What is the Average Server Salary? Learn How Much A Waiter Makes Without Tips

10 Minutes Read

What's the Tipped Minimum Wage for Restaurant Employees in 2024 and How Much Does a Server Make per Hour Without Tips?



Did you know that a server, waitress, or waiter is a vital member of the restaurant's front-of-house team, responsible for ensuring guests have a memorable dining experience?

According to the US Department of Labor, the average pre-tip hourly wage for waiters and waitresses is $2.13 but many states have higher minimum wages.  makes But, what is the average server salary in your state for 2024, and how much do servers gain as they get tips? This article explores into the details, providing valuable insights for restaurant business owners.

What Factors Influence the Average Server Salary?

Base Salary

The base salary, or minimum cash wage, for tipped employees varies by region. While the federal minimum wage is $ 2.13 per hour, states like California have higher minimum wages. This ensures servers earn more than the federal baseline.


Tips form a substantial part of a server's income. Servers receive tips based on clientele, service quality, and average bill size. Fine dining establishments usually generate more tips than casual dining.

Employers must pay employees a combined total of the cash wage and tips to reach the applicable minimum wage of at least $ 7.25 per hour. If employees don’t earn enough tips to meet the minimum wage rate, the employer must make up the difference.

For example, in Oklahoma's tipped minimum wage by state, servers rely heavily on tips to reach their overall earnings.

Bonuses and Incentives

Some employers offer bonuses and incentives based on performance metrics, such as sales targets or customer feedback. This can include overtime pay or rewards for high customer satisfaction.

For instance, a server who customarily and regularly receives positive reviews may receive additional bonuses, ensuring they earn above the minimum wage.

How Does Location Impact Server Salaries?

Urban vs. Rural Areas

Servers in urban areas generally earn more due to higher living costs and increased customer volume. Cities like New York and San Francisco have higher state minimum wage rates, pushing the minimum wage for tipped employees higher. Consequently, servers in these areas can expect more in tips and overall wages.

Regional Variations

Salaries for tipped workers vary widely across the U.S. States like California and New York have higher tipped minimum wage rates compared to states in the Midwest or South.

For example, California’s tipped minimum wage rate ensures servers earn the state minimum wage before tips, while states like Oklahoma adhere to the federal minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. In regions with lower minimum wage rates, servers rely more heavily on tips to reach their overall earnings.

State Tipped Minimum Wage Rates

The state tipped minimum wage rates vary, with some states setting higher tipped minimum wages than the federal rate. Employers can claim a maximum tip credit up to $ 5.12 per hour against the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

But, if employees don’t earn enough tips, the employer must compensate the difference to meet the applicable minimum wage. The following states require employers to pay a higher tipped minimum wage: California, New York, and Massachusetts.

How Does Experience Affect a Server’s Salary?

Entry-Level Servers

Entry-level servers start at the minimum wage for tipped employees, which is $2.13 per hour under federal law. Including tips, they generally earn an annual income ranging from $20,000 to $25,000. These servers receive tips that must be paid by customers and reported to the employer.

Employers withhold taxes like social security and Medicare from these tipped wages. According to the Department of Labor, the combined wages and tips should at least reach the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. If the employee’s tipped wages don’t meet this, the employer must make up the difference.

Further reading: How to Calculate Your Restaurant Labor Cost Percentage

Experienced Servers

Experienced servers can significantly increase their earnings, often exceeding $40,000 annually. They are more likely to customarily and regularly receive higher tips due to their refined service skills and loyal clientele. They also might benefit from higher base wages or bonuses, particularly in high-end establishments.

Employers in these settings might offer additional incentives or $5.12 per hour in tip credits, increasing overall pay. Payroll software can help calculate and manage these varying income sources accurately.

How Do Restaurant Types Influence Server Salaries?

Fast Food Restaurants

Servers in fast food establishments generally earn less due to lower base wages and minimal tips. Their annual earnings range between $18,000 and $22,000.

These servers receive the lowest number of tips, impacting their overall income. The minimum wage in these settings is usually aligned with state and federal regulations but often remains on the lower end of the spectrum.

Casual Dining

Servers in casual dining environments have higher earning potential, with annual salaries between $25,000 and $35,000. These establishments often comply with state tipped minimum wage rates, which can be higher than the federal rate.

Servers in these restaurants regularly receive a steady flow of tips, contributing to their overall income. Employers here often pay tipped employees a base wage plus tips, ensuring compliance with wage laws.

Fine Dining

Fine dining servers can earn the highest salaries, ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 or more annually. These servers benefit from substantial tips due to higher menu prices and affluent clientele. Employers in these establishments might offer higher hourly wages and bonuses.

State regulations and the U.S. Department of Labor ensure these servers are compensated well above the regular minimum wage. Employers calculate the amount of tips and ensure they reach the minimum required by law, often surpassing it significantly.

What Role Do Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Taxes Play in Server Salaries?

Accurate bookkeeping, accounting, and tax compliance are crucial for servers to maximize earnings and comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Effective management helps servers handle fluctuating income from tips and wages.

Maintaining detailed records and using payroll software simplifies this process. Financial planning aids in budgeting, saving for taxes, and ensuring long-term financial stability.

Further reading: Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Accounting and Bookkeeping Services

How Should Servers Manage Their Earnings for Tax Purposes?

Servers must report all tips to their employer to comply with FLSA. Tips are taxed like any other income, and employers use this information to withhold the appropriate share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Deductions and Credits

Understanding eligible deductions, such as work-related expenses, can lower taxable income. Proper deductions, like uniform costs or transportation expenses, ensure compliance with labor laws and aid in financial planning.

How Can Employers Ensure Compliance with Wage Laws?

Employers must ensure servers' total earnings, including tips and cash wages, meet the $7.25 per hour minimum wage. If servers’ tips do not cover the minimum wage, employers must make up the difference to comply with state and federal regulations.

Additional Considerations for Employers and Servers

Accurate Tip Reporting

Accurate tip reporting is essential to avoid tax issues. Payroll software can help manage running payroll and ensure compliance. Employers and servers located in one of the majority of states with higher minimum wage laws must stay updated on state-specific wage laws to ensure fair compensation and compliance with 2024 regulations.

Non-Tipped Employees

Employers must also ensure non-tipped employees receive the full state minimum wage.

Financial Planning for Servers

Employees who receive tips need an easier way to manage fluctuating incomes. Effective financial planning, including understanding deductions and credits, can help servers maximize their earnings per month. Employers must stay updated with regulations from the U.S. Department of Labor and state laws to ensure fair compensation.

Key Takeaways

  • Hourly Wage: Servers earn around $12 per hour on average, according to the US Department of Labor.
  • Tips Included: Employees’ tips can add $100-$200 per shift, and servers are responsible for reporting them.
  • Location Impact: How much a server earns depends on where the business is located; state rates and wages vary.
  • Experience Matters: Experienced servers can earn up to $20 per hour; minimum wage is currently higher in some states.
  • Tip Credit: Employers can claim a tip credit to meet minimum wage requirements, ensuring you’re aware of the employer’s obligations.

How can Taxfyle help?

Finding an accountant to manage your bookkeeping and file taxes is a big decision. Luckily, you don't have to handle the search on your own.

At Taxfyle, we connect small businesses with licensed, experienced CPAs or EAs in the US. We handle the hard part of finding the right tax professional by matching you with a Pro who has the right experience to meet your unique needs and will manage your bookkeeping and file taxes for you.

Legal Disclaimer

Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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June 19, 2024


Antonio Del Cueto, CPA

Antonio Del Cueto, CPA


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