Starting a Career of a Restaurant Server: Job Description and Responsibilities
"Servers are the backbones of the restaurant industry. Without them, we wouldn't be able to provide the level of service that our customers expect." - Danny Meyer
Restaurant Servers: Who Are They?
A restaurant server is a key member of the restaurant staff who is responsible for taking customers' orders, serving food and drinks, and providing customer service. The primary role of a server in a restaurant is to ensure that customers have an enjoyable and satisfying dining experience.
To be a successful server in a restaurant, one needs to have good communication skills, attention to detail, and a friendly and professional demeanor. The ability to multitask, work well under pressure, and handle customer complaints in a calm and effective manner are also important qualities for a server to possess.
Becoming a restaurant server can be a good career for those who are passionate about hospitality and enjoy providing excellent customer service. While it may not be a traditional career path, being a restaurant server can offer many benefits, including
- Flexibility: Restaurant servers often have flexible schedules, with the ability to work part-time or full-time, mornings or evenings, weekends or weekdays, depending on the needs of the restaurant.
- Advancement opportunities: Servers can work their way up to become trainers, shift managers, or even restaurant managers, depending on their skills and experience.
- Tips: Servers can earn a significant portion of their income through tips, which can vary depending on the restaurant and the quality of service provided.
- Fast-paced environment: For those who enjoy a fast-paced and dynamic work environment, working as a server can provide a sense of excitement and variety.
- Social interaction: Restaurant servers have the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people, from customers to colleagues, which can be rewarding for those who enjoy socializing and building relationships.
However, it's worth noting that being a restaurant server can also be a challenging job, with long hours, physical demands, and the need to handle difficult customers or situations. It may also not offer the same level of job security or benefits as other careers. Ultimately, whether or not a career as a restaurant server is a good fit will depend on an individual's personal interests, strengths, and career goals.
A typical day for a restaurant server can vary depending on the restaurant's size, type, and clientele, as well as the time of day and day of the week. However, here is an example of what a typical day may look like for a restaurant server:
Before the Shift:
- Arrive at the restaurant and review the shift schedule and any updates from management
- Check the personal appearances, such as hair, clothing, and hygiene
- Check station for supplies, such as menus, order pads, pens, and other necessary items
- Attend pre-shift meeting, if scheduled, to discuss specials, menu changes, and any other important information
During the Shift:
- Greet customers as they arrive and seat them at their table
- Provide menus and make recommendations on menu items, specials, and drinks
- Take customers' food and drink orders and enter them into the point-of-sale system
- Communicate with kitchen staff to ensure timely and accurate delivery of orders
- Serve food and drinks and check on customers to ensure that their needs are met during the meal
- Handle payment transactions and make changes as needed
- Clear tables and reset them for the next customers
- Assist other servers and staff as needed
- Handle customer complaints in a calm and effective manner
After the Shift:
- Clean and organize the station and work area
- Re-stock supplies for the next shift
- Count and reconcile cash and credit card payments
- Attend post-shift meeting, if scheduled, to debrief with management and staff
- Clock out and go home
Throughout the day, a restaurant server may encounter a variety of customers, from regulars to first-timers, and may need to adapt to their needs and preferences. They may also encounter a variety of challenges, such as managing multiple tables, handling difficult customers, and working in a fast-paced environment. Good communication, attention to detail, and a positive attitude are essential for a server to provide excellent customer service and succeed in their role.
Restaurant Server is a diverse field: The restaurant industry employs people from all walks of life, and servers can work in a variety of settings, from fast food restaurants to high-end fine dining establishments.
The basic requirements to become a restaurant server involve a combination of skills, abilities, and personal qualities. Servers are responsible for taking customers' orders, serving food and drinks, and providing excellent customer service to ensure that customers have an enjoyable dining experience. Here are some of the key requirements for the job:
- Education and experience: A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required, but no formal education is necessary. Many restaurants prefer candidates who have prior experience in the food service industry, particularly in a similar role as a server.
- Physical requirements: Restaurant servers must be able to stand and walk for long periods of time, carry heavy trays of food and drinks, and bend and reach to set and clear tables. They must also be able to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment.
- Customer service skills: Strong customer service skills are essential for restaurant servers. They must be friendly, approachable, and attentive to customers' needs, as well as able to handle difficult customers with tact and diplomacy.
- Ability to handle customer complaints: Servers should be able to handle customer complaints or concerns in a calm and effective manner. They should be able to listen to the customer's issue, apologize if necessary, and work to resolve the issue quickly and professionally.
- Communication skills: Restaurant servers need to have excellent communication skills in order to interact with customers and colleagues effectively. They should be able to speak clearly and articulately, listen actively, and communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.
