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Head Waitress Duties and Responsibilities

Head waitresses usually have extensive serving experience and excel at both customer service and coordinating teams of servers. Based on listings we analyzed, these duties are typically assigned to head waitresses:

Serve customers One of the primary duties of a head waitress to serve customers, which requires the head waitress to take customer orders, relay them to kitchen staff, and deliver food and beverages. Head waitresses have a high level of familiarity with menu items and restaurant policies.

Clean and prepare dining area Head waitresses may review cleaning checklists and make sure they are completed prior to the restaurant opening. They check the dining area throughout their shift to ensure it’s presentable and free of debris. This part of the job may also involve busing tables on occasion.

Train new servers Head waitresses are often responsible for training new servers, making sure they are familiar with restaurant policies and practices and evaluating their performance during their first few shifts. They provide direction and guidance to less-experienced servers and may report on their progress to restaurant management.

Manage payments Head waitresses manage both cash and credit card payments. This can include taking payments from customers and making change, as well as entering payments in the restaurant’s point-of-sale system. They might also be in charge of managing cash tips, keeping a record of tips and schedules and then dividing the tips at the end of the shift or workweek, depending on restaurant policy.

Maintain schedules Head waitresses may be responsible for managing schedules and determining when additional staff members are needed. They look at the restaurant’s bookings and staff schedules to determine if there is adequate coverage during a shift and make decisions regarding calling in extra servers on a particularly busy day. Head waitresses may also provide backup or call in a server in case of staff absences.


Head Waitress Skills and Qualifications

A head waitress must be personable and skilled at multitasking. Employers also look for candidates with the following skills:

  • Customer service – excellent customer service skills, an outgoing personality, and the ability to successfully listen to and respond to customers are important to position
  • Coordination and lifting – head waitresses lift and carry heavy and awkward trays of drinks and food; maintaining a high level of energy is also vital
  • Team leadership – many head waitresses take an active role in training and leading teams of servers, effectively coordinating and communicating with staff members
  • Conflict resolution – head waitresses respond to customer complaints and resolve conflicts between waitstaff, restaurant personnel, and diners
  • Time management – head waitresses often manage schedules and staffing; effective time management is key to creating a positive dining experience

Head Waitress Education and Training

Head waitress positions typically don’t require an educational background, although a high school diploma or GED may help job seekers secure a position. This position has a lot of on-the-job learning; head waitresses usually start out as servers before establishing a record of customer service success and team leadership.


Head Waitress Salary and Outlook

Glassdoor estimates that the average annual salary for a head waitress is $26,159. Head waitresses often receive a base pay plus tips, so successful servers and employees of higher-end restaurants may make significantly more money than less-experienced servers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that food and beverage service positions will grow 10 percent between 2016 and 2026, although it notes the growing trend toward takeout and fast casual establishments, which do not have head waitress positions.


Helpful Resources

We found several resources on the web if you’re interested in learning more about a career as a head waitress:

Server’s Bible: 101 Tips How To Be A Good Restaurant Waiter – Read these tips and tricks to learn how to deliver best-in-class customer service as a server or head waitress.

At Your Service: A Hands-On Guide to the Professional Dining Room – This useful guide, published by the Culinary Institute of America, provides tips and advice for creating a positive dining experience for customers.

How to Be a Better Waitress: 8 Tips to Put the Icing on Your Service Cake – This post provides advice and insider tips on how to become a more effective and better-paid server.

Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress – A longtime waitress provides an unfiltered look at life in the restaurant industry, along with her insights from a career in the dining room.