Lead Server Job Description
The primary role of restaurant service staff is to interact with guests and make sure they have a great dining experience, and the lead server makes sure the dining room and staff are prepared to make this happen. The lead server adds a level of accountability in the restaurant and acts a coordinator of the details that are needed for a smooth meal service. This position is ideal for those with many years of restaurant service experience and excellent leadership skills. Lead servers generally have flexible work schedules and the opportunity to earn a lot of tips. Shifts often include nights and weekends depending on the restaurant’s hours of operation.
Lead Server Duties and Responsibilities
Greet and Serve Guests
Lead servers work in every aspect of guest service. They greet guests that arrive, help seat them, and provide menus. They assist guests with making food choices and take their orders to the kitchen staff. They also deliver food to the guest’s table when it’s ready and make sure that guests have a quality dining experience through the whole process.
Assist Managers and Owners
When managers aren’t available, it is the responsibility of the lead server to resolve any customer issues. Lead servers are also sometimes responsible for balancing the cash register at the beginning and end of a shift. Lead servers may also be in charge of dining room scheduling and making sure there is enough waitstaff for a given shift.
Train New Employees
The lead server is often responsible for training new servers in the standard operating procedures of the establishment and the unique style of the restaurant. This includes establishing sanitation and safety expectations. The lead server uses their knowledge of the menu and bar list to help new staff with any questions about dishes and describing them to guests.
Although they are not official supervisors, lead servers often help other servers with questions and provide assistance as needed. If a guest has an issue with the food or service, the lead server may take over and try to correct the situation.
Dining and Seating Preparation
The job of a lead server starts before the first customer walks through the door. They assign sections to the serving staff and bus persons and make sure the dining area is clean, that tables are set with fresh linens and tableware, and that serving stations are stocked appropriately. They also review the menu and make sure the waitstaff is prepared for service.
Lead Server Skills and Qualifications
Friendly, quick, and agile, successful lead servers are always eager to greet and provide guests with top-quality service. Employers look for candidates with a track record of excellent customer service and prior experience in the fast-paced food service industry, as well as the following skills:
- Independent judgment – it is often the lead server’s job to handle complaints and resolve conflicts with guests and staff. The lead server must take initiative and be creative in solving problems, only involving the manager when efforts are unsuccessful
- Leadership skills – working as the lead server requires effective leadership of the serving staff, providing them with information, encouragement, and assistance as needed
- Social skills – the lead server is always interacting with guests and restaurant staff and needs to be approachable, polite, and helpful
- Physical strength – servers spend a lot of time carrying heavy trays and maneuvering them around tables and people. They also lift cases of wine or boxes of linens and tableware that may weigh up to 50 pounds
- Multitasking skills – lead servers are always on their feet attending to many responsibilities, so they need to be able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously and prioritize appropriately
Lead Server Tools of the Trade
Restaurants utilize special software and point of sales (POS) systems. It’s helpful for lead servers to be familiar with the following:
- Restaurant POS systems (such as Shopkeep, TouchBistro, Revel, and Ambur)
Lead Server Education and Training
There are no specific education requirements for working as a lead server, but employers prefer those with at least a GED or high school diploma. Candidates with an associate’s degree in hospitality or food service will have a competitive advantage, as will those with food handling permits or server certifications. To be considered for the lead server role, you should have several years of restaurant serving experience.
Lead Server Salary and Outlook
The national average base pay for lead servers is $26,159 per year, according to Glassdoor. Additional cash compensation, usually in the form of tips, averages $23,611 per year, with a range of $2,995 to $60,917. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the job outlook for restaurant servers to increase 7 percent by 2026, which is about as fast as average.
Lead Server Helpful Resources
Here are some guides to help determine if this career path is right for you:
National Restaurant Association – this professional organization has all kinds of helpful resources on restaurant careers. It provides information on training and education for people who want to become servers, plus information on career development
How to Be a Good Server – a blog written by servers, for servers, this resource holds a wealth of information on how to get work as a server and do the job well
“9 Tips for a Waiter/Waitress in Training” – is a great blog post by The Waitress Confidential on how to survive your first day of server training and excel at the job
The Professional Server: A Training Manual – this book covers all aspects of dining room service and is full of real-life examples. It has everything a hopeful restaurant server needs to know about the competitive world of restaurants
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