Waitressing at the Oktoberfest – lots of fun, good money, and hard work

Have you ever lugged twelve one-litre cartons of milk around ? Nadine Maier has. In theory at least. In actual practice, she totes an average of six full litre mugs through crowds of revellers. For hours at a time, Day after day. Nadine is reading Slavonic studies, is doing an internship at Krones AG, and was a waitress at the Oktoberfest.

A litre mug weights more than a kilo, and over two when it’s full. “The most I can carry is ten full mugs,” says the 34-year-old. More important factors, though, include how far she has to go, and how inebriated the oncoming traffic is. This year is her eighth year of waitressing at the Oktoberfest. She started out at the instigation of her aunt, who was herself a waitress in the festival tent, Back then, Nadine sold pretzels to the guests. Two years later, she formed a waitressing team with her aunt. Instead of pretzels, she now brings beer and snacks to the tables.

Commission percentage plus tips

Mainly the time spent working at the Oktoberfest is a “break from everyday routine” for the student at Regensburg University. Not every day is the same, of course, not every minute an unalloyed pleasure in this stressful job. But on the whole, it’s quite a lot of fun dealing with all the different people, and you get plenty of exercise. The other waitresses bond as a closely-knit team during the 16 days of the festival. Whether it’s clearing a path for a colleague and caring three extra mugs behind them – they all have each other’s backs. And when the last revellers have departed they share a schnapps together, and form new friendships as they chat.

The waitresses get just under ten per cent plus tips per mug. Given a litre price of just over nine euros, that makes 89 cents for their own pockets. “The good pay provides some additional motivation. It means I can afford quite a few things while I’m studying that I would otherwise have to do without,” says Nadine, who comes from the Chiemgau region. Depending on the shift involved, a working day begins at 9.30 a.m. or 3 p.m., and on Bank Holidays the drinking starts at 8.30 in the morning. And an end is not in sight until the lights go out in the beer tent. For trivia fans: 6.5 million mugs of beer were sold at the 2014 Auf Oktoberfest.

The drumming clearer-upper and the ring in the beer

The rewards for all the hard work are not only the money you earn, but also the myriad weird and amusing stories you have to tell: roast chicken halves flying through the air, offers of marriage, and streakers are among the more boring of these. A wedding ring in a beer mug less so. This was lost among the dregs in his mug by a newly married husband. The next day, he came back to his place totally distraught and asked the waitresses if they had found a wedding ring. And when the answer was “yes”, a tear rolled down the husband’s cheek. “That was really a very touching scene,” reminisces Nadine. Anther of her fondest memories is the drumming clearer-upper (these are the lads who push along metal trolleys and collect the used crockery and mugs from paths and clearing stations. When the band took a break, one of the workers took over: he drummed on the trolley like a wild thing, and gave the delighted revellers a foot-tapping percussion show.

5 tips for would-be Oktoberfest waitresses

If you want to earn some money yourself waitressing at the Oktoberfest, you should apply well in advance. “You just send in your application, preferably six months before the festival, as a team of two, to the landlord concerned, and with a bit of luck you’ll get a contract. There’s no selection procedure, no familiarisation. Either you cope with the daily workload, or you don’t. If you don’t, the next one on the waiting list moves up,” explains Nadine. “This year, four of us had 17 tables to look after. This varies quite considerably, though, depending on the time, the place, and even inside a particular area. At the beginning of my career, for example, two of us had to serve eleven tables. That keeps you on your toes, making sure all the guest are properly fed and “unthirsty” (the Germans say “sitt”) .”

For those who’ve been chosen, Nadine has some good advice:

  • Never change a running shoe!
  • Your purse always stays with you
  • Never refuse to top up a mug if it has in fact not been properly filled
  • Don’t make things unnecessarily difficult for yourself – that applies for dealing with guests, colleagues and your managers
  • When you get home, put your feet up, and take some magnesium before you go to sleep, that often works wonders