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Waiter/Waitress Career – 2024 Complete Guide on Duties & Salaries

This overview provides valuable insights into the Waiter/Waitress role, covering responsibilities, salary, career progression, frequently asked questions and more.

What Is a Waiter/Waitress?

A Waiter/Waitress is a frontline hospitality professional responsible for providing exceptional customer service in restaurants, cafes, hotels or other dining establishments.

In addition to taking orders and delivering food and beverages to tables, Waiters/Waitresses greet guests upon arrival, escort them to their tables and provide menus while offering recommendations and answering any questions about the menu items or specials.

Once guests have made their selections, Waiters/Waitresses record their orders, taking note of any special requests or dietary restrictions. They then communicate these orders to the kitchen staff, ensuring that meals are prepared according to the guests’ preferences and served in a timely manner.

What Does a Waiter/Waitress Do?

Day-to-day responsibilities of a Waiter/Waitress include:

  • Greeting guests, escorting them to their tables and presenting them with menus
  • Taking orders and answering questions about the menu
  • Delivering food and beverages to tables in a timely manner
  • Checking back with customers to ensure satisfaction and address any concerns
  • Clearing tables and resetting them for the next diners
  • Handling payments and processing transactions accurately
  • Collaborating with kitchen staff to ensure orders are prepared correctly and delivered promptly
  • Maintaining cleanliness and organization in the dining area

waiter/waitress responsibilities

Waiter/Waitress Salary in the US

The average base salary for a Waiter or Waitress in the United States is $36,530 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).   Vermont tops the list as the highest-paying state for Waiters and Waitresses, offering an average salary of $60,200, while Alabama ranks at the bottom with an average salary of $22,690.

[Source: BLS]
This chart is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the chart to see detailed data. 

However, it’s important to note that Waiters and Waitresses earn a significant portion of their income from tips rather than their base salary. The amount of tips earned can vary widely based on factors such as the restaurant’s location, the type of establishment, the level of service provided and the generosity of the customers.

Are Waiter/Waitress salaries keeping up with living costs in your area?

This map shows the varying compensation levels for the Waiter/Waitress role across the U.S.:

[Source: BLS]

This map is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the map to see detailed data.

Here’s a look at the 2024 Waiter/Waitress salary across four major U.S. cities — Miami, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Miami

Annual mean wage

$37,360

Employment

54,080

New York City

Annual mean wage

$50,860

Employment

136,960

Chicago

Annual mean wage

$34,340

Employment

67,270

Los Angeles

Annual mean wage

$40,520

Employment

82,410

[Source: BLS]

What Is the Workplace of a Waiter/Waitress Like?

The workplace of a Waiter/Waitress is primarily within the hospitality industry, typically in restaurants ranging from casual dining to fine-dining establishments. They operate in the front-of-house area, engaging directly with customers.

Collaboration with other staff members, including Bartenders and Chefs, is essential for smooth service. Within this dynamic environment, efficiency and adaptability are crucial, especially during peak hours.

Waiters/Waitresses navigate through tables, taking orders, serving food and drinks and ensuring customer satisfaction. Customer interaction is a significant aspect of this job, requiring friendliness, attentiveness and menu knowledge to enhance the dining experience.

Physically, the job involves standing for long periods, walking between the kitchen and dining area, carrying trays and maintaining cleanliness. Flexibility in scheduling, including evenings, weekends and holidays, is often necessary to accommodate peak dining times.

Waiter/Waitress Industry Trends in 2024

Several trends have been shaping the Waiter/Waitress industry in 2024:

1. Expanding Culinary Knowledge

Waiters and Waitresses are enriching their understanding of diverse cuisines, specialty dishes and presentation techniques to offer more informed guidance and recommendations, enhancing the overall dining experience.

2. Health-Conscious Service

Catering to the rising interest in wellness, Waiters and Waitresses are addressing guests’ dietary preferences and restrictions by providing comprehensive information on nutritional content and offering options like plant-based or gluten-free dishes.

3. Emphasis on Personalized Hospitality

Recognizing the importance of personalized service, Waiters and Waitresses are refining their interpersonal skills to deliver tailored recommendations, anticipate guest needs and create memorable dining experiences that foster loyalty and positive feedback.

4. Integration of Technology

The adoption of technology is revolutionizing the restaurant industry, with Waiters and Waitresses embracing mobile ordering systems, handheld devices for tableside service and reservation management software to streamline operations and enhance the guest experience.

