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During my senior year of college, I struggled with interviews. Unlike many of my peers, I didn't boast a standout pedigree. My résumé lacked internships at prestigious investment banks, affiliations with clubs or fraternities. Instead, my summers were spent working at a grocery store and assisting my mom's photography business.

When I secured an interview with PNC, I felt the weight of the moment—this might be my only shot.

Fortuitously, I found an unexpected connection with my interviewer, who would later become my boss. That connection certainly played its part (see my prior post on the role of luck for that story).

Yet, years later, my boss revealed that what truly sealed the deal for my hiring was a tale from my time at Lucky 32, a restaurant in Winston-Salem, NC. To fund my college tuition, I served tables there.

Always having a keen interest in money and finance, I meticulously tracked my earnings. Ever since my first minimum wage job, I had monitored every cent in an Excel spreadsheet.

At Lucky 32, I elevated this habit. Beyond noting down my pay, I began recording the number of tables I served each night and the corresponding tips.

It was clear: Friday and Saturday nights were the most lucrative. Every server vied for those shifts, hoping for larger orders, more drinks, and consequently, better tips.

For the uninitiated, let me introduce "sidework." This term refers to the auxiliary tasks servers perform, like setting tables, folding napkins, refilling condiments, and tidying up. On Fridays and Saturdays, the sidework was demanding. The preparation for the bustling nights started hours before guests arrived, and cleaning extended long after they left. However, the promise of hefty earnings made this toil worthwhile.

Conversely, Sunday brunch was the black sheep. Servers despised it, primarily because the tips were modest due to cheaper menu items and a lack of alcoholic beverages. It was a shift most tried to offload.

But here's where my story takes a turn.

Early into my tenure at Lucky 32, my trusty spreadsheet unveiled a secret: On a per-hour basis, Sunday brunch was the most profitable shift of the week. Even more so than those coveted Friday or Saturday nights.

The rationale was twofold:

  1. Minimal sidework. Thanks to Saturday evening servers, Sundays started directly with serving. And once done, you could promptly leave, as the evening crew took over the prep.
  2. An increased number of tables. Brunch service was streamlined, and patrons were typically low-maintenance, often resulting in managing 5-7 tables instead of the usual 4.

Recognizing this, I began swapping shifts, taking on Sunday slots whenever I could. Fellow servers, under the misconception of Sunday being the least fruitful day, eagerly traded with me. Little did they realize, I wasn’t being altruistic, I was simply capitalizing on the best opportunity.