FOOD SERVER - Job Description
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At a minimum, food servers are expected to take orders, serve food, set and clear tables, and keep smiles on their faces while doing these and other tasks in a restaurant. Customer service is a huge component of gaining (and keeping) their jobs. Service with a smile really counts. Food servers should also be familiar with some of the basics of food preparation in order to help customers decide on certain menu items. Depending on the restaurant, they may be required to know more. For example, food servers may be expected to recommend the best wine to complement a meal or perform some food preparation at the customers' tables. They may even have to set a few of the more exotic dishes on fire! Servers who work at ethnic restaurants are expected to be able to interpret the menu for confused diners.
The work environment depends on where you'd be most comfortable. At coffee shops, customers are in a hurry and count on very fast service in order to get in and out in a relatively short time. On the other hand, servers who work in upscale restaurants serve customers who expect a leisurely dining experience with impeccable service. Of course, there are many restaurants that fall between these two extremes.
Many people choose waiting tables as a job because the flexible schedule gives them time to pursue other interests. The drawback is that people who wait tables rarely have a consistent weekly schedule. In addition, you should expect to have some very late or very early hours throughout your career as a food server.
If you have trouble dealing with people, this is not the job for you. No matter how many times a baby throws milk on the floor or how rude a particular customer may be, your job depends on the three C's: being cool, calm, and collected.
A Day in the Life of a Waiter or Waitress
Let's imagine you've been hired as a member of the waitstaff at your local bistro. You have the 5 PM to 11 PM shift. What do you do?
A pre-shift employee meal is served, usually at a discount, but you have to arrive before your shift to take advantage of it.
Be in your full serving uniform. Head to the staff meeting, where you'll learn the evening's specials, your table section assignment, and the “86 list” (what the restaurant is out of).
Start your premial (pronounced PREE-mee-ul) work, which is just fancy talk for making sure all of the tables in your section are set and have condiment dispensers that are full and clean.
Wait on your first table of the evening.
Kitchen closes. Start your sidework (post-shift) work, which is the reverse of your premial work. Clean coffee machines and tables. Be considerate and leave a clean section for the next day's first shift.
Cash out—that is, collect your money and tips.
A final word: Waiting tables is a very physical job. You should be in fairly good shape, since you'll constantly be on your feet and may have to carry heavy trays of food.