If you are a server in North Carolina or are considering becoming one, then you should know what the minimum wage is for servers in North Carolina to ensure you are being paid the correct amount, or whether this is a job you would like to do. The laws surrounding the North Carolina 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, hotel, 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. North Carolina servers usually rely less on their low hourly wage and more on the generosity of the guests the serve for their paycheck each week.

North Carolina Server Minimum Wage 2022 and 2021

So, what is the minimum wage for a server in North Carolina? The minimum cash wage for servers in North Carolina in 2022 is the same as the tipped minimum wage in North Carolina, which is $2.13 per hour. This is the minimum per hour that a North Carolina server must be paid and that a North Carolina employer must pay its servers (not including tipped credits). As you can see from the following graphic, the minimum wage for servers in North Carolina has not increased over the past several years and was the same in 2021.

Server minimum wage in North Carolina

Server Minimum Wage in North Carolina (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, North Carolina servers are required to be supplemented by their employers via “tipped credit”, which in North Carolina is $5.12 per hour, making the server minimum wage in North Carolina a total of $7.25 per hour. The regular minimum wage in North Carolina 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, North Carolina 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 North Carolina, servers must be paid a base minimum cash wage of $2.13 per hour. The expectation is that North Carolina 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 North Carolina server $2.13 per hour.

Let’s assume a tipped server in North Carolina earns, on average, less than $5.12 per hour during the working week as the tipped portion of their earnings (an accumulation of their tips). In that case, the employer must pay the difference between the minimum cash wage ($2.13 per hour) what the server made in tips per hour in a working week, and the total of $7.25 per hour. This is tipped credit against the minimum wage and it can be up to 71% or $5.12.

Average Server Salary in North Carolina (2022 and 2021)

We have covered the minimum cash wage that an employer must pay a North Carolina 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 North Carolina.

If you are a server or are looking to work as a server in a restaurant or similar service-related business in North Carolina, knowing what you can expect to earn is very important. Most North Carolina 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 North Carolina

The average server hourly wage in North Carolina (according to the job website Indeed.com) is $13.62 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 $108.96 (8 hrs x $13.62). If you worked five days per week and rounded your daily pay to $109, then you could earn about $545 per week.

If you took just two weeks off a year and worked for 50 weeks you could earn $27,250. 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 $545 = $26,705 for the year. This, of course, is before North Carolina income tax and other taxes have been deducted.

The above calculations are just averages to give you an idea of what you can earn as a North Carolina server. It will also 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 $10-$15 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 more in the $25-$40 range, 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

The most important takeaway from this is that, as a North Carolina employer, it is your responsibility to pay your servers a minimum hourly rate + tip credit that equals or surpasses the North Carolina minimum wage in the event that your servers do not earn enough to meet the $7.25 per hour threshold in a given workweek. Failing to do so will be breaking federal and state laws. Equally, it is important that as a server working in North Carolina, you know your employee 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 North Carolina (tipped employees) from both an employer and employee perspective, you can contact the North Carolina Department of Labor. Additionally, if you are an employee who isn’t being paid what you legally should be, you can file a complaint with them too.