Serving: Students in the food and beverage industry


Photo by Callie Hatcher

College students often need additional income, but finding a workplace that fits with their oddly scattered availability can be challenging. That's why many University of South Carolina students work in restaurants. They can earn a decent wage and schedule their shifts around class times. 

Even with its benefits, working in a restaurant while in college requires you to balance several factors. USC senior Rachel Syrop juggles class, homework and projects while serving, bartending and managing at Takosushi. 

“I definitely find my schedule demanding because I have to sacrifice sleep and any sort of extracurriculars to ensure that I can get my schoolwork done and work my full schedule,” Syrop said. 

If it wasn’t for the 40-50 hours a week that she works at Takosushi, Syrop believes that she would be able to spend more time checking in with her physical and mental health. 

Natalie Chuck, a junior who serves at Basil Thai, says that other areas of her life could use more attention as well. 

“I would probably do a little bit better in school and have a bit more of a social life if I wasn’t a waitress because it’s physically and emotionally demanding. I’m always too tired after a shift to stay up and power through schoolwork or go meet up with friends,” said Chuck.

She does, however, appreciate the quick pace of the food and beverage industry, and enjoys meeting new people. Chuck has found her serving job to be rewarding and has grown to love her coworkers. 

“I like that there is an unspoken understanding of each other between those of us who have worked as servers in restaurants,” she said. 

Many of these college students working in restaurants are responsible for either some or all of their expenses, so it helps to be able to make more money in fewer shifts. 

“I’m supporting myself through college, so the money and flexibility are what I enjoy the most about working in a restaurant,” said Salvador Juca, an advertising major and server at Hampton Street Vineyard. 

Most restaurant employees are paid in tips, and the amount they earn is entirely dependent on the restaurant’s business. A server's paycheck is determined by how many tables they take care of and if those tables tip at the correct amount – 20 percent. The U.S. federal minimum wage for tipped workers has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1991. 

But, the unique experiences of college students who work in restaurants are an opportunity to bond with one another. 

“Most of the people I work with are USC students or people in their late twenties with an interest in going back to school; but for all of us we need that extra income to make it possible,” said Chuck. 

Working in the restaurant industry in college can be a challenge, but you learn valuable skills in the process. Students can apply what they learn as a server – communication, customer service, team work and attention to detail – to jobs they apply for post-graduation. 

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