- Knowledge of food and drink: Restaurant servers need to have a basic knowledge of the menu items, including ingredients, preparation methods, and any special dietary requirements. They must also be able to make recommendations to customers and answer questions about the food and drinks being served.
- Time-management skills: Restaurant servers need to be able to manage their time efficiently and work quickly to keep up with customer demand. They must be able to prioritize tasks and work effectively under pressure.
- Attention to detail: Servers must pay close attention to detail to ensure that orders are accurate and that customers receive what they have requested. They should also be able to remember multiple orders at once and ensure that they are delivered correctly to the correct table.
- Flexibility: Restaurant servers need to be flexible with their schedules, as well as be willing to adapt to changing circumstances, such as unexpected customer requests or staffing shortages.
- Friendly and professional demeanor: Servers should be welcoming and friendly to customers, making them feel comfortable and appreciated. They should also be professional, demonstrating a positive attitude and respectful behavior towards customers and colleagues.
- Ability to multitask and work under pressure: Servers must be able to multitask effectively, juggling multiple tables and orders simultaneously. They should also be able to work well under pressure, maintaining their composure even during busy or stressful periods.
- Basic math skills: Servers should have basic math skills to handle payments and make change for customers. They should also be able to calculate tips accurately.
Overall, being a successful restaurant server requires a combination of interpersonal skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work well under pressure. While the requirements for the job may vary depending on the specific restaurant and position, having these key qualities can help servers provide excellent customer service and succeed in their role.
Working as a server in a restaurant can be both challenging and rewarding. Here are some aspects of the job that servers typically experience:
- Fast-paced environment: Serving in a restaurant can be a high-energy job, especially during busy shifts. Servers need to be able to multitask, manage multiple tables, and keep up with customer orders and requests.
- Physical demands: Servers are on their feet for most of their shift and may need to carry heavy trays of food and drinks. This can be physically demanding and can require a certain level of physical fitness.
- Customer service: Providing excellent customer service is a key part of the job. Servers need to be friendly, personable, and able to communicate well with customers, even under stressful or challenging situations.
- Tips: Servers typically earn a base wage plus tips, which can be a significant portion of their income. However, tips can also be unpredictable and depend on factors such as the quality of service, the number of customers, and the average check amount.
- Teamwork: Serving in a restaurant involves working closely with other staff members, such as cooks, bussers, and hosts/hostesses. Good teamwork and communication are important for ensuring that the restaurant runs smoothly and that customers have a positive experience.
- Upselling: Servers may be expected to upsell menu items or promote specials to customers. This can require a certain level of salesmanship and product knowledge.
Overall, working as a server in a restaurant can be a demanding job, but it can also be a fun and rewarding experience for those who enjoy working with people and providing excellent customer service.
Jennifer Aniston worked as a restaurant server in the early days of her career when she was still struggling to make it as an actress. After moving to New York City in the late 1980s, she worked various part-time jobs to make ends meet, including as a telemarketer, bike messenger, and waitress. Aniston worked at several restaurants in Manhattan, but one of her most memorable jobs was at Jackson Hole Burger, a popular burger joint located on the Upper West Side. During her time there, Aniston learned the ins and outs of the food service industry, including how to handle difficult customers and how to work as part of a team. In an interview with GQ, Aniston reflected on her time as a server, saying, "I was a terrible waitress, but I was told that I was very nice." She went on to explain that working in restaurants taught her valuable life lessons and helped her develop a strong work ethic”.
The duties of a restaurant server can vary depending on the restaurant's size, type, and clientele, as well as the time of day and day of the week. However, here are some common duties that servers typically perform:
- Greeting and seating customers: Servers are often the first point of contact for customers when they enter the restaurant. They greet customers, show them to their table, and provide menus.
- Taking customer orders: Servers take customer food and drink orders and enter them into the point-of-sale system.
- Providing recommendations: Servers may be asked to provide recommendations on menu items, specials, and drinks based on customer preferences and dietary restrictions.
- Serving food and drinks: Servers serve food and drinks to customers and ensure that their orders are accurate and complete.
- Checking on customers: Servers check on customers during their meals to ensure that their needs are met, such as refilling drinks, providing extra napkins, or addressing any concerns they may have.
- Handling payment transactions: Servers handle payment transactions, including cash, credit card, or gift card payments, and make changes as needed.
- Clearing and resetting tables: Servers clear tables of used dishes and reset them for the next customers.
- Cleaning and organizing the station: Servers clean and organize their station and work area, restock supplies for the next shift, and assist with general restaurant cleaning tasks as needed.
- Handling customer complaints: Servers handle customer complaints in a calm and effective manner, listening to their concerns and finding solutions to address their issues.
