How to become a Baker. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
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What does a Waiter do?
Waiting staff serve customers by taking orders, serving food and preparing tables. An important part of the work is to make customers feel welcome and comfortable during their meal.
As a waiter or waitress, your main duties would include:
- greeting customers as they arrive and showing them to their table
- giving out menus and taking orders for food and drink
- serving food and drinks
- dealing with bill payments
- making sure tables are clean and tidy.
In formal restaurants your work may include silver service (providing the main part of the dish separately to the vegetables or accompaniments). You would usually work in a team under the supervision of a head waiter or waitress, known as the ‘maitre d’.
In some restaurants you would be responsible for a specific area of tables. You may be known as ‘chefs de rang’ and you would give advice to diners on menu choice, as well as serve them food. You could also be involved in supervising food being cooked at the table, known as ‘gueridon’ service.
You could also specialise in work as a wine waiter or waitress, for example in a fine dining restaurant. You may be known as a ‘sommelier’ and act as an expert in wine and other alcoholic beverages.
You are likely to work shifts including evenings, weekends and public holidays.
Restaurants and kitchens can be hot, humid, noisy and busy at key meal times. You will need a smart appearance and you would usually be provided with a uniform.
How much does a waiter earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Full-time salaries for waiting staff can be around £15,900 to £18,500 a year.
- With experience and extra responsibilities it is possible to earn between £18,000 and £24,000.
Many waiters and waitresses are paid by the hour. Income may be increased by tips.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You will not usually need any specific qualifications to work as a waiter or waitress, but you will need a good standard of maths and English and excellent ‘people’ skills.
Previous experience of customer service would also give you an advantage.
You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Training and Development
You will normally receive on-the-job training from your employer. You could combine this with working towards qualifications such as:
- NVQ Level 1 in Hospitality, or Customer Service
- NVQ Level 2 in Food and Drink Service, or Multi-skilled Hospitality Service
- BTEC Level 2 First Certificate or Diploma in Hospitality
- BTEC Level 3 National Certificate or Diploma in Hospitality.
You may be encouraged to take courses in areas such as food safety and food hygiene, awarded by organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).
You could also take further training to expand your knowledge of specialist areas such as wine, spirits and other alcoholic beverages. The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) has details of courses and qualifications.
Skills and Knowledge
- excellent customer service skills
- an interest in food and drink
- high standards of personal hygiene
- the ability to remain calm under pressure
- an awareness of health and safety issues
- the ability to memorise orders
- good numeracy skills for dealing with bills and payments
- the ability to work on your own and as part of a team.
You will find jobs in hotels, restaurants, cafes, bistros, bars, fast food outlets and contract catering companies throughout the UK and overseas.
You will have greater career prospects in larger organisations, and with experience you may be able to progress to head waiter or waitress, or restaurant supervisor. You may also be able to go into related areas of work such as restaurant and kitchen management or purchasing.