Students In Food Service: Balancing Work And School

Being a self-sustaining student can be difficult, especially in an area as expensive as Los Angeles. From the price of food to the price of rent, there aren't many things that are considered cheap in the Southern California area. On top of that, there aren't many high paying jobs out there for young students with little to no work experience. And what about the hours? Most classes meet during the daytime, during the same hours that most businesses operate. But there is a solution, a very common solution that many students choose: the food service industry.

With a myriad of options in different jobs, hours and types of restaurants one can work at, there is no question as to why so many people use this booming industry as a way to generate income on many different levels. There is a huge population of students in Los Angeles that are supplied with jobs by the restaurant business, as well as people who have already made it through college, have day jobs and wait tables at night to get a little extra cash on the side to give themselves more monetary flexibility.

One appealing position in the restaurant that is fairly simple and requires little to no experience is the title of line cook. Probably one of the more stable jobs in a restaurant, line cooks in Los Angeles make an average salary between $20,000 and $30,000 annually, plus benefits in many cases. Line cooks also have perhaps the steadiest income because their pay relies very little on tips, unlike your average server or a bartender. Also, like many other jobs in the restaurant there is almost always room for promotion from the bottom in line cooks since they are taught on the job. Many restaurants also provide their staff with benefits, such as health insurance, dental insurance or a 401k plan. And while benefits are usually seen mostly in chain restaurants, it is by no means rare to see a privately owned and operated restaurant offer benefits to their employees.

If cooking isn't for you, however, there are tons of "front of the house" jobs in any restaurant as well. Bussers are always needed in a restaurant, and while this is also a job that relies primarily on salary wages, bussers are also "tipped out" in the majority of restaurants by the servers and bartenders; that is to say that at the end of the night when a server is finished working, they give a percentage of their tips (that varies from restaurant to restaurant) to their bussers. The position of busser, while it can be made into a high paying job if you do it well and for a long enough period of time, is additionally a good way for people to get their foot in the door at a restaurant and eventually make their way up to waiting tables or even bartending.

There is also the job of the host/ hostess. Like the busser, this is another job that relies heavily on salary but is still often tipped out by the servers. Hosts and hostesses have possibly one of the most undesirable positions in the restaurant, because although they usually do not have to deal with the collection of the customer's refuse like the bussers, hosts/ hostesses have to deal with the initial interaction of customer and restaurant, which can often times be a nasty one. Again, like the busser, a host/ hostess position is a good way for one to get their foot in the door for a more lucrative position in any given restaurant. The average salary for bussers and hosts in the Los Angeles area is between $14,000 - $20,000 annually, and can also receive benefits to make up for a lower paying job.

Then there is the position of server. It is the server's job to have personal interaction with and ensure the happiness of his or her guests. Being a server is an excellent job for students, as it pays very well for the hours put in. In theory, one can be a full time student, going to school five days a week and also have a full time serving job working five nights a week, furthering one's education while still having a job and living comfortably. Servers in Los Angeles have a very wide variety of average income due mainly to the fact that every establishment is different. For example you could be a server working in a nice steakhouse, and take care of only six tables a night, but still make close to $300 if each of those tables has a large bill and tips you well. At the same time, you could be a server in a diner and take care of 15 tables in a night and make only $100 if those 15 tables kept their tabs below $30 and were less than gracious when it came time to tip. This is why the job of server can be either a way to make extra income, or a well-paying career if so desired.

And of course who can forget everyone's best friend, the bartender. Bartenders, like servers, have a wide variety of incomes due to the wide range of atmospheres that bars exist in, especially in Los Angeles. However, as a general statement, if a restaurant has a bar, the bartenders usually do monetarily better than the servers, as they have their bar to take care of, not to mention the fact that they make everyone's drinks, calling for yet another tip out from the servers on the floor. Additionally, there are many types of bars. Restaurant bars, dive bars, hotel lobby bars and the bars at your favorite clubs in Hollywood all need to be manned, and it is the bartenders job to make sure that everyone in his/ her area has a drink in hand, or in some cases, making sure that a person gets no more drinks, as over service (serving someone who is noticeably past the point of intoxication) is a fineable offense in California.

So regardless of your major, look to the food service industry the next time you are job searching. With good pay and flexible hours, it is easy to find the position you are looking for as well as the pay you need, especially in a busy metropolis like Los Angeles.

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