- Upselling and promoting specials: Servers may be expected to promote menu items and specials to customers to increase sales and revenue for the restaurant.
Overall, servers play a critical role in providing excellent customer service and ensuring that the restaurant runs smoothly. Good communication, attention to detail, and a positive attitude are essential for servers to succeed in their role.
In addition to the key responsibilities mentioned earlier, restaurant servers may also have the following duties and tasks:
- Preparing the dining area: Servers may need to set up the dining area before the restaurant opens, including arranging tables and chairs, setting up place settings, and ensuring that condiments and utensils are stocked.
- Cleaning and maintaining the dining area: Servers may need to clean and maintain the dining area during their shift, including wiping down tables, sweeping and mopping the floor, and ensuring that the area is tidy and presentable.
- Collaborating with other restaurant staff: Servers work with other staff members, such as bussers, cooks, and host/hostesses, to ensure that the restaurant runs smoothly and that customers receive excellent service.
- Upselling and promoting specials: Servers may be expected to promote menu items and specials to customers to increase sales and revenue for the restaurant.
- Knowledge of the menu and restaurant policies: Servers need to have a good understanding of the menu items and any policies or procedures that the restaurant has in place, such as allergy and safety protocols.
- Handling customer complaints: Servers need to be able to handle customer complaints in a professional and effective manner, listening to their concerns and finding solutions to address their issues.
- Maintaining accurate records: Servers need to keep accurate records of their sales and tips, as well as any customer information that is necessary for the restaurant's loyalty programs or marketing efforts.
Overall, restaurant servers have a range of duties and tasks that they need to perform to ensure that customers have a positive dining experience and that the restaurant runs smoothly. Strong communication skills, attention to detail, and a positive attitude are essential for servers to succeed in their role.
Develop a strong work ethic: Working in a restaurant can be physically demanding, with long hours on your feet, lifting heavy trays, and dealing with a variety of customers and situations. Developing a strong work ethic, including punctuality, reliability, and a positive attitude can help you succeed in this environment.
To become a restaurant server, you need to have a combination of hard and soft skills, including strong customer service skills, multitasking abilities, attention to detail, time-management skills, sales skills, knowledge of food and beverage, proficiency in point-of-sale systems, teamwork abilities, and physical stamina. These skills enable you to work effectively in a fast-paced environment, manage multiple tasks simultaneously, communicate effectively with customers, and work collaboratively with other staff members to ensure that the restaurant runs smoothly.
Here are some of the hard skills that are necessary to become a restaurant server:
- POS system proficiency: Most restaurants use a point-of-sale (POS) system for ordering and processing payments. Proficiency in this system is essential to accurately input orders and process payments.
- Knowledge of food and beverage: A basic understanding of food and beverage is important for restaurant servers to effectively communicate menu offerings and answer customer questions. It is also important for servers to understand how dishes are prepared, the ingredients used, and the best wine or beverage pairings.
- Basic math skills: Restaurant servers need to be able to perform simple calculations, such as calculating the total cost of an order, processing payments, and making changes.
- Table setting and maintenance: Restaurant servers must know how to properly set and maintain tables for customers, including arranging plates, cutlery, and glassware.
- Health and safety regulations: Knowledge of health and safety regulations is crucial for restaurant servers to ensure that food is prepared, handled, and served safely to customers.
These hard skills, combined with the soft skills of strong customer service, multitasking, attention to detail, time management, sales, teamwork, and physical stamina, enable restaurant servers to provide excellent service to customers while ensuring the restaurant runs smoothly.
Here are some of the soft skills that are essential for becoming a successful restaurant server:
- Customer service: The ability to provide excellent customer service is a key skill for restaurant servers. They need to be friendly, welcoming, and able to handle difficult situations with professionalism.
- Communication: Effective communication is critical for restaurant servers to take orders, answer questions, and manage customer requests.
- Multitasking: Restaurant servers need to be able to handle multiple tasks at once, such as taking orders, serving food, and processing payments while still being attentive to the needs of their customers.
- Attention to detail: Restaurant servers must pay attention to detail to ensure that orders are accurate, tables are set up correctly, and customers are happy with their experience.
- Time-management: Time-management skills are important for restaurant servers to prioritize tasks and ensure that customers are served in a timely manner.
- Sales: Sales skills are essential for restaurant servers to upsell and promote menu items to customers.
- Teamwork: Restaurant servers need to work effectively with other staff members, including cooks, bussers, and hosts/hostesses, to ensure that the restaurant runs smoothly.
- Positive attitude: A positive attitude can help restaurant servers handle the stresses of the job and provide excellent service to customers.
