Working conditions and labour unrest among service employees in the hotel and restaurant sector have, for a long time, have not been at the centre of attention of labour historians, especially in Italy. However, from the late nineteenth century a considerable number of cooks and waiters in Italian cities began to organize in order to improve their working conditions and to create alternative, cost-free forms of employment. From the early twentieth century, the trade unions of the employees of hotels and restaurants (grouped together in a National Federation in 1907) attempted to achieve these goals by means of strikes and demonstrations, some of them remarkably militant. Using a broad range of primary sources and quantitative data, this paper will first describe the characteristics of the working conditions of workers in hotels and restaurants in Italy; second, it will analyse the evolution of organizations, demands, and strike action by these staff from the beginning of the twentieth century to the advent of fascism. Distinguishing two waves of mobilization (1902−1907/1908 and 1919−1920), this paper aims, firstly, to highlight the similarities and differences between union actions by hotel and restaurant employees, on the one hand, and those of other workers on the other. Secondly, it focuses on the ways that the strikes induced serving staff to feel like “real” workers in terms of the outlook and behaviour of industrial workers.