Monday, March 17, 2008

Guide 2 Careers Series: Waitress / Waiter / Restaurant Server

In conjunction to our Employment Guide to Careers and the help of the Department of Labor Career Guide, I'll be doing a blog post series on different careers that are popular on This hopefully will give you insight as to what a particular job will entail, the types of qualifications and skills that you'll need to get the job and any other relevant information. Please feel free to comment or email suggestions as to what you'd like to see in this series.

Restaurant Jobs: Waitresses and Waiters / Servers

On the Job
Every restaurant or café is different when it comes to what it requires of it's servers. But there are some general tasks that you can expect to do. These are listed below.

  • Bring wine selections to tables with appropriate glasses, and pour the wines for customers.
  • Check patrons' identification to ensure that they meet minimum age requirements for consumption of alcoholic beverages.
  • Check with customers to ensure that they are enjoying their meals and take action to correct any problems.
  • Clean tables or counters after patrons have finished dining.
  • Collect payments from customers.
  • Describe and recommend wines/dishes to customers.
  • Escort customers to their tables.
  • Explain how various menu items are prepared, describing ingredients and cooking methods.
  • Fill salt, pepper, sugar, cream, condiment, and napkin containers.
  • Garnish and decorate dishes in preparation for serving.
  • Inform customers of daily specials.
  • Perform food preparation duties such as preparing salads, appetizers, and cold dishes, portioning desserts, and brewing coffee.
  • Prepare checks that itemize and total meal costs and sales taxes.
  • Prepare hot, cold, and mixed drinks for patrons, and chill bottles of wine.
  • Prepare tables for meals, including setting up items such as linens, silverware, and glassware.
  • Present menus to patrons and answer questions about menu items, making recommendations upon request.
  • Remove dishes and glasses from tables or counters, and take them to kitchen for cleaning.
  • Serve food or beverages to patrons, and prepare or serve specialty dishes at tables as required.
  • Stock service areas with supplies such as coffee, food, tableware, and linens.
  • Take orders from patrons for food or beverages.
  • Write patrons' food orders on order slips, memorize orders, or enter orders into computers for transmittal to kitchen staff.

Benefits and Salary
$5.79 to $10.16 an hour. Although some combined food preparation and serving workers receive a part of their earnings as tips, fast-food workers usually do not. Tipped employees are those who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. The employer may consider tips as part of wages, but the employer must pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages.

Many employers provide free meals and furnish uniforms, but some may deduct from wages the cost, or fair value, of any meals or lodging provided. Food and beverage service workers who work full time often receive typical benefits, but part-time workers usually do not.

Daily Routine & Work Environment
Waiters and Waitresses are constantly moving around in a fast-paced environment. You'll have to weave in and out of tables and other coworkers, deliver food and drinks to your table in a timely manner. Food and beverage service workers are on their feet most of the time and often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and glassware. During busy dining periods, they are under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently. The work is relatively safe, but care must be taken to avoid slips, falls, and burns. Food service and drinking establishments typically maintain long dining hours and offer flexible and varied work opportunities. Many food and beverage serving and related workers work evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Experience & Required Education
There are no specific educational requirements for most food and beverage service jobs. Many employers prefer to hire high school graduates for waiter and waitress, bartender, and host and hostess positions, but completion of high school usually is not required for fast-food workers, counter attendants, dishwashers, and dining room attendants and bartender helpers. For many people, a job as a food and beverage service worker serves as a source of immediate income, rather than a career. Many are full-time students or homemakers. Food and beverage service jobs are a major source of part-time employment for high school and college students. It also serves as a great way to gain customer service experience.

All new employees usually receive some training from their employer. They learn safe food handling procedures and sanitation practices, for example. Some employers, particularly those in fast-food restaurants, teach new workers using self-study programs, on-line programs, audiovisual presentations, and instructional booklets that explain food preparation and service skills. But most food and beverage serving and related workers pick up their skills by observing and working with more experienced workers. Some full-service restaurants also provide new dining room employees with some form of classroom training that alternates with periods of on-the-job work experience. These training programs communicate the operating philosophy of the restaurant, help establish a personal rapport with other staff, teach formal serving techniques, and instill a desire to work as a team. They also provide an opportunity to discuss customer service situations and the proper ways of handling unpleasant circumstances or unruly patrons.

Those likely to enjoy a job in waiting or as a server, you'll enjoy working directly with the public. You're constantly on your feet and on the go so this is a good job for someone who doesn't like to sit still during the day. Most times waiting staff develop relationships with "regulars" or customers who will visit daily or regularly. Sometimes when waiting you'll deal with some upset customers and can sometimes be high stress so individuals who can handle these types of situations calmly would be a good fit.

Read more about being a Waiter or Waitress or Food and Beverage Servers

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