Restaurant work - a good source of employment in London

Article reviewed: 2013/02/01 | Next review due: 2014/08/20

London, like all major Western cities, is packed with all kinds of small jobs. When arriving in London looking for work, the first option available is often to take a job in the catering sector. This sector employs a large amount of foreigners, with or without experience.

The advantage of such jobs is that they are easily accessible to foreigners with beginners English, and it is a good way to improve your language skills quickly. To find restaurant or pub jobs, go to a Jobcentre, check the job websites (e.g. gumtree), or you can go door to door with a copy of your CV.

Nadia, 33, a waitress at Ottolengui, a fashionable restaurant in Angel says:

I had just been fired from my previous job as a waitress in a restaurant in Notting Hill, when the next day I found an ad on gumtree for another job as a waitress. A week later I was hired and began my new job at Ottolenghui.

Flexibility is important in this kind of job. You can be fired without notice at any time, but finding a new job within a few days is relatively easy. Typical hourly rate is £5.80/hr, the UK’s minimum wage.

It is true that it doesn’t seem much at the end of the day, but the hourly wage doesn’t include tips, which can sometimes double or even triple your salary.

One of the advantages of working at a restaurant is tips, which are widespread in England. Depending on which restaurant you work in, some restaurants will automatically charge a 12.5% tip to the bill, with all tips split between staff and added to your salary each month. Alternatively, customers add a discretionary tip themselves after paying and you can pocket the extra yourself. Sometimes all the tips are placed in a jar that is shared between all servers, and sometimes even with the kitchen, according restaurants.

When the tips are reported onto the pay slip, you still pay 20% tax, but if it’s just cash on the table, it’s easier not to declare it. Nadia explains,

At the restaurant where I work, the service charge is not included. Customers leave what they want to leave. Even if I'm just paid an hourly rate, with the tips, I double my salary every month

You should also be aware that working on Sundays or Bank Holidays does not increase the hourly rate. Shift schedules often vary, but with most restaurants serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, it allows you to work at varied times. Shifts often do not exceed 8 hours, but UK regulations are relatively flexible, so you may be asked to take a ‘double shift’.

In most cases, your working week won’t exceed 45hrs, or approximately 8 hrs per day.

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