Waiter Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: August 22, 2022

A Waiter, or Restaurant Server, is responsible for ensuring diners have a positive experience at food establishments by exhibiting excellent customer service. Their duties include greeting diners and taking their orders, communicating with members of the kitchen about orders and carrying meals or beverages to the correct tables.

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Waiter duties and responsibilities

Waiters are responsible for coordinating customers’ food and beverage orders with kitchen and bartending staff. Some of their common daily duties include:

  • Taking orders from customers
  • Answering questions about menu items, food sensitivities and food substitutions
  • Giving customers suggestions for food and drinks and telling them about any special menu items
  • Serving nonalcoholic beverages and delivering food and alcoholic beverages to customers
  • Communicating with customers to ensure satisfaction and resolve any complaints
  • Processing customer payments
  • Removing dirty dishes from tables to avoid clutter while customers are eating
  • Cleaning tables after customers have finished their meals
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What does a Waiter do?

Waiters typically work for restaurants and other food establishments to interact with diners and provide them with their meals in a timely manner. They work closely with other Waiters and restaurant staff to take orders, give diners menu recommendations and check on them throughout service. Their job is to use a notepad or tablet device to record orders and communicate those orders to the kitchen. They may also be responsible for cleaning tables after diners leave and communicating with the kitchen about diner requests.

Waiter skills and qualifications

A successful Waiter candidate needs various skills and qualifications to perform their required job duties, including the following:

  • Effective communication and active listening skills for conversing with guests
  • Knowledge of federal, state and local laws dealing with the consumption of alcohol
  • Impeccable customer service skills and social perceptiveness
  • Ability to evaluate customer satisfaction and responsiveness
  • Oriented toward serving others and helping customers
  • Accountability in processing customer payments
  • Physical stamina to stand for long periods of time
  • Strong time management and organizational skills

Waiter salary expectations

Waiters make an average of $11.31 per hour in the United States. This pay rate may vary depending on a candidate’s experience and the tips they typically earn during their shifts.

Waiter education and training requirements

Waiters require basic education in math to calculate sales costs, count money and calculate change when processing customer payments. A high school diploma may be sufficient proof of these skills, but it is not always required. The demonstrated ability to accurately report customer orders, maintain prescribed standards of food service safety and be approachable and friendly with the public may indicate a good candidate. Some employers prefer applicants who have completed training in safe food handling and alcohol beverage sales, and those hiring Waiters in upscale restaurants may look for candidates with an associate degree in hospitality.

Waiter experience requirements

Prior experience in the foodservice industry as a Busser, Waiter or a member of the kitchen staff demonstrates existing knowledge of food safety standards and may indicate a quality Waiter candidate. Candidates with prior Waiter experience may have existing knowledge of food service point-of-sale systems used for submitting orders and processing payments, which may allow them to quickly learn and gain proficiency in your company’s system. Additionally, experience in customer service can demonstrate the ability to work with the public, answer customer questions and resolve customer complaints.

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Frequently asked questions about Waiters

 

What is the difference between a Waiter and a Food Runner?

The difference between a Waiter and a Food Runner lies in seniority and the scope of job responsibilities. For example, Waiters hold more seniority when compared with Food Runners due to their job duties. They engage directly with diners, take and input orders and check on diners throughout their meals to take additional orders or refill beverages. In contrast, Food Runners work closely with Waiters to assist them in taking orders from the kitchen to the appropriate table.

 

What are the daily duties of a Waiter?

On a typical day, Waiters arrive at their work location before the start of their shift. They meet with other restaurant staff before service begins to go over daily specials or menu changes. Throughout their shift, Waiters take orders and process those orders for kitchen staff. They update diners on wait times for their meals. 

Waiters continually check the progress of orders at the expediting counter and organize meals onto trays to transport them to the correct tables. They also check on diners throughout their meal to ensure their satisfaction. At the end of service, they issue receipts and collect payment from diners. Waiters also help Bussers by removing glasses and dishes throughout service.

 

What qualities make a good Waiter?

A good Waiter is someone with excellent customer service capabilities and a personable nature. These qualities enable them to provide diners with a positive experience with their restaurant. Waiters also have the ability to remain calm under pressure. This is particularly important during peak service hours as it allows Waiters to maintain timely, accurate service. 

Further, a good Waiter has a degree of physical stamina that enables them to carry and balance heavy trays of food and beverages. Physical stamina is an important quality as Waiters spend most of their shifts on their feet, walking to and from the kitchen.

 

Who does a Waiter report to?

A Waiter typically reports to the Head Waiter or Senior Waiter to ask questions about the restaurant’s operations and receive table assignments. Waiters may also report directly to the Restaurant Manager or Front of House Manager when diners want to provide feedback about their experience.

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