It's tough to get by in the restaurant business: Median pay is less than $25,000 a year for both cooks and waiters -- including tips, according to the BLS.
But the recovering economy has helped a lot. "Discretionary spending has come back," said Bardaro. "People are going out to eat and getting take-out more."
That has increased demand for restaurant workers, boosting their income by 4.8% year-over-year during 12 months ending March 31, according to PayScale.
A CNNMoney analysis of Census data shows these jobs -- which have roughly the same amount of men and women workers -- have little disparity in salaries.