5. Commitment to Inclusivity and Diversity

With a focus on creating inclusive environments, Waiters and Waitresses are actively promoting diversity and cultural sensitivity through training initiatives, ensuring all guests feel welcome and valued, irrespective of their background or identity.

Which Waiter/Waitress Jobs Pay the Most?

In the United States, certain establishments stand out for offering better salaries to Waiters and Waitresses than others. These include prestigious restaurants, upscale boutique eateries, luxury hotels and exclusive private clubs.

High-End Restaurants

Upscale such as Michelin-starred dining establishments or fine dining venues with a reputation for culinary excellence, Waiters and Waitresses are expected to provide exceptional service and possess in-depth knowledge of the menu.

These establishments prioritize creating memorable dining experiences for patrons, which often translates into higher compensation for skilled waitstaff. Additionally, upscale restaurants may attract affluent clientele willing to tip generously, further boosting the earning potential for Waiters and Waitresses.

Upscale Boutique Eateries

In upscale boutique eateries, Waiters and Waitresses often enjoy high salaries due to the intimate and upscale dining experience they provide.    These establishments focus on offering unique and personalized service to their clientele, which requires waitstaff to be attentive, knowledgeable about the menu and capable of catering to the preferences of discerning guests.

Luxury Hotels

Luxury hotels also offer some of the most lucrative Waiter and Waitress positions. Fine dining restaurants within luxury hotels uphold the hotel’s reputation for luxury and hospitality, and Waiters and Waitresses are expected to provide impeccable service to guests.

The comprehensive training provided to Waitstaff, along with the high standards of service expected in these establishments, often result in attractive compensation packages, including competitive wages, tips and benefits.

Exclusive Private Clubs

Exclusive private clubs cater to an elite clientele and often provide premium dining experiences to their members and guests. Waiters and Waitresses working in private clubs must uphold the club’s reputation for exclusivity and excellence in service.

These positions come with higher pay due to the exclusivity of the clubs and the elevated expectations for service. Moreover, members of private clubs often leave generous tips, further enhancing the earning potential for waitstaff.

How To Become a Waiter/Waitress?

Becoming a Waiter/Waitress isn’t as challenging as it might appear. With dedication, a genuine love for serving customers and a willingness to learn, you can turn your passion for hospitality into a fulfilling career. Let’s dive into the essential requirements to help you kickstart your journey to success.

Education and Experience Requirements for Baristas

To become a Waiter or Waitress, formal education beyond a high school diploma isn’t typically necessary. However, practical experience in customer service or hospitality is highly valued.

How To Become a Waiter/Waitress With No Experience

If you’re eager to become a Waiter or Waitress but lack experience in the field, it’s entirely possible to start your career with no prior experience. Here’s how you can make it happen:

Dive into Hospitality Basics

Begin by learning more about the hospitality industry and the responsibilities of a Waiter/Waitress. Learn about food and beverage, customer service techniques and table service etiquette.

You can find numerous resources online, such as articles, videos and tutorials, to expand your understanding.

Enroll in Training Programs

Consider enrolling in hospitality-related courses or training programs offered by local community colleges or hospitality associations. These programs can provide you with valuable insights and practical experience in the field, helping you develop the necessary skills to excel as a Waiter/Waitress.

Gain Practical Experience

Seek out entry-level positions in the hospitality industry, such as a Host/Hostess or Busser, to gain hands-on experience and valuable customer service skills. Many restaurants are willing to hire candidates with no prior experience and provide on-the-job training to help you learn the ropes.

Volunteer or Intern

Offer to volunteer or intern at a local restaurant or cafe to gain practical experience and exposure to the daily operations of a dining establishment. This hands-on experience can be invaluable in building your skills and confidence as a Waiter/Waitress.

Be Persistent and Proactive

Don’t be discouraged by setbacks and keep applying to entry-level Waiter/Waitress positions. Highlight your enthusiasm for the hospitality industry, willingness to learn and any transferable skills from previous jobs in your resume and cover letter.

Follow up with potential employers to demonstrate your commitment and eagerness to join their team. With dedication and perseverance, you can embark on a successful career as a Waiter/Waitress, even with no prior experience.

