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Cafeteria Attendant Job Description, Career as a Cafeteria Attendant, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: On-the-job training

Salary: Median—$7.10 per hour

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Cafeteria attendants work in schools, colleges, clubs, hospitals, other institutions, and office buildings. Their main job is to serve food at a counter. Depending on the organization of the cafeteria, cafeteria attendants may serve all the items offered or only one or two items, including salads, soups, desserts, vegetables, or main dishes. Some attendants are in charge of beverage machines. Food servers must be careful to serve just the right amount of food to control the amount of waste.

Some cafeteria workers have specific tasks. Dining room attendants put out clean trays and silverware and refill napkin dispensers. After meals they may remove dirty dishes and wipe down tables. Food runners carry food from the kitchen to the serving line. They tell the cooks how many more people to expect. Some cafeteria attendants are responsible for several tasks in the kitchen. They make coffee and tea, toast bread, cut pies and cakes, slice meat and cheese, or make sandwiches. They often cook foods to order such as eggs, bacon, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

In some cafeterias attendants calculate the customer's bill, receive money, and give change; however, most cafeterias have cashiers who handle all of the money transactions.

Between serving hours, cafeteria attendants clean the kitchen, serving and dining areas, tables, and equipment. They may wrap and restock prepackaged items. They refill salt and pepper shakers, sweep, mop, vacuum floors, and get ready for the next meal shift.

Education and Training Requirements

Cafeteria attendants typically are trained on the job and need no special education; however, most employers prefer applicants who have a high school education. Cafeteria attendants should be patient and cheerful and able to get along well with other workers and the public. They should also have a neat, well-groomed appearance. Many states require a health certificate stating that they have no communicable diseases. Cafeteria attendants who calculate customers' bills and handle money must have good mathematical skills.

Getting the Job

Interested individuals should apply to the cafeteria in which they would like to work. Office buildings, hospitals, and airports often have large cafeterias, and prospective cafeteria attendants can apply directly to the establishment's manager. Cafeteria jobs are frequently listed in newspaper want ads and at state and private employment agencies.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experience in a small cafeteria may lead to a higher-paying job with more responsibility in a large cafeteria. In addition, cafeteria attendants Cafeteria attendants serve food at schools, colleges, clubs, institutions, and office buildings. Although the work can be monotonous, attendants meet and interact with many people each day. (© Richard Hutchings/Corbis.) may become supervisors in charge of training workers. Some attendants become menu planners, cooks, or food and beverage managers. It has become increasingly necessary to take courses in cooking, nutrition, and food services to get these advanced jobs.

The employment outlook for cafeteria attendants is expected to grow as fast as the average through 2014. People who lead busy lives like the speedy and nutritionally balanced meals that cafeterias offer, so the demand for cafeteria attendants is expected to grow. There is a high turnover rate in this field, with many people using it as a short-term source of income.

Working Conditions

Cafeteria attendants work in clean, well-lighted kitchens and dining rooms. Kitchens usually are warm and noisy. Food servers stand almost the entire day and may often be pressured to work quickly. The work can get monotonous, although attendants are always meeting new people. Cafeteria attendants also have to do a lot of lifting, carrying, and bending. Most kitchens have modern equipment that is simple and convenient to use. It can be a pleasant job for those who like to work around food.

Cafeteria work can be either part time or full time. Some attendants work only during meal hours and go home between meals. Many workers belong to labor unions.

Where to Go for More Information

National Restaurant Association
1200 Seventeenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-5900

275 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10001-6708
(212) 265-7000

Earnings and Benefits

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cafeteria attendants earned an average of $7.10 per hour in 2004. Unionized workers and those with experience earned more. Attendants often receive uniforms. Many workers are provided with health and accident insurance, retirement plans, paid holidays, and free meals while at work.

Additional topics

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