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Server (Waiter/Waitress) Career Guide

Are you someone with a high school diploma, who is seeking a sociable career? Are you looking for a career in a cohesive team that will give you opportunities worldwide?

If you’ve answered yes to the question above, we think you might love a career as a server!

Servers work in restaurants or other food places and take orders, provide customers with food and maintain a friendly demeanor. To become a server, there are no formal educational requirements. This makes it an accessible career to everyone.

Ultimately, I still loved seeing a messy room turn into a beautiful room, and I couldn’t deny that. I loved cleaning tables. And while it has taken me a while to admit it I am now a full-time waitress and I’m not ashamed of my job. I love it!

Sharmain Zain

Server (Waiter/Waitress) Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Server (Waiter/Waitress) Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Server (Waiter/Waitress) field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33946 Banquet Captain Male 24 $30,000 Houston, TX 01/01/2010
33925 Server Male 20 $20,000 bingham farms, MI 01/01/2010
33934 Server Female 36 $28,000 Salt Lake City, UT 01/01/2010
33824 Cafe Server Female 22 $12,000 brooklyn, NY 01/01/2010
33613 Server Male 24 $35,000 ft.lauderdale, FL 01/01/2010

Overview

What a server does

Being a server requires you to take orders, provide customers with food in a timely manner, and maintain a friendly demeanor. In many restaurants, servers are also responsible for doing some prep work to get ready for table service, such as preparing butter and bread or other items to be served to clients, and cleaning the restaurant. A servers tasks may vary slightly depending on where they work. However, they can expect to do duties and tasks such as:

  • Providing high quality excellent customer services
  • Greeting customers and presenting them with menus/listing specials
  • Taking orders and serving food/drinks
  • Arranging table settings
  • Wiping tables down after customers have left and keeping them clean and tidy at all times
  • Collecting payments
  • Cooperating and communicating with all serving and kitchen staff

Why they are needed

Revenue in the food and beverages industry is projected to reach $236,529m in 2020. Waiters and waitresses play a fundamental role in this industry, by ensuring that customers have the most pleasant experience possible. Without dedicated waiting staff, it would be impossible for such an industry to thrive and progress.

Pros and cons of a career as a server:

Pros:

  • There is the potential to make good money when working in a fancy restaurant or a busy restaurant
  • There are no formal educational requirements, making it an accessible career
  • There are server jobs available all around the world, making it excellent for those who want to travel
  • It offers lots of variety (e.g., you could work in a bar, at a high end restaurant, in a cafe, for a university hall)
  • You get to meet and interact with lots of different people every single day

Cons:

  • It is a physically demanding job that requires you to be on your feet and to lift heavy items
  • It is very emotionally demanding, as you deal with a multitude of different people
  • The pay can be uncertain
  • The hours can be long. Servers will have to work weekends, evenings, and holidays
  • It can be a stressful and high pressured job, especially when restaurants/bars are busy
  • You will have to work with some very difficult customers/ones that are hard to please

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of waiters and waitresses is projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This employment growth is expected because the growing population means that more people will be dining out. This will increase the demand for more restaurants to open, and these will need serving staff.

Overall, job prospects for this career are good. This is because a large number of workers leave the occupation each year, making space for new servers.

Career paths

The best thing about a career as a waiter or waitress is that there are no formal educational requirements. If you decide to become a server, then you will learn through on-the-job training. This will teach you the basic skills and techniques and typically lasts no longer than a few days to a week.

Some full-service restaurants, however, may provide new employees with classroom training in combination with periods of on-the-job work experience. During this classroom training, new servers will get detailed training on the philosophy of the restaurant, how to build rapport, serving techniques, customer service and teamwork.

If you decide to work for a place that serves alcohol, then you may have to have additional training, which typically last a few hours. These teaches you about the state and local laws surrounding the sale of alcohol.

Example Job Titles for Server (Waiter/Waitress)

Below is a list of common job titles in the Server (Waiter/Waitress) field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses in the United States was $11.00. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.37 per hour, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $20.65 per hour. The highest paying industry is traveler accommodation, where the median hourly wage is $11.72. The arts, entertainment and recreation industry is the second highest, with a median hourly wage of $11.20. Next is restaurants and other eating places, with a median hourly wage of $10.73.

Servers usually make a lower base wage than those in other professions, as the tip minimum wage is below the standard minimum wage. Servers earn tips, which can be lucrative, especially in high-priced restaurants. That being said, pay is often unpredictable… you may earn $20 one night and $200 the next night. Pay highly depends on which restaurant you work for.

Autonomy and Flexibility

In general, autonomy and flexibility is fairly low in these positions. Servers typically tend to be supervised by those in more senior roles, and will have little choice over how the restaurant is ran/what decisions they make. Similarly, the hours a server works are quite demanding, and they will have little flexibility and control over these.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an sever based on average annual salary and number of jobs available, were:

  1. West Virginia where the average annual salary was $26,920
  2. Iowa, where the average annual salary was $29,329
  3. Nevada, where the average annual salary was $26,452
  4. Illinois, where the average annual salary was $30,343
  5. Ohio where the average annual salary was $26,054

The worst states, according to Zippia, were Georgia, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Maine.

