As of 2015, the federal minimum average hourly wage for waiters and bartenders is $2.13 per hour before tip income is included. However, individual states are free to enact laws that raise the minimum wage above the federal level and 44 states have done this in some capacity. Thus, hourly pre-tip wages vary from a minimum of $2.13 per hour in states such as Georgia and Tennessee to $9.47 per hour in the state of Washington.

The federal minimum wage for most occupations is $7.25. However, waiters and bartenders are part of a special category of wage-earners known as tipped employees. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, tipped employees are defined as those who regularly receive at least $30 in tip income per month. It is this additional and regular income that provides the basis for reduced federal minimum wage standards for this category of workers.

After Washington, Oregon has the second-highest minimum average hourly wage for tipped employees at a rate of $9.25 per hour. California, the most-populous state in the country, has a $9 minimum. Most waiters and bartenders in Alaska, Montana and Nevada earn more than $8 per hour, not including tips.

Texas, the second-most populous state in the country, requires a minimum wage of $2.13 for tipped employees, matching the federal minimum. However, Texas has a secondary standard that requires tipped employees to be paid at least $7.25 per hour when both wages and tips are combined. When combined pay does not reach at least $7.25 per hour, the employer must make up the difference. In a similar example, the minimum average hourly wage for waiters and bartenders in Florida is $5.03 per hour, with a minimum of $8.05 per hour when wages and tips are combined.