Food Server Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Food Server, also known as a Waiter or Waitress, is responsible for taking orders from restaurant patrons and delivering their food to them. Their duties include explaining the menu to their customers, communicating with kitchen staff and balancing dishes as they bring them to the appropriate table.

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Food Server duties and responsibilities

Food Servers collaborate with Cooks, Chefs, Restaurant Managers and other foodservice staff to provide excellent customer service and maintain a positive reputation for the organization. Food Server responsibilities include:

  • Greeting and seating customers 
  • Taking food and beverage orders and accurately entering them into the ordering system
  • Making menu item recommendations
  • Communicating any food allergy or special nutrition needs to kitchen staff
  • Ensuring all orders are filled quickly and accurately and that food is high quality
  • Providing attentive service to diners, like refilling drinks as needed and checking their needs during meals
  • Promptly addressing any customer service issues and referring  to management if and when necessary
  • Performing some cleaning duties, such as at the service station, around the kitchen and in the dining area

What does a Food Server do?

Food Servers work at restaurants and catering companies to welcome guests and provide them with an enjoyable dining experience. Their role is to be the guest’s main point of communication with the kitchen and bar. Food Servers work as a team with front-of-house staff to welcome customers, direct them to their seats and take their orders. They engage in friendly conversation with their tables to make them feel comfortable and provide a hospitable environment, delivering food on time and at the correct temperature. Food Servers also maintain cleanliness in the dining room and correct any issues with meals.

Food Server skills and qualifications

Food Servers use a combination of soft skills to help customers and support other restaurant staff, including:

  • Excellent customer service, including patience and a friendly demeanor
  • Exceptional organization and time management
  • Effective written and verbal communication skills
  • Great active listening skills
  • Ability and willingness to collaborate
  • Knowledge of foodservice regulations and proper food handling procedures
  • Capability to learn quickly and memorize menu details
  • Comfortable working in a fast-paced environment
  • Willing to work flexible work schedules that include nights and weekends
  • Physically able to be on their feet for extended periods and lift up to 25 pounds unassisted

Food Server salary expectations

A Food Server makes an average of $11.82 per hour. Pay rate may depend on their level of experience, education and geographical location.

Food Server education and training requirements

Many Food Servers are qualified with some high school education on track to complete their diploma, though some candidates have completed their high school education or have earned a GED and may even be in the process of completing higher education. Food Servers typically complete training through previous relevant experience or on-the-job training once hired. Food Server candidates with previous experience may already have a ServSafe certification that demonstrates their knowledge of food handling regulations and best practices. Other candidates may be in the process of or be willing to complete one.

Food Server experience requirements

Entry-level Food Server candidates may not have previous relevant experience but be suitable fr on-the-job training. Entry-level candidates or those with limited to no experience may also provide training and leadership opportunities to more senior employees. Candidates with years of relevant experience, especially in the same industry or setting, are more likely to quickly adjust to their new role and save time on on-the-job training. 

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Frequently asked questions about Food Servers

 

What is the difference between a Food Server and a Busser?

Food Servers are responsible for bringing food to customers and guiding their dining experience, while Bussers clear the table and bring dishes back to the kitchen. Bussers provide support for Servers during busy shifts and focus on keeping tables clean and organized. Bussers may help deliver food under the direction of Food Servers during peak dining hours.

 

What are the qualities of a successful Food Server?

A good Food Server is friendly, personable and positive so they can provide excellent hospitality to each guest. Because Food Servers usually have a section with multiple tables, they are great multi-taskers who can manage a range of priorities at once. Good Food Servers are graceful under pressure and act with humility and respect, even when working with frustrated or angry customers. Food Servers also need to have endurance and physical strength to carry large trays of heavy food and move from the dining room to the kitchen throughout long shifts.

 

Who does a Food Server report to?

Food Servers can report to a Head Server that manages the waitstaff or to the restaurant’s General Manager. If a Food Server enters an order incorrectly or needs help with the table, the Head Server or General Manager can edit their entries in the point of sale (POS) system and speak to a table on their behalf. Many restaurants give out Food Server schedules on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, requiring them to check in with their direct manager to trade shifts and confirm when they should arrive for their shifts.

 

What are the daily duties of a Food Server?

On a typical day, Food Servers start by rolling silverware and setting up their tables with tablecloths, menus and condiments. When customers arrive, they either communicate with a Hostess or seat guests themselves. They recommend dishes and enter customer orders into the POS system, then check up on the status of various tickets with the kitchen staff. Throughout the meal, Food Servers refill drinks, deliver cocktails and provide complimentary snacks like bread or chips. Food Servers work as a team to bring orders to large parties at the same time and deliver the check at the end of the meal.

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