How to Become a Food Server

The food service industry includes a variety of places, institutions, and companies that provide meals to a variety of customers. Food servers are trained workers that perform many different food and beverage tasks to meet the needs of customers.

What does a food server do?

Food servers provide food and beverage service to a variety of customers in many different types of eating establishments. They record the orders of customers, serve food and beverages, create itemized checks, and sometimes receive payment from customers. They provide personal attention and ensure the needs of the customer are met. Food servers sometimes perform other duties such as seating customers at tables, providing service to guests seated at bars or counters, setting up and cleaning tables, and operating the cash register. Food servers often meet with managers and other staff to discuss the menu, new food items, specials, and address specific issues.

What kind of training does a food server need?

There are no specific educational requirements for food servers, but many employers prefer candidates with at least a high school diploma. Food servers typically learn their skills through on the job training. Food servers who wish to work for upscale restaurants may need sufficient work experience and/or some type of postsecondary training. Some food servers complete formal training at vocational and technical schools. Most employers provide training on food handling procedures, customer service, health and safety precautions, and sanitation practices. Some restaurants provide classroom training on the rules and philosophy of the facility. New food servers typically start out by observing experienced workers and move on to independent tasks as they gain the necessary skills and experience. Food servers complete additional training as needed throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a food server?

Employment of food servers is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 10% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing population and expansion of the food service industry will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be excellent especially for food servers with extensive experience. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace food servers that leave the occupation.

How much do food servers make?

As of February 2010, the average annual salary for food servers is $24,000; average annual food server salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a food server is a great choice for individuals with a strong interest in providing food service to a variety of customers. Food servers must have a solid understanding of the necessary policies and procedures of their employer. Patience, self-confidence, good problem solving, and a neat appearance are essential characteristics. Food servers must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and ability to provide excellent customer service to many different types of customers. They must also be able to effectively work as part of a team.

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