Working behind a counter requires patience, customer service skills and communication abilities. Counter assistants serve meals at lunch counters, assist supermarket shoppers at deli and meat counters, and sell merchandise such as cosmetics and perfume in department stores. They work evenings and weekends and stand throughout their shifts. Counter assistants typically are part-time employees and hold high school diplomas.
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A counter assistant takes orders from patrons seated at a cafe counter and communicates those requests to the kitchen staff. An attendant sometimes prepares short-order items such as salads or sandwiches. He refills beverages and makes fountain treats including ice cream sundaes and milkshakes. The counter helper wraps foods for takeout orders and processes customers' payments. In a cafeteria, he/she serves items as customers pass by displays and make their selections. This includes carving meat, maintaining steam tables and tending to soups and sauces. Movie theatres and fast-food restaurants also hire counter attendants. The median hourly wage for counter employees in concession and coffee shops was £5.40 in 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports in the 2010-2011 edition of its Occupational Outlook Handbook. That includes tips.
Counter associates in supermarkets typically staff the deli, meat, bakery and lunch counters. Butchers carve, trim, package and price meats and oversee display cases. The median hourly rate for a meat cutter was £9.0 as of 2008, according to the BLS. Food preparation workers prepare the sweets, sandwiches and salads sold at bakery and deli counters. They earn an average hourly wage of £6.10, with bakers earning £7.40 per hour, the BLS reports for 2008. All of these counter workers undergo training on food handling requirements. One fast-growth trend in supermarkets is the demand for quick foods, the BLS says. Many grocery stores offer lunch counters and seating so patrons can purchase sandwiches and other items to eat at home or on the premises.
Retailers hire counter attendants to be the point of contact for walk-in customers. These jobs include video stores; cosmetics and perfume counters in department stores; auto service garages; and dry cleaners. A counter helper knows the product and can answer customers' questions. Basic computer skills are required because she tenders sales with a bar scanner or register. On-the-job training typically is provided, and median hourly wages were £6.50 in 2008, reports the BLS. The Snag A Job website lists several challenges a counter assistant may face, including difficult customers, sore feet and confinement to a small space. The BLS reports that retail counter jobs experience high attrition.
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