Head Waiter Job Description

Head waiters are the dining room supervisors for dining establishments. Their job is to provide great customer service while performing their regular waiter duties, as well as managing their fellow waiters. One must be a great multi-tasker and quick decision maker to succeed in this position. Head waiters are employed exclusively in the restaurant industry. Their duties and work environment differ based on the establishment; a pub will tend to have a more relaxed environment than a fine dining establishment. Work hours also vary by establishment. Head waiters can usually expect to work evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Head waiters serve in a supervisory capacity; their responsibilities include helping the host/hostess assign waitstaff tables, talking to patrons to ensure they have a good experience, and performing opening and closing duties. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for waitstaff, which includes head waiters, is set to rise 7 percent through 2026.


Head Waiter Duties and Responsibilities

Head waiters have supervisory responsibilities on top of their serving responsibilities. We researched head waiter job descriptions to come up with the following list of the most relevant head waiter duties and responsibilities:

Guide patrons to their seats

Head waiters work with the host/hostess to guide patrons to open tables, informing them of the day’s food and drink specials. They must maintain an upbeat and friendly attitude throughout this process.

Assign Waitstaff to Tables

Head waiters also work with the host/hostess to assign tables to waitstaff in addition to waiting on their own tables.

Place Food and Drink Orders

Head waiters take the orders from their tables, communicating with the kitchen and bar staff to place food and drink orders. They also check that the waitstaff place orders correctly and deliver them to the correct tables.

Train New Waitstaff

The head waiter trains new waitstaff on basic techniques and the specific expectations and procedures of their employer.

Manage Waitstaff

This includes creating weekly schedules, managing callouts, coordinating shift covers, and disciplining waitstaff as necessary.

Perform Opening and Closing Duties

These include tasks such as making sure the dining area is clean, opening or closing the registers, cleaning windows, and preparing the specials board.


Head Waiter Skills

Head waiters must be experts in basic food service technique, such as how to properly carry food trays, open wine at the table, and memorize orders. They must thrive in a fast-paced environment, as popular restaurants can get insanely busy. Head waiters have to possess leadership qualities. The position also requires poise—patrons and their team should never see them stressed. In addition, head waiters need the following skills to gain employment.

  • Cooperating with the host/hostess to seat patrons and assign wait staff to tables
  • Training new staff in food service technique and restaurant procedures
  • Managing customer concerns and complaints about staff using conflict resolution skills
  • Providing excellent customer service to set a good example for staff
  • Keeping staff content with excellent leadership and communication skills


Head Waiter Tools of the Trade

  • Point of sale software – this software is used to facilitate patron transactions
  • Waiter book – a waiter book is a specialized notepad used to take patron orders


Head Waiter Education and Training

There is no academic requirement for head waiters other than a high school diploma. In some states, they must earn an official food handler’s card from the state. Most of their education comes from on-the-job training. They learn all they need to know through years of experience as a waiter.


Head Waiter Salary

According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses, which includes head waiters, is $9.61. Those in the bottom 10 percent make below $8.22, and those in the top 10 percent make above $18.49. Pay is largely dependent on the type of restaurant and the amount of tips.


Head Waiter Resources

Those who work as head waiters typically want to grow within the restaurant industry. The following resources would be useful for those planning on advancing within the field of restaurant management:

Associations of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals – The Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals was founded in 1960 and has since grown to more than 14,000 members across the country. This group is dedicated to nutrition education, a useful topic for those who see themselves advancing in the restaurant industry.

Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management – The Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management is a general organization for those who have management responsibilities in the hospitality industry. They have many head waiters among their ranks.

The Foodservice Blog – This blog was started, and is still operated, by executives in the foodservice industry who got their start at the bottom of the ladder. They have excellent articles that range from personal anecdotes to instructional articles on foodservice technique.

Food News Feed – Food News Feed is a general food industry blog that posts a combination of food service tips, industry trends, and innovative recipes.

Foodservice Management Fundamentals – This book covers the fundamentals of operating a food service establishment. It is a good read for head waiters with general manager aspirations.

The Food Service Professional Guide to Controlling Restaurant and Foodservice Operating Costs -This is another good read for head waiters who see themselves operating a restaurant someday. It takes a survey approach to cover all the important areas.


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