A waiter/waitress


Waiters/waitresses supply guests with food and drinks as requested. Waiters/waitresses usually work in restaurants, bars and hotels. This involves the preparation of tables, serving food or beverages and taking payments.

Excludes head waiter/head waitress.
Excludes bartender.

Waiters and waitresses typically do the following:

  • Greet customers, explain daily specials, and answer questions related to the menu
  • Take orders from customers for food and beverages
  • Relay food and beverage orders to the kitchen, such as via a point-of-sale system
  • Prepare certain menu items, such as assembling garnishes or brewing coffee
  • Carry trays of food or drinks from the kitchen to the dining tables
  • Check on customers to confirm satisfaction and assist with other requests
  • Clear tables after customers finish dining, or as needed
  • Prepare customers’ itemized checks, take payment, and return change
  • Set up dining areas and stock service areas

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to waiter/waitress:

waiting staff
event server
table waiter
wait staff
chef de rang

Working conditions

Waiters and waitresses stand most of their shift and often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and drinks. The work may be hectic and fast-paced. During busy dining periods, they may be under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently. They must be able to work as part of a team with kitchen staff to ensure that customers receive prompt service. As such, they may be exposed to kitchen hazards, such as sharp knives and hot ovens.

Waiters and waitresses may be required to wear a uniform or to comply with a specific dress code.

Work Schedules

Part time work is common, and schedules may vary to include early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays.

In establishments that offer seasonal employment, waiters and waitresses may be employed for only a few months each year.

Minimum qualifications

No formal educational credential is generally required to work as a waiter/waitress. However, some employers may prefer workers with at least a high school diploma, or a hospitality program or a certificate.

Waiters and waitresses typically learn through short-term on-the-job-training, usually lasting from several days to a few weeks. Trainees typically work with an experienced waiter or waitress, who teaches them basic serving techniques.

On-the-job training helps new workers learn serving techniques and use of the restaurant’s order-placement, payment, and other systems. Training also prepares waiters and waitresses to properly handle difficult situations and unpleasant or unruly customers.

Training for waiters and waitresses in establishments that serve alcohol typically involves learning local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages. Some states, counties, or cities mandate the training, which typically lasts a few hours and may be offered online or in-house.

Some states require that servers take training related to the safe handling of food.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Waiter/waitress is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Waiter/waitress career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to waiter/waitress.

restaurant host/restaurant hostess
club host/club hostess
hotel concierge

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of waiter/waitress. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of waiter/waitress with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

pastry chef
head pastry chef
head chef
camping ground manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of waiter/waitress.

  • Alcoholic beverage products: The origin and composition of alcoholic beverages and cocktails, the way to match them with food and the way they have to be poured.
  • Dietary regimes: The field of food habits and dietary regimes, including those inspired by religious beliefs.
  • Food and beverages on the menu: The characteristics of food and drinks items on the menu, including ingredients, taste and preparation time.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of waiter/waitress.

