- Serving tables requires minimal official education but servers may need licenses.
- Job duties for servers include interacting with customers, taking orders, handling payments, and working with kitchen staff.
- A potential hire should be a strong communicator, positive, energetic, calm under pressure, and willing to learn.
Serving tables in restaurants is one of the most common occupations in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 2.5 million server jobs in 2018. In general, a restaurant server job description is fairly similar from one restaurant to another. A successful server will have a high degree of flexibility as well as soft skills that will be readily transferable.
While servers generally share similar duties and have the same job title, the job can be very different from restaurant to restaurant. However, there are certain skills you need to be sure you include in a server job listing.
Follow along as we cover the most important aspects of a waiter or waitress job description. Plus, get quick tips on traits to look for in an interview.
Credentials and Background
The certifications and education a server needs to land a job differ between restaurants and states. However, there are some solid rules of thumb to follow.
High school diploma
Most restaurants won’t require a server to have a high school diploma or GED, though having those certainly won’t hurt a server’s prospects of employment. Some high-end restaurants may ask for at least a high school diploma, but in general there are no education requirements for the job. Generally, job training is provided on site.
Food handler’s license
Many states require servers to have a food handler’s license certified by the health department. Getting one of these licenses is generally cheap and easy: Many programs cost less than $10 and will only take a few hours to complete online.
Alcohol seller-server training
Servers in an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages will need to be at least 21 years of age to serve it legally in many states. Besides that, some states require servers to have training and certification to serve alcohol, while other states have no requirements at all. Be sure to check up on the laws in your state so you know what servers need.
Job Duties to List in a Server Job Description
As the term “server” implies, serving tables is the centerpiece of a waiter or waitress’s job. As anyone who’s been in the industry will tell you, doing so takes a lot more skills and energy than many would imagine.
Interacting with customers
Since servers interact directly with customers, they’re essentially the face of the restaurant. The way a server works with customers can make or break their dining experience and can be the difference between the customer returning or not. Employers often ask for excellent customer service skills, but what does that mean?
Before customers are seated, servers should make sure tables have silverware and are thoroughly cleaned. When servers greet customers, first impressions are crucial. They need to be positive without going over the top or coming off as forced. Servers need to know the menu well enough to answer questions and make suggestions in a way that makes the customer feel informed. A knowledgeable server gives customers confidence in the restaurant and can make them more excited about what they’re about to eat.
Often, servers can maintain good service by staying one step ahead of the customer. This means asking for food and drink orders before the customer tries to flag a server down, checking that condiments are full, and of course making sure to serve food in a timely manner. This doesn’t mean servers need to be constantly checking on a table, but it does mean they need to have an eagle eye for what a table may need. On top of that, keeping a positive attitude and a smile will help the customer feel at home.
Servers may sometimes need to deliver bad news, like a menu item being sold out, or handle customer complaints. Handling such scenarios is one of the most demanding parts of the job. They’ll need to maintain a calm, respectful demeanor and be willing to bring the problem up with management.
The nitty-gritty of taking food orders comes down to how servers communicate the order to the kitchen. This is done through a point-of-sale (POS) system.
There are countless POS systems out there, and using them properly is often the line between chaos and order in a restaurant. These systems run the gamut from state-of-the-art iPad-based POS systems to old-school paper-only systems. Whatever the case, servers need to know the POS system like the back of their hand to prevent getting overwhelmed during busy hours. If they aren’t familiar with the POS a restaurant uses, they need to be able to pick it up quickly.
Servers take customer orders and put them in the POS system. Some restaurants, though increasingly few, expect servers to memorize a customer’s order, while many others have servers write orders down. Getting the order right is critical: Nobody likes getting served food they didn’t order — or worse, having their order forgotten altogether.
Servers also need to handle payments from customers, so be sure to include basic math skills in your server job description. Potential hires must know how to work a credit card machine on top of being trustworthy with cash. The only difficult part of handling payments is when servers have to manage several at a time, like during busy hours.
Working with kitchen staff
Servers are the link between the kitchen and the customer. Servers essentially work in two worlds, and they’re equally important.
For example, servers need to make sure that a customer’s order is clearly communicated to kitchen staff. Is there a customer that’s allergic or sensitive to certain food items? The kitchen staff needs to know, and it’s a server’s job to tell them.
Additionally, servers may need to help kitchen staff during peak hours. Kitchens can get slammed during crunch time, and any extra hand they get can be a godsend. While a server won’t be cooking the food, kitchen staff may ask servers to help with some aspects of food preparation like plating or presentation. Servers also need to communicate messages from the kitchen to the customer, like how a dish is prepared or what’s currently available.
Veterans of the food service world will tell you that maintaining positive relations with kitchen staff is one of the best ways for a server to make their life easy. This means staying calm during crunch time and treating cooks, dishwashers, and everyone else behind the scenes with the same respect everyone would like to get. For this reason, a good server job description prioritizes communication skills and teamwork.
What Should You Look for in a Server
Because serving tables isn’t a hard-skill job like welding or even cooking, knowing who to hire can be tricky. Additionally, many people who enter the food service world are young or inexperienced and may not have a strong resume.
Sure, an experienced waiter can be a safe hire, but inexperienced servers who came across your server job description can be molded into excellent employees. Certain personality traits can indicate that a person may well be just the candidate you’re looking for.
In no particular order, here are some traits you should look for in a server:
- Strong communication skills
- A positive, outgoing attitude
- A willingness to learn
- Comfort with working on a team
- Calmness under pressure
- A sense of humor
- Reliability and trustworthiness
Because serving tables relies heavily on face-to-face interaction, interpersonal skills are critical. At the same time, servers should be organized enough to juggle multiple responsibilities all at once.
There is no ideal demographic for servers: these skills can be found anywhere. An interview will generally give you a lot more information about a candidate than a resume. By speaking to them in person, a restaurant owner can get a good gauge of a server’s personality and see if they’d be the correct fit for a team.
There’s No I in Restaurant
Servers fill a critical function in restaurants along with line cooks, hosts, bussers, and dishwashers. Finding standout candidates to fill each role is what helps restaurants execute successfully. But operators are often faced with the challenge of keeping each role staffed, often leaving team members to work double shifts to fill in when you’re short-staffed.
Pared is looking to change that. When you use Pared’s app, you’ll be able to fill your front-of-the-house needs in as little as two hours. Whether you need event servers, cashiers, baristas, bartenders, barbacks, or support staff, Pared has your back. We’ve already done the legwork with vetting so you can book with confidence. Sign up today and see what it’s like to never be short-staffed again.