I’m a server at a steakhouse, and I made $18 yesterday.
Last week, I worked four shifts. They were slower than usual at the beginning of the week, but manageable. By the end of the week, I was watching the clock more often than I was my section.
My shift Friday night, I made roughly 60% of what I normally bring home — on a Friday night, arguably the busiest night of my week.
My co-workers that served over the weekend described our restaurant as a “graveyard.”
Alesha Beck, a fellow server of mine in Dawsonville, is unsure how she will continue to support herself and her 4-year-old son, if this sharp decline in business continues for a period of time.
“Serving tables is usually a consistent cash flow. Unfortunately with the virus hype, less people are coming in to eat and I made half of what I usually make over the weekend,” Beck told me during our shift.
It’s not just business being slow. Managers are cutting hours for many servers. They are letting many of us go home early, or just telling us not to come in.
Last week, I left every night around an hour or two earlier than usual. This week, I got one shift taken away. That’s over $100, usually, that I’m losing. The two shifts I have worked this week, I was sent home after being there for only an hour — leaving with no more than $20 each day.
The diners who do come in don’t tip. I’m guessing they’re scared about being furloughed or worse themselves if the outbreak continues for weeks.
But when I’m serving, the coronavirus doesn’t come up.
Yesterday, I had a table who asked me for salt, and when I explained that we had taken it off of the table for health reasons, she looked confused.
Meanwhile, my co-workers and I talk about the virus and we all are aware of what’s happening.
And for a lot of us, looking at the couple of five-dollar bills and a few singles at the end of a shift — all that we’re going home with that night — is terrifying.
I rely on this money to pay rent, utilities and to cover the cost of being a college student. Now that my income is a fourth of what it was before the outbreak began, I am unsure of how myself and many others are going to manage.
If this “virus hype” lasts any amount of time, I don’t know how I am going to make it. I am only supporting myself, so I can’t imagine the stress on those in the service industry that support entire families with this income.
Since restaurants are the “last ones open” it seems, extra measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We have been taking extra precautions such as removing the salt and pepper shakers, removing sugars from the tables, removing drink menus and having to sanitize the main menus after customers touch them,” Sophie Abbett, another server, told me.
How long will it be before we are told to close our doors and the only source of income for many of us is shut off for an indefinite amount of time?
I know we need to be safe and take precautions, but I don’t want safety to mean bankruptcy.
Lindsay Howard is a server at a restaurant in Dawsonville and a writer for The Times.