Waiter Job Description
Waiters serve food and drinks in a commercial dining setting. Although serving patrons their orders is their primary responsibility, they do have other duties. They’re responsible for collaborating with the kitchen staff to ensure order accuracy, and they’re also responsible for building rapport with patrons to drive return business. Waiters are a dining establishment’s sales team. This is a great position for those who thrive in a fast-paced environment. Waiters are constantly on the move and spend most of their shift on their feet, especially if they work for a busy establishment. The duties and level of professional demeanor required varies depending on the type of dining establishment. Fine dining often requires formal dress and a stoic demeanor. Waiters at casual dining establishments and on cruise ships tend to dress more casually and have cheerful demeanors. The busiest days for fine dining establishments are weekends, so most waiters have to work nights and weekends.
When waiters first start out, they work under the supervision of a senior waiter. Both junior and senior waiters work under the head waiter. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for waiters is set to grow 7 percent through 2026.
Waiter Duties and Responsibilities
Waiters do much more than just serve food and drinks. We researched waiter job descriptions to come up with the following list of the most common waiter duties and responsibilities:
Set up and Close Down Dining Areas
Waiters set up the dining area each morning and close it down each night. This involves setting tables, placing silverware, vacuuming rugs, mopping floors, and other kinds of general housekeeping tasks.
Once a hostess seats the patrons, the waiter takes over using a positive, upbeat demeanor and inviting body language to build quick rapport with their patrons.
Inform Patrons of Specials
Waiters participate in team meetings each day to learn and memorize the day’s specials. They have to be able to talk about these specials in a way that entices patrons to order. This also includes having a deep knowledge of the menu to provide recommendations when asked.
Take and Place Patron Orders
Waiters take the orders of patrons using an order sheet, though some experienced waiters do it completely through memory. They then go to the kitchen and place the order with kitchen staff. They have to communicate clearly to make sure orders are accurate.
Serve Food and Drinks to Patrons
Once the food is ready, waiters bring it to the patrons. This requires strong prioritization skills to make sure all tables get their food in a timely manner and while it’s hot. Waiters are also responsible for checking in on their tables throughout their dining experience to replenish drinks and take additional orders.
Manage Patron Concerns
Waiters have the power to amplify or de-escalate a situation with a dissatisfied customer. In order to provide the best patron experience, waiters must handle a request for food to go back to the kitchen with a positive and apologetic attitude.
Waiters learn through on-the-job training, such as how to correctly load and carry a tray, as well as techniques for memorizing orders. They also learn how to use POS software to process customer bills. Good waiters maintain a positive demeanor—even when dealing with a less-than-nice patron. In addition, the following core skills are needed to obtain employment:
- Memorizing daily specials and selling them to patrons
- Encouraging add-on items, such as drinks and desserts, through product knowledge and sales skills
- Collaborating with kitchen and bus staff to ensure order accuracy and cleanliness of dining areas
- Using prioritization and multitasking skills to make sure no patrons go too long without service
- Improving the experience of a dissatisfied customer by offering reasonable ways to fix the situation
Waiter Education and Training
Waiters do not need any formal education to get a job. Virtually everything they need to know is acquired through on-the-job-training. High-end restaurants typically prefer waiters with experience, so it takes a couple of years to work up to this level. These are the waiter positions that pay the most. A food handler card is required to be a waiter in some states.
According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for waiters is $16,569. Those in the top 10 percent make above $32,000, while those in the bottom 10 percent make below $6,000. This wide range is due to the fact that waiters make most of their money off of tips, which means a lot of establishments pay a lower base wage.
The following resource list was put together for those who want to use the role of waiter to build a career within the restaurant industry:
Waiter’s World – Run by Paul Paz, This organization is dedicated to raising the status of waiter to a professional level. Though it is a small organization, the website sports a great training section.
Waiter Wallet – This is the website of an ordering book that enhances a waiter’s organization. It has a spot for money, order slips, and a menu cheat-sheet on the flap.
The Restaurant Managers’ and Waiters’ Guidebook – This book covers everything waiters need to know to do their jobs successfully. It also contains a ton of information on managing a restaurant, so it is good for waiters who want to progress within the restaurant industry.
Remarkable Service – The Culinary Institute of America is a standard-setter in the foodservice industry. This book is an all-encompassing guide to perfecting service skills.
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