Top Skills of the Best Waiters and Waitresses

To excel as a Waiter/Waitress, you need a versatile skill set adapted to the dynamic hospitality environment. Here are the top five skills you need to master:

waiter/waitress skills

  1. Effective communication: Waiters and Waitresses should communicate well with customers and coworkers. They need to take orders accurately, explain menu items clearly and address any concerns from diners.
  2. Exceptional customer service: Waiters and Waitresses should be friendly, helpful and able to anticipate and meet customer needs promptly.
  3. Strong attention to detail: Paying close attention to detail ensures accuracy and customer satisfaction. Waitstaff must remember orders and preferences and ensure dishes are served correctly.
  4. Excellent multitasking skills: Waiters and Waitresses must be able to manage multiple tasks efficiently, from taking orders to serving dishes and addressing customer queries.
  5. Menu knowledge: Having a good understanding of the menu helps waitstaff make recommendations and answer questions confidently, enhancing the dining experience for customers.

Should establishments provide bonuses or shared profits with employees?

Waiter/Waitress Training Programs and Schools To Consider

Even though certifications for waitstaff are not typically required, obtaining additional training or certification in areas such as food safety and service techniques can enhance a candidate’s qualifications and marketability in the hospitality industry.

Here are some institutes and courses worth exploring:

Universal Class (Tampa, FL)

The Universal Class provides a Waiter and Waitress Training course spanning over six months, allowing individuals to dive deeper into various aspects of waiting. With flexible self-paced learning, students can gain valuable insights into customer service, table management and more.

American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (Orlando, FL)

The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute offers a Certified Restaurant Server Online Program designed to equip individuals with the necessary skills to thrive in the restaurant industry. The course duration is three months, providing comprehensive training in service excellence and restaurant operations.

International Open Academy (Camden, NJ)

The International Open Academy offers a comprehensive Professional Waiter Diploma program with a duration of 60 days, allowing students to learn at their own pace. The course covers essential skills and knowledge needed to excel as a professional Waiter/Waitress.

SafeStaff (Tallahassee, FL)

SafeStaff provides Employee Online Food Handler Training, focusing on food safety and hygiene practices essential for waitstaff. With a maximum duration of 90 days, this course offers comprehensive training in food handling and safety protocols.

Professional Server Certification Corporation (Madison, WI)

The Professional Server Certification Corporation offers a Waiter/Waitress Hospitality Course designed to provide essential knowledge and skills required for success in the hospitality industry. With a duration of six hours, this course covers various aspects of waiting, including customer service, communication and professionalism.

Waiter/Waitress Career Progression

Waiter/Waitress

Head Waiter/Waitress

Avg Salary $ 40,000

Shift Supervisor

Avg Salary $ 43,000

Assistant Restaurant Manager

Avg Salary $ 50,000

Restaurant Manager

Avg Salary $ 60,000

Fine Dining Server

Avg Salary $ 48,000

Sommelier

Avg Salary $ 57,000

Beverage Director

Avg Salary $ 70,000

Restaurant General Manager

Avg Salary $ 80,000

Waiter/Waitress Career FAQs

To excel as a Waiter or Waitress, you need to prioritize clear communication, exceptional customer service, attention to detail, efficient multitasking and a thorough understanding of the menu.

Building rapport with customers, being attentive to their needs and remaining calm under pressure are also key qualities for success in this role.

Dress codes for Waiters and Waitresses vary depending on the establishment and current trends. In many modern restaurants, there’s been a shift towards more casual attire, such as branded T-shirts or polo shirts paired with jeans or casual pants.

However, some upscale restaurants may still require more formal attire, such as button-down shirts or blouses paired with dress pants or skirts, and possibly even ties or other accessories.

Waiters and Waitresses in the United States can earn a decent income, especially in establishments that offer competitive wages and generous tips.

Earnings vary depending on factors such as the type of establishment, location, level of experience and the ability to provide exceptional service consistently.

It’s worth noting that in some states, waitstaff enjoys higher average salaries due to factors like the cost of living and tipping customs.

Working as a Waiter or Waitress in the United States can be stressful at times due to the fast-paced environment, high customer expectations and the need to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

However, with effective time management, strong communication skills and the ability to stay calm under pressure, many individuals find the role rewarding despite its challenges.

In the United States, the minimum age to work as a Waiter or Waitress varies depending on state and local regulations. However, many states allow individuals as young as 14 or 15 to work in certain capacities, including in restaurants. 

It’s essential to check local labor laws and regulations to determine the minimum age requirements for working as a Waiter or Waitress in a specific area.

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