What does a server do?

Though some restaurants refer to servers as waitstaff, waiters, or waitresses, many employers simply use the term server. Restaurant servers welcome and greet every diner who comes inside. Employers assign them specific tables and sections where they work during their shifts. As a server, you will give your customers menus and ask for their drink orders, as well as explain any specials. You also suggest items to them and answer any questions they have. Once you take their orders, you run them to the kitchen and give them to the back of the house. The back of the house workers will make the order and put it in the pass-through window where you pick it up and deliver it to your table.

Different roles for different employers

The other tasks that you handle will depend on where you work. There are five types of restaurant servers that include buffet and banquet servers. As a buffet server, you bring drinks and condiments to your customers and might be responsible for stocking the buffet with food as needed. When you work as a banquet server, you handle similar tasks while working in a conference or event center. Some employers also hire semi-self-service workers who take orders from behind a counter and deliver food to customers at their tables.


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What is the average salary of a server?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the average salary of waiters and waitresses at $26,000 a year, or $12.50 an hour. Your salary will depend on where you work as some states have a higher minimum wage than others do. The United States Department of Labor  requires that all servers make the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25. If you do not make enough tips to bring your wage up to this amount, your employer needs to cover the difference. Some states have a minimum wage for servers that is higher than the national wage. It can reach up to $15 an hour in California and climbs to more than $14 an hour in Washington.



Working as a server

Working as a server often requires that you carry large or heavy trays. You spend a lot of time on your feet as you run orders to the kitchen and bring back food and drinks. Restaurants often ask you to handle other tasks when the dining room is empty, such as preparing utensils for the next shift and cleaning around the tables.

What are the responsibilities of a server

As a server, you will work in a fast-paced environment. Some restaurants have a higher turnover than others and see dozens of customers coming through the doors during a busy lunch or dinner shift. You will maintain a strong relationship with other servers, as well as the back of the house. Those who work in the back of the house include line and prep cooks. The front of the house includes other servers and the hostess. You need to be quick on your feet and knowledgeable about your menu to answer any questions that your customers have.

Other responsibilities to consider

Though some positions allow you to wear your personal clothing, some positions have uniforms. You may need to pay for the cost of your uniform before you begin working or out of your first paycheck. Non-restaurant positions include some of the same duties. If you work in an assisted living or retirement community, you take orders from residents in their rooms and in the on-site cafeteria and bring their food to them. Hospitals often hire servers to bring food to patients on various floors too.

What type of equipment do servers use?

Your employer should provide you with some of the equipment that you use, such as your trays and check presenters. A check presenter allows customers to see how much their order costs and pay for it. You may receive a tray stand too, especially if you work with heavy dishes. Another helpful tool is a pen. As customers occasionally walk off with your pen, you don't want to spend too much on them. The best pens for servers  are reliable enough that you don't need to worry about them running out of ink but cheap enough that you won't feel upset if you lose one.

Wine keys

Depending on where you work, a wine key is also helpful. A wine key is a small tool that allows you to remove foil labels from the necks of wine bottles and also take out the cork. As most restaurants do not supply them, you need to buy at least one to use at work. The top wine keys are a little pricey but allow you to serve your customers faster.

What is the work environment of a server?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 82% of all servers work in restaurants. Other places servers work include recreation facilities and travel accommodations. Hotels and resorts are examples of travel accommodations, while recreation facilities include athletic complexes and banquet halls. The BLS also identified non-restaurant areas where servers work, such as hospitals and retirement homes. Working in a hospital or retirement home allows you to work at a slower pace, but these positions pay an hourly wage that does not include tips. As a server, you will usually work indoors. Some restaurants have patios and other dining spaces that allow you to work outside. You will spend a lot of time standing and walking, which requires comfortable shoes.

Who are your colleagues as a server?

The people you work with as a server depends on where you work. Hospital servers often work with cafeteria staff along with doctors and nurses. You may work with some healthcare professionals in a retirement home too. Working as a restaurant server puts you in close contact with other servers, as well as bartenders and managers. You also work with cooks like the prep cooks who work in the morning to prepare ingredients and the line cooks who work during busy shifts. Servers often work with hostesses too.

What is the work schedule of a server?

As a new server, you may not have the chance to set your shifts. You usually need to work some of the less popular shifts until you become familiar with the menu. Once you have experience and seniority, you have more control over the shifts you work. Some of the shifts servers work fall around certain meals and times of the day like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A split shift is where you work for up to four hours and then take a break before coming back to work the rest of your shift. Restaurants that are open late at night also hire servers to work graveyard shifts that keep you there until midnight or later. Part-time servers work less than 30 hours a week, while full-time servers work 40 hours or more per week.



What is the career outlook for a server?

The job outlook for servers is positive. Based on the findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for servers will increase by 20% by 2030, which is a much faster rate of growth than the national average. Your chances of becoming a server are higher if you are a fast learner who can pick up skills on the spot and you have an open schedule. Many employers need help filling positions because their current waitstaff cannot work all of their set schedules.

What are the advantages of working with Spherion as a server?

Finding work as a server once required hitting every restaurant and service center in your city. You no longer need to spend long hours just to find the right job because Spherion can help. As one of the top staffing companies in the country, Spherion has connections to help you find serving positions with family restaurants and big chains, as well as openings in other industries. When you work with Spherion, you will find plenty of benefits that include:

  • Getting paid every week for the hours you worked
  • Flexibility when it comes to employers and shifts
  • Contact support that is available every day
  • Plenty of jobs and employers located in any city
  • Loads of opportunities for more training when you need them



What education do you need as a server?

You do not need any specific type of education to work as a server. Employers hire students in high school and college along with workers who have a high school diploma or college degree. You need to do some on-the-job training to ensure you are familiar with the menu and know how to both take orders and give them to the kitchen. This training also helps you learn what to do about problem customers and when to contact a manager. You may need additional training to serve alcohol.

Skills & competencies

Though you don't need any special certificates to work as a server, some experience is helpful. It shows a potential employer that you don't need as much training as other applicants do. Strong communication skills are necessary because you communicate with other members of the waitstaff and the back of the house along with your customers. Some of the other skills that are helpful to find work as a server include:

  • Physical strength
  • Attention to detail
  • Math skills
  • Good stamina
  • Stress management




Servers play an essential role in restaurants and other food service organizations. The following answers some frequently asked questions to help you learn more about working as a server.

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