find it's barely enough to pay the rent. No wonder why most people use the restaurant industry as a way-station to another career path.
There was a time when being a restaurant server was a noble profession. Waiters in dinner jackets and crisp white shirts took pride in offering diners the best experience possible. In return, the waiters were compensated handsomely, making enough to support an entire family. It wasn't rare for a waiter to retire from the establishment where he (or she) had worked all his or her life.
There are a few restaurants left where serving is both an art and a lucrative profession. One of them is Joe's Stone Crab. The restaurant, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is as famous for service as its stone crab claws.
On the cusp of its seasonal opening on October 15, the legendary restaurant is hiring a select few individuals.
On Monday, October 14, Joe's general manager Brian Johnson is conducting his annual search for three or four servers for the dining room. Before you get your resume together, you better be on your "A" game. "We usually get about 100 people applying for the few spots," Johnson said.
What attributes get one of the few coveted spots? "I look for personality and professionalism. You can't teach someone how to be pleasant to a customer."
Johnson also looks for some solid experience on a candidate's resume. "We don't have time to train someone from the start. A new server will spend five days trailing an experienced server on the floor. It's somewhat old school."
Are the rumors that a server at Joe's Stone Crab makes a six-figure salary during season true? Although Johnson wouldn't get into exact figures, he did say that "servers here do make a good living. They work hard, but the staff comes back year after year."
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Johnson should know. The general manager started at Joe's as a server in 1980 and has been GM at the restaurant for 16 years. And he doesn't have the most seniority by a long shot. "My most senior server on the floor started here in 1966," he tells us.
That's job security.