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Restaurant Server: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

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.

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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, 4.1 million food and beverage servers and related workers were employed in 2010 (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 require a high school diploma. 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 will likely need to obtain a food handler card or permit to be employed as a server. States and counties vary on regulations and requirements for food handlers and servers. The permit is usually issued following the completion of a class and examination, as well as sponsorship byan 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 combined food preparation and serving workers, including those who work in fast food, will grow by about 15% from 2010 to 2020. Waiters and waitresses working in restaurants, in particular, earned average annual salaries of about $20,370 in May 2012, per the BLS.

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