Work environment

The largest employers of waiters and waitresses in the United States were restaurants, which employed 81% of all waiters and waitresses. Travel accommodation employed 6% and arts, entertainment and recreation employed 4%.

Servers will spend more of their working day on their feet. They will have to carry heavy trays of food, dishes and drinks. Their work can be hectic, fast paced and high-pressured and they must be able to work as part of a team. In generally, servers are the front line of customer service and therefore appearance is incredibly important.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Server (Waiter/Waitress) careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Server (Waiter/Waitress) career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Server (Waiter/Waitress).

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

There has been no detailed exploration as to what personality traits will make a successful server. However, it is incredibly likely that servers will score high on extraversion, as this will give them the skills they need to provide high quality customer service. They will also most likely be conscientious, as they will need to follow rules, regulations and meet deadlines/timelines. Agreeableness may also be useful, as this will allow them to work as part of a team.

Accomplishment and mastery

Although servers will learn their skills very quickly in a short space of time, there still isn’t a huge sense of accomplishment and mastery. Sometimes, servers may feel accomplishment or mastery if they overcome a problem or make a customer exceedingly happy. But, except for this, there is probably little accomplishment and mastery.

Meaning and contribution

I think we can all agree, that the work of a server will not change the world or make a positive change to society. Therefore, it has little meaning and contribution. There is, however, some meaning to the customer – when they are served excellent food and have the opportunity to bond with family/friends/colleagues, they will be thankful for the work of servers.

Life fit

Many waiters and waitresses will work part time, whilst working another job and/or studying. Typically, they will work early mornings, late evenings, weekends and holidays as this is when most people will want to eat out. This means it can provide a difficult life fit, especially for those who have a family.

Who will thrive in this career?

The first thing you will need to thrive as a server is the desire to interact with others. In order to provide excellent customer service and leave a lasting impression, it is vital that servers are engaging, friendly and welcoming. Similarly, you must be able to work as part of a team, as most restaurants promote a cohesive working environment.

To really thrive as a server, you will excellent communication skills. You will have to communicate with customers and colleagues and must be able to actively listen, understand customer concerns and relay information to the chefs (e.g., orders, special dietary requirements). Attention to detail is also key, as servers will need to remember customers orders with specific preferences and pay attention to the quality of the food.

Who will struggle in this career?

Those with poor people skills, or those who do not like interacting with people all day, will struggle with being a server. This is because servers must be highly engaging and thrive of interaction in order to provide excellent customer service and a long lasting impression. Similarly, those who cannot think on their feet or remain calm in stressful situations may struggle as sever, as it is a fast paced jobs where things often go wrong and need resolving. Finally, if you cannot work well as part of a team then you may struggle with the dynamic of a career in serving. Nearly all servers will work in a close nit and cohesive team.

Requirements

Skills and talents

Servers will need skills and talents such as:

  • Customer service skills, as servers will spend most of their time interacting with customers and must understand their needs a leave a lasting impression
  •  Verbal communication skills, as servers will need to listen carefully to customers and relay information to kitchen staff/managers
  • Attention to detail, as servers must ensure they get the customers order correct and accurate
  • Active listening skills, as this is essential to understanding what the customer is looking for
  • Physical fitness, as servers will be on their feet all day and may have to lift trays or heavy materials
  • Prioritizing, as serving is a high pressured profession and servers need to be able to multitask and balance the many demands

Education

There are no formal educational requirements for servers. Servers will learn all the necessary skills and techniques through on-the-job training. This varies depending on the type of food service place. Some full-service restaurants provide new employees with classroom training in combination with periods of on-the-job work experience. During this classroom training, new servers will get detailed training on the philosophy of the restaurant, how to build rapport, serving techniques, customer service and teamwork.

Servers who work in places that serve alcohol may have to have additional training to teach them about the state and local laws surrounding the sale of alcohol.

Certifications

There are no specific certification requirements for waiters or waitresses.

How to Become

Summary

Being a server is a fast-paced, demanding and high pressure career that requires you to take orders, provide customers with food in a timely manner, and maintain a friendly demeanor. Over the coming years, the demand for servers is expected to grow, offering lots of job opportunities.

Immediate action

As there are no formal educational requirements to become a server, the only immediate action we can suggest is to begin apply for local waiter/waitressing jobs… good luck!

Education and learning

To become a server, there are no formal educational requirements. This makes it a accessible career to everyone.

Skill development

Once hired, servers will receive on the job training where they will develop and progress all of their skills.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Server (Waiter/Waitress) careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33946 Banquet Captain Male 24 $30,000 Houston, TX 01/01/2010
33925 Server Male 20 $20,000 bingham farms, MI 01/01/2010
33934 Server Female 36 $28,000 Salt Lake City, UT 01/01/2010
33824 Cafe Server Female 22 $12,000 brooklyn, NY 01/01/2010
33613 Server Male 24 $35,000 ft.lauderdale, FL 01/01/2010

Resources