- Problem-solving: The ability to think on their feet and solve problems quickly is crucial for restaurant servers to handle unexpected situations, such as customer complaints or mistakes in orders.
Overall, these soft skills are crucial for restaurant servers to provide exceptional customer service, handle multiple tasks effectively, work well in a team, and ensure that customers have a positive experience.
Restaurant Server can be a fun and social job: For people who enjoy meeting new people and working in a fast-paced, social environment, being a restaurant server can be a fun and rewarding career.
What is more, being a restaurant server requires a set of character traits that are crucial for providing excellent customer service and succeeding in the role. Here are some of the most important character traits of a restaurant server:
- Empathy: A good restaurant server should be able to empathize with their customers and understand their needs. This means being able to read their body language and respond to their requests in a sensitive and caring way.
- Patience: Dealing with customers can sometimes be frustrating, especially when they are demanding or difficult. A good restaurant server should be patient and able to stay calm under pressure.
- Adaptability: Every shift in a restaurant can be different, and a good server needs to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. This means being able to switch between tasks quickly and effectively, and being willing to take on new responsibilities.
- Attention to detail: A good server should be able to pay attention to the details of their customers' orders and ensure that they are delivered accurately and on time.
- Organization: A good server needs to be organized and able to keep track of multiple tables and orders at once. This means being able to prioritize tasks and manage their time effectively.
- Positivity: Providing great customer service often comes down to having a positive attitude. A good server should be friendly, outgoing, and able to put customers at ease.
- Teamwork: Restaurant servers work closely with other staff members, such as kitchen staff and other servers. A good server should be able to work well with others and contribute to a positive team environment.
These character traits are essential for any restaurant server and are key to providing excellent customer service and building a successful career in the industry.
James Franco worked as a restaurant server before becoming a Hollywood star. He worked at a California restaurant called The Lucky Strike, where he started out as a busboy before eventually becoming a waiter. In an interview with Esquire, Franco described his experience at The Lucky Strike as a "grueling" job, where he often worked long hours and dealt with difficult customers. He also revealed that he would often take on additional shifts in order to make enough money to pay for acting classes. Despite the challenges, Franco credits his time as a server with teaching him important life skills, including how to handle pressure and how to be part of a team. Today, Franco is known for his prolific career as an actor, director, and writer, but his early experiences in the food service industry remain an important part of his journey to success.
- Job description: As a server, your primary responsibility is to provide excellent customer service and ensure that your customers have an enjoyable dining experience. This includes taking orders, serving food and drinks, and addressing any customer concerns or complaints. You may also be responsible for setting up and cleaning tables, processing payments, and assisting with other duties as needed.
- Job requirements: To be a successful server, you should have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to multitask and work well under pressure. You should also be able to work flexible hours, including nights and weekends, and be comfortable standing for extended periods of time.
- Additional duties: In addition to your main duties, you may be responsible for setting up and cleaning tables, preparing and restocking condiments and utensils, and assisting with other tasks as needed.
- Skills: As a server, you should have strong communication, listening, and customer service skills. You should also be able to work well in a team environment and have a good understanding of basic math and money-handling skills.
- Character traits: To excel as a server, you should be friendly, outgoing, and have a positive attitude. You should also be able to remain calm and professional under pressure and have a strong work ethic and attention to detail. Finally, you should be able to adapt to changing situations and handle unexpected challenges with ease.
What is the dress code for servers?
The dress code for servers varies depending on the establishment. Some restaurants may require servers to wear a uniform or specific clothing items, while others may have more relaxed dress codes. It's important to check with your employer for specific guidelines.
What is the typical work schedule for a server?
The work schedule for servers can vary depending on the restaurant's hours of operation. Servers may work during the lunch or dinner rush, and may work on weekends and holidays. Some restaurants may also offer part-time or full-time positions.
How do servers handle difficult customers?
Servers should remain calm and professional when dealing with difficult customers. They should actively listen to the customer's concerns and try to resolve the issue in a polite and respectful manner. If necessary, servers can involve a manager or supervisor to help resolve the situation.
How do servers handle mistakes in orders?
If a mistake is made in an order, servers should apologize and try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. This may involve bringing out the correct dish, offering a discount, or providing a complimentary item.
What training is required for servers?
Training requirements for servers vary depending on the establishment. Some restaurants may provide on-the-job training, while others may require servers to complete a formal training program. It's important for servers to understand the menu, how to take orders, and how to provide excellent customer service.
How can servers improve their skills and advance their careers?
Servers can improve their skills and advance their careers by taking additional training courses, seeking out leadership opportunities, and taking on additional responsibilities in the restaurant. Networking with other professionals in the industry can also be beneficial for career growth.