How to be a restaurant server – good paying jobs for refugees and immigrants

A restaurant server taking orders from customers

Learn about how to become a restaurant server

Restaurant servers are some of the most important people in restaurants. They bring food to the customers and make sure customers enjoy their time. Most people use the terms “waiters” and “waitresses” when they talk about restaurant servers.

Some people who are servers are in their teenage years or 20s. They may be in school or just finished and are starting their careers. However, servers can be people of all ages. You might choose to be a restaurant server because you have a part time job and want more money. Other people may do this work when they are searching for jobs. Being a server is an honorable job. Some people choose to be servers their whole life. Being a server is one of the best ways to start a career in the restaurant industry. One day, you could become a restaurant manager.

About the job

Duties

A restaurant server’s main duty is to serve the customer.  He or she also works with other staff at the restaurant. Sometimes, servers may help out in the kitchen if the restaurant is very busy.  

Duties include:

  • Greeting customers and taking them to their seats
  • Listening to orders and writing them down
  • Carrying food and drinks to the customers
  • Memorizing the menu and special food items of the day
  • Checking with customers to see if they need anything
  • Cleaning up tables after customers leave
  • Cleaning up spills and broken dishes and glasses
  • Making sure there are enough supplies

Learn more about restaurants duties. Listen to some tips about how to do a good job.

Workplace

Restaurants servers can work in many different types of restaurants. Some may be casual and offer cheap food. Some servers work in expensive restaurants with fancy food. If you work in an expensive restaurant you might make more money. No matter where you work, you will be working with a busy team. You will be standing and walking most of the day.

Salary

A restaurant server earns about $25,000 per year. Their earnings come in wages and tips (extra money from customers).  The hourly wages are usually very low, and servers make most of their money in tips. Most people leave 15% of the bill in tips. They may leave less or more depending on what they thought of your service. If you are good at your job, you will earn more tips.

About the person

If you enjoy serving others, being a server is a good job for you.  You will be talking to staff and customers most of the day, so the job also suits friendly people. Restaurant servers must be friendly even when they are tired or when customers are rude. Customers might tell you to hurry or that you are not doing a good job. No matter what they say, servers must stay calm and try to smile.  Servers also need to be organized as they do many things at once.

Qualities you should have:

  • Patience
  • Good memory
  • Cleanliness
  • Being on time
  • Positive personality
  • Good listener
  • Good communication
  • Energetic

Skills you will need:

  • Customer service
  • Basic math skills
  • Formal table service skills (for some restaurants)

Get qualified

Training

You do not need training to become a restaurant server in casual restaurants. You will need training in formal service for “fine dining” restaurants. After you are hired, you will probably be trained on kitchen safety and food handling.

Certification

If you are working at a high-end restaurant, they may want you to have a high school diploma. 

In some states you will need a food handling certificate called an ANSI Accreditation for Food Safety. You will need to find an ANSI-accredited program. One of these accredited programs is ServSafe, which is run by the National Restaurant Association. But there are many other accredited programs:

Experience

If you have prior experience in restaurants, you have a better chance of getting a job. However, you can sometimes get a job without any experience.

More resources

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