Waiters and waitresses take orders and serve food and beverages to customers in dining establishments.
What they do
Waiters and waitresses typically do the following:
- Greet customers, present menus, and explain daily specials to customers
- Answer questions related to the menu and offer item suggestions
- Take food and beverage orders from customers
- Relay food and beverage orders to the kitchen staff
- Prepare drinks and food garnishes
- Carry trays of food or drinks from the kitchen to the dining tables
- Remove dirty dishes and glasses, and clean tables after customers finish meals
- Prepare itemized checks and take payments from customers
- Set up dining areas, refill condiments, and stock service areas
Waiters and waitresses, also called servers, are responsible for ensuring that customers have a satisfying dining experience. The specific duties of servers vary with the establishment in which they work.
In casual-dining restaurants that offer simple menu items, such as salads, soups, and sandwiches, servers provide fast, efficient, and courteous service. In fine-dining restaurants, where more complicated meals are typically prepared and served over several courses, waiters and waitresses emphasize personal, attentive treatment at a more leisurely pace. For example, they may offer a wine recommendation with certain foods.
Servers may meet with managers and chefs before each shift to discuss the menu or specials, review ingredients for potential food allergies, or talk about any food safety concerns. They also discuss coordination between the kitchen and the dining room and review any customer service issues from the previous day or shift.
In establishments where alcohol is served, waiters and waitresses verify the age of customers and ensure that they meet legal requirements for the purchase of alcohol.
Waiters and waitresses are on their feet most of the time and often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and drinks. The work can be hectic and fast-paced. During busy dining periods, they may be under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently. They must be able to work well as a team with kitchen staff to ensure that customers receive prompt service.
Because waiters and waitresses are the front line of customer service in food-service and drinking establishments, appearance is important. Those who work in fine-dining and upscale restaurants may be required to wear uniforms.
Many waiters and waitresses work part time. Many work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. This is especially true for those who work in full-service restaurants, which employ the vast majority of waiters and waitresses.
In establishments that offer seasonal employment, waiters and waitresses may be employed for only a few months each year.
How to become a Waiter or Waitress
Most waiters and waitresses learn through short-term on-the-job training. No formal education or previous work experience is required to enter the occupation.
Most states require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 18 years of age, but some states require servers to be older. Waiters and waitresses who serve alcohol must be familiar with state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages.
No formal education is required to become a waiter or waitress.
Most waiters and waitresses learn through short-term on-the-job-training, usually lasting a few weeks. Trainees typically work with an experienced waiter or waitress, who teaches them basic serving techniques.
Some full-service restaurants provide new employees with some form of classroom training in combination with periods of on-the-job work experience. These training programs communicate the operating philosophy of the restaurant, help new servers establish a rapport with other staff, teach serving techniques, and instill a desire to work as a team. They also discuss customer service situations and the proper ways to handle unpleasant circumstances or unruly customers.
Training for waiters and waitresses in establishments that serve alcohol typically involves learning state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages. Some states, counties, and cities mandate the training, which typically lasts a few hours and can be taken online or in-house.
Some states may require that any staff who handle food need to take training related to the safe handling of food.
The median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses was $11.00 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.37, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $20.65.
Employment of waiters and waitresses is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
As the population grows and more people dine out, many new restaurants are expected to open. Many establishments, particularly full-service restaurants, will continue to use waiters and waitresses to serve food and beverages and provide customer service.
Similar Job Titles
Banquet Server, Buffet Server, Cocktail Server, Food Runner, Food Server, Restaurant Server, Server, Waiter, Waitress, Waitstaff
Cooks-Fast Food, Fast Food and Counter Worker, Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendant and Bartender Helper, Host and Hostess-Restaurant/Lounge/Coffee Shop, Cashier
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Court of Master Sommeliers
- Federation of Dining Room Professionals
- International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education
- National Restaurant Association
- UNITE HERE
Magazines and Publications
Restaurant wait staff and hosts and hostesses ensure dining customers have a satisfying experience. Waiters and waitresses, also called servers, take orders and serve food and beverages to customers in dining establishments. Restaurant hosts and hostesses greet customers and manage reservations and waiting lists. Servers may meet with supervisors to learn details about the menu and discuss food safety concerns. When serving alcohol, servers check customers’ identification to verify their age. In casual-dining restaurants, fast, efficient, courteous service is the priority, while in fine-dining establishments, servers and host staff emphasize personal, attentive treatment at a more leisurely pace. Some servers work in places other than restaurants. They may deliver meals to hotel or hospital rooms or even bring orders to customers in parked cars. Wait staff and hosts and hostesses are on their feet most of the time, and may carry heavy trays and hot plates. Even during fast-paced times, they must ensure that customers receive prompt service. Part-time work is very common, often with morning or evening shifts, including weekends and holidays. Some establishments are only open seasonally. In some restaurants, host staff are required to wear formal attire, and wait staff wear uniforms. Wait staff typically learn through on-the-job training with experienced servers, and in most cases, there are no specific education or experience requirements. Some states require safety training for staff who handle food.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org