To customers, a waiter or waitress is the public face of a restaurant. He or she greets them, tells them what the daily specials are, answers questions and may even recommend particular dishes. Of course the waiter and waitress also serves them their food. While customers see the wait staff each time they visit the establishment, they may never lay eyes on the chef.
As of 2010, there were 2,260,000 people employed in this occupation, mostly in full-service restaurants. Waiters and waitresses typically work part-time, early in the morning, late in the evening, and on weekends and holidays. Some jobs, in resorts for example, are seasonal and may last for only a few months at a time.
This job can be mentally and physically stressful. A waiter or waitress must serve food quickly and efficiently. Being the public face of a restaurant isn't an easy job as it is often the server who takes the blame when patrons don't have a satisfying dining experience. He or she carries heavy trays filled with plates of food and beverages and spends a lot of time on his or her feet.
While some employers prefer to hire wait staff who have graduated from high school or whom have earned an equivalency diploma, most employ those who are still students. Restaurants generally provide on-the-job training but some restaurants provide classroom training as well.
If you don't like people, being a waiter or waitress probably isn't the career for you. You must be personable, attentive and polite. You have to be a good communicator, a trait that will come in handy when dealing with customers as well as co-workers. A waiter or waitress should be skilled at working as part of a team since the entire restaurant staff must function well together. A good memory allows a server to recall menu items, specials and customers' orders and to remember people who dine there frequently. Physical stamina is a must given the fact that this occupation involves heavy lifting and spending long periods of time on one's feet.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this occupation will see employment growth that is slower than the average for all occupations through. It is however at the top of a list of careers that will have the most job openings due mostly to the fact that many people will leave the field during this decade.
Waiters and waitresses earned median hourly wages of $8.93 which translates into a median annual salary of $18,570 if one were to work full-time (US, 2011).
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a Waiter and Waitress currently earns in your city.
A Day in a Waiter And Waitress's Life:
On a typical day a waiter's and waitress's tasks might include:
- welcoming customers to the establishment
- explaining daily specials and regular menu items
- taking orders for food and drinks from patrons
- relaying special instructions, for example accommodations for a customer's food allergies or preferences, to kitchen staff
- preparing itemized checks and processing payment
- carrying trays of food and beverages
- clearing tables of dirty dishes and glasses and preparing them for other guests
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Waiter And Waitress, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/waiters-and-waitresses.htm (visited November 29, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Waiter And Waitress, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/35-3031.00 (visited November 29, 2012).