Restaurant Server: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Restaurant server jobs require no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and other requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Restaurant servers ensure that patrons have an enjoyable dining experience by providing quality customer service. Servers work in the front of the business taking orders, serving food and drinks, and removing dinnerware from the table in a timely manner. No formal education is necessary; however, educational programs in restaurant operations are available. On-the-job training is usually necessary. A food handler card or permit is also sometimes required.

Required Education None required, optional education programs are available
Other Requirements On-the-job training typical, a food handler card or permit sometimes required
Projected Job Growth (2012 - 2022)* 6%
Mean Salary (2013)* $20,880 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Description

Restaurant server is the gender-neutral term for a waiter or waitress who is typically part of a wait staff. Servers can be employed in a wide range of establishments, from casual eateries to fine dining restaurants. The nature of their job requires them to be on their feet for much of their shifts. Part-time employment is common. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 2 million waiters and waitresses were employed in 2012 (www.bls.gov).

Duties

A server's responsibilities depend greatly on the business; however, in all cases his or her primary duty is to provide good customer service, take orders, and deliver food. In most situations, servers are expected to answer questions regarding the menu. They work closely with other wait staff and the kitchen to ensure the restaurant is operated efficiently.

In upscale restaurants, servers are more a part of the dining experience, offering suggestions and recommendations, such as wine pairings. They help to personalize the meal and their service is more attentive and formal.

In restaurants with revolving menus, servers may need to meet with kitchen staff or managers daily prior to service to discuss that day's offerings. Topics in these meetings may include specials, food preparation, and ingredients used, especially if they may be a potential allergen to some diners. Additional duties of a restaurant server may also include:

  • Processing payment
  • Greeting customers
  • Cleaning tables and dining area
  • Setting tables

Requirements

Restaurant server positions are entry-level and do not require any formal education. Previous experience is often not required, except in fine dining restaurants, where some experience will be needed. Training as a server is often done on the job and by experienced wait staff. An ability to provide good customer service, maintain a neat appearance, and remember patrons and their orders are essential.

Individuals handling food and drink in a public eatery sometimes need to obtain a food handler card or permit to be employed as a server. However states and counties vary on regulations and requirements for food handlers and servers; therefore, a permit is not always required. The permit is usually issued following the completion of a class and examination, as well as sponsorship by an employer.

Individuals interested in training to become a server or experienced servers seeking career opportunities in the restaurant industry can pursue formal education programs at vocational schools and associations. The National Restaurant Association (www.restaurant.org) offers education opportunities and job assistance in all facets of restaurant operations, including servers. Additionally, many states have restaurant associations. The International Food Service Executives Association (www.ifsea.com) offers a Certified Food Manager and Certified Food Executive credential.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) predicts that the employment of waiters and waitresses will grow by about 6% from 2012 to 2022. Waiters and waitresses working in restaurants, in particular, earned average annual salaries of about $20,880 in May 2013, per the BLS.

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