Waiters and waitresses make up the largest group among food and beverage serving and related workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They work in restaurants, diners, coffee shops, bars and hotels. Common duties include taking customer orders, serving food and beverages and preparing itemised checks. Most entry-level waiter jobs only require a high school diploma or less.
There are no specific education requirements for working as a waiter at many restaurants, though many prefer at least a high school diploma. Waiters can acquire more skills by attending relevant classes available through restaurant associations, large restaurant chains and private and public vocational schools. All new waiters receive on-the-job training, and some full-service restaurants provide new waiters with some classroom training and on-the-job work experience.
During training, waiters learn how to handle food safely and sanitation practices. New employees learn most of their skills by observing and working with more experienced waiters. Formal training programs teach waiters the operating philosophy of restaurants, formal serving techniques and teamwork skills. Waiters are also provided with the opportunity to discuss service situations and how to handle unruly patrons and other unpleasant circumstances properly and professionally.
Some of the most valuable qualifications for a waiters are personal qualities, including excellent customer service skills, neat appearance, working as team players and a natural rapport with customers. Waiters who serve alcohol are required in most states to be at least 18 years of age. A good memory is also important since waiters need to remember preferences of frequent patrons, must be able to recall customers' orders and sometimes must recite specials of the day. In establishments with rigid table service standards, waiters will earn more but are commonly required to have previous table service experience and a higher level of education than those at more formal restaurants.
Advancement opportunities are limited for waiters. The most common advancement for this occupation is to find a job in a busier or more expensive restaurant where the prospects for tip earnings are better. In some cases waiters may advance to a supervisory position such as head waiter, dining room supervisor, maitre d', assistant manager or restaurant manager. Waiters who consistently perform well and make customers happy are often eligible for various advancement opportunities.
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