What is the Minimum Wage for Servers in Kentucky?

Author: Jason Coles

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If you are a server in Kentucky or are considering becoming one, then you should know what the minimum wage is for servers in Kentucky to ensure you are being paid the correct amount, or whether this is a job you would like to do. The laws surrounding the Kentucky minimum wage for servers acts as a safety net for those that may not earn enough in tips to meet the minimum wage threshold in the state.

Servers are those who provide and serve their customers with food and beverages in a restaurant or similar type of business where food and drinks are brought to the table, and as part of this service, a server will typically receive tips (gratuities) for doing so. Kentucky servers usually rely less on their low hourly wage and more on the generosity of the guests for their paycheck each week.

Kentucky Server Minimum Wage 2023

So, what is the minimum wage for a server in Kentucky? The minimum cash wage for servers in Kentucky is the same as the tipped minimum wage in Kentucky, which is $2.13 per hour. This is the minimum per hour that a Kentucky server must be paid and that a Kentucky employer must pay its servers. As you can see from the following graphic, the minimum wage for servers in Kentucky has not increased over the past several years.

Server Minimum Wage in Kentucky (Minimum Cash Wage and Tip Credits)

$2.13 per hour may sound like a small amount to be paid an hour, but if tips are not sufficient enough Kentucky servers are required to be supplemented by their employers via “tipped credit”, which in Kentucky is $5.12 per hour, making the server minimum wage in Kentucky a total of $7.25 per hour. The regular minimum wage in Kentucky for all types of employees follows the federal minimum wage guidelines, and it has been this way since 2008.

Based on the tipped minimum wage laws that apply to all states, Kentucky employers are required to pay their employees an hourly minimum cash wage with the addition of tip credits. What tipped credits allow employers to do is pay tipped employees less than the minimum wage so long as they can make up the difference via tips per hour during each pay period.

Tip credit not only allows server employees to be paid less than the minimum hourly wage, but it is also the same concept with bartenders, hotel workers, some airport workers at baggage drops, and pretty much any job role where tips are the primary income for the employee.

In Kentucky, servers must be paid a base minimum cash wage of $2.13 per hour. The expectation is that Kentucky servers will make at least an additional $5.12 per hour in tips on average across their pay period, and if they do, then the employer is only obligated to pay a Kentucky server $2.13 per hour.

Let’s assume that a server does not make at least $2.13 per hour in tips as an average over the course of their pay period (usually two weeks), then the employer must step in and pay the Kentucky server a tip credit of $5.12 per hour, so the server makes a minimum of $7.25 per hour for the duration of the pay period they worked.

Average Server Salary in Kentucky (2023)

We have covered the minimum cash wage that an employer must pay a Kentucky server of $2.13 per hour, and we have also detailed the safety net for the server should they not make at least $7.25 per hour with tips by receiving tipped credit of $5.12 per hour. What we have not discussed is the average that servers get paid in Kentucky.

If you are a server or are looking to work as a server in a restaurant or similar service-related business in Kentucky, knowing the hourly wage for servers is important, but knowing what you can expect to earn is perhaps even more important. Most Kentucky servers are not going to take a position at a restaurant with the view that they can only earn $7.25 per hour, because based on working 35-40 hours a week, they could only earn $254-$290 per week.

What Do Servers Get Paid in Kentucky

The average server hourly wage in Kentucky (according to the job website Indeed.com) is $13.07 per hour. So, if you were to work an 8-hour shift or a total of 8 hours in a day across a couple of shifts, you could earn (on average) about $104.56 (8 hrs x $13.07). If you worked five days per week and rounded your daily pay to $105, then you could earn about $525 per week.

If you took just two weeks off a year and worked for 50 weeks you could earn $26,250. If you decided to take 3 weeks off per year, or a total amount of time that was the equivalent of about 3 weeks off, then you could earn 49 x $525 = $25,750 for the year. This, of course, is before Kentucky income tax has been deducted.

The above calculations are just averages to give you an idea of what you can earn as a Kentucky server. The most important aspects of how much you can earn will depend on how good you are at your job, what type of food/beverage establishment you work at, and how busy the restaurant/cafe or bar is. Also, many people that work at restaurants or similar establishments are willing to work more than 40-hours per week which may make them qualify for overtime pay.

If the average food item on the menu is $8-$13 and the restaurant mainly serves wings, burgers, subs, nachos, fries, and similar snack-style food, then the average check for each guest or table will not be that high, and therefore, the percentage tip against the total check will result in you earning a lower amount of tips per table you serve and you’ll have to serve many tables during your shift.

On the other hand, if you work at a finer dining restaurant or one that is really busy and serves steak, seafood, and other higher-priced menu and beverage items, then you stand to earn more money as the total check for each table you serve will be that much higher and the percentage tip you receive on a higher check will be that much more.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this is that, as a Kentucky employer, it is your responsibility to pay your servers a minimum hourly rate + tip credit that equals or surpasses the Kentucky minimum wage in the event that your servers do not earn enough to meet the $7.25 per hour threshold in a given work week. Failing to do so will be breaking federal and state laws. Equally, it is important that as a server working in Kentucky, you know your rights and how much you should be paid with your hourly wage and tip credits.

If you have specific questions about the laws surrounding the minimum wage for servers in Kentucky (tipped employees) from both an employer and employee perspective, you can contact the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. Additionally, if you are an employee who isn’t being paid what you legally should be, you can file a complaint with them too.

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Jason Coles

Jason Coles is the Founder of Foreign USA and its Chief Content Writer and Editor. Recognized as a prolific business plan writer by many prominent immigration attorneys in the U.S., Jason has written over 1,200 business plans over the past 16+ years for start-ups looking to establish and expand their footprint in the United States.