As a result of rising personal incomes and increased leisure time, eating out at restaurants has become a very popular form of entertainment. Not only do restaurants serve as entertainment, they have also become a convenience for two-income families. Waiters play a very important role in the operation of the restaurant—often the type of service they provide determines whether the customer will return.
Waiters take orders, serve drinks and food, prepare checks, and accept payments. However, the manner in which they perform these tasks depends on the type of restaurant where they work. In restaurants that serve primarily sandwiches, often called coffee shops, waiters are expected to provide fast, friendly service. In more formal restaurants where gourmet food is served, waiters are expected to be able to make wine suggestions, explain how certain items on the menu are prepared, and prepare salads and other dishes at the table. Waiters at these restaurants work at a slower, more leisurely pace.
Other duties often performed by waiters include showing customers to their tables, setting or clearing tables, or cashiering.
Places of Employment and Working Conditions
Eating establishments are located throughout the country but are most plentiful in large cities and tourist areas. Most waiters work in restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other retail eating and drinking places. Others work in hotels, bowling alleys, casinos, and country clubs.
Waiters spend most of their working time on their feet and have to carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and glassware. They are under pressure to work quickly and efficiently.
Some waiters work 40 or more hours a week, but most work part-time. They are often scheduled to work evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Qualifications, Education, and Training
Waiters must be friendly and should enjoy working with people. Other important qualities are a neat appearance, a good memory, and basic math skills.
There are no formal education requirements for waiters. Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates in more formal restaurants, but completing high school is usually not necessary for jobs in coffee shops.
Most waiters receive on-the-job training from more experienced workers.
Potential and Advancement
This field has a very high turnover rate, and most openings will occur as workers leave the occupation. However, growth between 2014 and 2024 will be limited at around 3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Opportunities for advancement are limited in small restaurants. Most waiters advance by getting jobs in larger restaurants where the potential for earning tips is greater. Some waiters move into management or supervisory positions.
Waiters' earnings are usually made up of tips plus an hourly wage. The median annual salary for all waiters, as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $19,250 in 2015.