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Negotiating Salary (Know what you're worth)

I have always looked at salary positions in the restaurant industry as somewhat of a trap. It generally means a significant pay cut and longer hours.

That being said, eventually one must transition from the hourly+gratuity lifestyle into a salary role if they wish to grow. When did you know that it was (or wasn't) the right time to make the transition? What is your stragedy on negotiating terms of salary to meet your goals as a professional as well as your monotary needs? What makes or breaks an offer for you?

Also, what methods do you use to generate profit for your employer? How do you make yourself most valuable? (Wine buying strategies, management philosophies etc. etc.)

  • I am a big believer in taking a step back to move 2 forward. When I transitioned from an hourly+tips position, it was a step back, but I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't.

    The right time is now, you're never really ready for that next step until you take the plunge. Work hard, do good work and the money will follow.
  • This is an issue I think about every day at work and it's something that I think is changing, but still a problem.

    Like most of us I work in a restaurant (fine dining) where the servers are able to come in later, leave earlier, and make much more money than most management. I could wait tables at the restaurant I am the somm/ wine buyer at and make more money... BUT... you have to weigh the benefits vs. where you are in life and what are your most immediate needs. None of us know that answer but you. If I was in crazy credit card/ other debt? Had other personal/ money problems? Yeah, I would go back to waiting tables in a heart beat.

    I am blessed to be able to say I am not in any dire position like that and I am able to accept the perks (and pay cut) of a somm/ wine buyer position in a major market which is helping me grow and gain experience much faster in this industry than I would otherwise. For me, those perks are tasting more regularly, learning about inventory management, cash-flow, constructing a wine list, keeping a pulse on relevant wines in the market, learning more about producers than just regions... The list goes on and on.

    So, to answer your question, yes, it can be a pay cut and longer hours. But if you do it right, it is a necessary step towards much greater things. The time is right when everything in your personal life is in a place where you can take the plunge, and I mean everything. It takes a lot of time to do it right. It is seriously a huge commitment.

    I think it is important to not sell yourself short, but if it is your first buying position, don't shoot too high either because there are a LOT of people looking for buying positions (in most markets) willing to give it a shot for less. Don't ever take a position that puts you at a financial hardship though, it has to at least be sustainable in case you aren't in a position to take a raise for a while. Take the position and get the numbers under control, cut costs, cut inventory where possible, try and make smaller orders more often to manage cash flow and you will quickly be able to justify making more money because numbers are what make you valuable.

    In terms of making yourself even more valuable, first buy the things you know will sell even if you aren't working that night. This, and ongoing staff training, will usually make you more valuable than the sales you can make as an individual, depending on the size of the restaurant you are working at. Set high standards for your staff and maintain even higher ones for yourself. Work on creating a culture where servers are comfortable making sales and recommendations even when you're stuck decanting wine at another table or whatever it is that can hold you up. Losing sales because guests are waiting for you or you're off that night sucks.