  • Maintain personal hygiene standards: Preserve impeccable personal hygiene standards and have a tidy appearance.
  • Comply with food safety and hygiene: Respect optimal food safety and hygiene during preparation, manufacturing, processing, storage, distribution and delivery of food products.
  • Maintain relationship with customers: Build a lasting and meaningful relationship with customers in order to ensure satisfaction and fidelity by providing accurate and friendly advice and support, by delivering quality products and services and by supplying after-sales information and service.
  • Serve food in table service: Provide food at the table whilst maintaining high level of customer service and food safety standards.
  • Serve wines: Provide wine using proper techniques in front of the customers. Open the bottle correctly, decant the wine if needed, serve and keep the wine in the proper temperature and container.
  • Advise guests on menus for special events: Offer recommendations to guests on meal and drink items available for special events or parties in a professional and friendly manner.
  • Assist vip guests: Help VIP-guests with their personal orders and requests.
  • Attend to detail regarding food and beverages: Perform great attention to all steps in the creation and the presentation of a qualitative product.
  • Assist customers: Provide support and advice to customers in making purchasing decisions by finding out their needs, selecting suitable service and products for them and politely answering questions about products and services.
  • Identify customer’s needs: Use appropriate questions and active listening in order to identify customer expectations, desires and requirements according to product and services.
  • Clean surfaces: Disinfect surfaces in accordance with sanitary standards.
  • Take food and beverage orders from customers: Accept orders from customers and record them into the Point of Sale system. Manage order requests and communicate them to fellow staff members.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Take payments for bills: Accept payments from customers by cash money or credit cards.
  • Measure customer feedback: Evaluate customer’s comments in order to find out whether customers feel satisfied or dissatisfied with the product or service.
  • Work in a hospitality team: Function confidently within a group in hospitality services, in which each has his own responsibility in reaching a common goal which is a good interaction with the customers, guests or collaborators and their contentment.
  • Arrange tables: Organise and dress tables to accommodate special events.
  • Welcome restaurant guests: Greet guests and take them to their tables and make sure they are properly seated at a convenient table.
  • Supervise food quality: Oversee the quality and safety of food served to visitors and customers according to food standards.
  • Assist clients with special needs: Aid clients with special needs following relevant guidelines and special standards. Recognise their needs and accurately respond to them if needed.
  • Present menus: Hand out menus to guests while assisting guests with questions using your mastery of the menu.
  • Process payments: Accept payments such as cash, credit cards and debit cards. Handle reimbursement in case of returns or administer vouchers and marketing instruments such as bonus cards or membership cards. Pay attention to safety and the protection of personal data.
  • Serve beverages: Provide a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks, mineral waters, wine and bottled beer over a counter or using a tray.
  • Prepare the restaurant for service: Make the restaurant ready for service, including arranging and setting tables, preparing service areas and ensuring the cleanliness of the dining area.
  • Prepare alcoholic beverages: Make and serve alcoholic beverages according to the customer’s wants.
  • Prepare hot drinks: Make hot drinks by brewing coffee and tea and adequately preparing other hot beverages.
  • Check dining room cleanliness: Control dining areas including their floor and wall surfaces, tables and serving stations and ensure appropriate cleanliness.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of waiter/waitress. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Sparkling wines: The varieties of sparkling wines and their match with food products.
  • Local area tourism industry: The characteristics of local sights and events, accommodation, bars and restaurants and leisure activities.
  • Laws regulating serving alcoholic drinks: The content of national and local legislation regulating restrictions to the sale of alcoholic beverages and methods for serving them appropriately.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of waiter/waitress. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Educate customers on tea varieties: Instruct customers about origins, characteristics, differences in flavours and blends of tea products.
  • Maintain incident reporting records: Keep a system to record details of unusual events that occur at the facility, such as job-related injuries.
  • Dispose waste: Dispose waste in accordance with legislation, thereby respecting environmental and company responsibilities.
  • Process reservations: Execute customers’ reservations in accordance to their schedules and needs by phone, electronically or in person.
  • Recommend wines: Offer recommendations to customers on available wines and advise combinations of wines with specific dishes on the menu.
  • Decant wines: Identify when wine should be decanted. Decant the bottles in presence of guests in a professional and safe way. Decanting especially benefits red wines. Pour wine from one container into another, typically in order to separate out sediment.
  • Prepare service trolleys: Make service trolleys ready with food and beverages for room and floor service.
  • Educate customers on coffee varieties: Instruct customers about origins, characteristics, differences in flavours and blends of coffee products.
  • Use food cutting tools: Trim, peel and slice products with knives, paring or food cutting tools or equipment according to guidelines.
  • Apply foreign languages in hospitality: Use the mastery of foreign languages orally or written in the hospitality sector in order to communicate with colleagues, customers or guests.
  • Detect drug abuse: Identify people under excessive use of alcohol and drugs inside a facility, effectively deal with these people and supervise customers own safety while applying relevant regulations.
  • Prepare flambeed dishes: Make flambeed dishes in the kitchen or in front of customers while paying attention to safety.

ISCO group and title

5131 – Waiters

  1. Waiter/waitress – ESCO
  2. Waiters and Waitresses : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Waiter Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  4. Featured image: Photo by Kate Townsend on Unsplash
Last updated on November 9, 2022

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