I usually take my kids to restaurants at weekends. At the restaurant, I use this opportunity to get to know the waiters. Most are foreign nationals from the Philippines, Nepal, or India. I like to quiz them about their lives here in the kingdom. I ask them if it is fun working as a waiter and their reasons for working in the kingdom.
Many complain it isn’t. They feel tired, jaded, and underappreciated.
So What Is The Working Life Like For A Waiter In Saudi Arabia?
An expat waiter in KSA works long and hard at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week. They only earn as much as SR2,000, ($500) per month tax-free. The work is 84 hours per week which is 336 hours per month. The job pays out to a measly SR 6 per hour ($1.6). Accommodation, a uniform, bus transport, health insurance, and a plane ticket to the home country every two years are included.
This also includes:
- free room and board, (food)
- transport (to work each day)
- visa fees
- basic health insurance
- 50 days holiday per year
- plane ticket home every two years
For this, you’ll be working 12 hours PER DAY running tables, scrubbing, cleaning, and doing general duties.
Your hourly wage will be SR6 ($1.6)per hour. That is:
Monthly Salary: SR 2,000 ÷ Working Hrs per month: 336 = SR 6 per hour ($1.6) tax-free
In a busy restaurant with (Singles) male-only customers, tips amount to SR 50 plus per day.
Tips in Family sections yield far less about SR 5-10 per day. Single men are more generous to table servers.
Single males give tips up to SR 1,500 extra per month a total of tips and salary that equals about SR 3,500 – SR 4,000 tops.
You’ll have to work in a cramped, fast-paced environment and serve demanding customers who are sometimes very rude.
For accommodation, you’ll get to share a bedroom with your workmates. They have simply constructed buildings, dormitory-like spaces, sparsely furnished with a basic shared kitchen, toilet, and washroom.
There is NO DAY OFF. You’ll never get to rest. After a few months. you feel exhausted, overworked, spent, and in a rut.
Who Are Waiters in Saudi Arabia?
Nationalities of waiters include the Philippines, India, Afghanistan, Syrians, Egyptians, and the occasional Saudis.
Most Saudi nationals can’t or refuse to wait at tables. Also, restaurant owners prefer to employ hard-working expats. The owners can control them easily and pay them less than the current SR 5,000 minimum age expected for Saudi nationals.
Why Do They Do It?
I often ask expat waiters why they work for this. The reply is that they have to in order to survive. They send the majority of their earnings back home to support large, hungry families.