How to Get a Job as a Waiter

A waiter in a restaurant

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Working as a waiter can start as a part-time job or as your full-time occupation and is a great way to start a career in the food industry. The food service industry is a growth industry, and new restaurants and work opportunities are being created every day.

Waiters at food establishments carry out a function that is familiar to most of us. Servers help patrons understand menu choices and make recommendations about selections based on the preferences of their patrons.

Characteristics of a Good Waiter

A good waiter has skills that include positively engaging patrons and setting a pleasant tone for their meal. Servers should inspect the food presented by cooks before delivering it to the table to make sure that the order is complete and cooked to specifications.

Waiters check with customers regarding their satisfaction with their meal and advocate on their behalf if there are any complaints. They may also be required to receive and process payments for meals.

Servers work for the foodservice component of a variety of establishments including hotels, resorts, bars, and restaurants. Many servers work part-time on evenings and weekends to supplement their income from other jobs.

Good Communication is Crucial

Good waiters enjoy serving others and are comfortable interacting with a broad range of individuals. You will find having a pleasant disposition with a ready smile will help you establish a positive connection with customers. It is important to know how to communicate. From the minute you walk up to the table, your communication skills can make or break your ability to be a good server. In many cases, it will be the factor between a good tip and a great tip.

Once in a while, you will get a customer who is critical or demanding. Even in difficult situations, waiters should be patient and have the ability to tolerate challenging people. You will have to be able to listen to complaints without reacting negatively or defensively.

Busy Multi-Tasking Work

You must be able to multi-task. There will be times you will be expected to keep track of many customers simultaneously and to have good memory recall of menu choices and customer orders. You may need to memorize daily chef specials including ingredients and how they are cooked. When not actively serving a table you could be tasked with arranging silverware, filling condiment bottles, or even doing light dusting or other cleaning tasks.

Waiter's Appearance Needs

Your appearance is very important. In most situations, you will be expected to present a clean-cut image. Not only will it help during your interview, but the way you look can also bolster customer confidence about the quality of the restaurant and the safety of the food being served.

Your appearance includes more than just your clothing. Your hands and nails must be well kept and your hair looks clean and professional. In most cases, your employer will require long hair to be neatly tied back in a ponytail or bun. Your clothing or uniforms and apron should be clean, pressed, and neat when serving customers. Some dining establishments will have requirements that require you to wear a tie.

Getting Your Foot in the Door

Keep in mind that waiters often start their careers as bussers or hosts and then move up in the same restaurant or the restaurant hierarchy from casual chain restaurants to more upscale establishments. Consider accepting a job that may not be what you are looking for to start. It could be a way to get started on a restaurant career.

One place you can get a head start is to get the food safety training required by your state or local authorities. This training covers everything from how to wash your hands to the correct serving temperature of meats and other food items. By having this training in place, it may give you a leg-up on the competition. There are many companies that provide classroom and online food safety courses, Some even offer training that is available on connected smartphones.

Formal and Informal Job Hunting

Many restaurant jobs are filled both formally and informally. The usual job boards are a good place to start your search. Formal job searches include job sites like Indeed and SimplyHired. Search using keywords like food server, waiter, and restaurant to generate job listings. If you're interested in working for a restaurant chain, check the website to see if they accept online applications. Have an updated copy of your resume and any food safety training that you have completed available to attach to the application.

You may also find a position informally through personal referrals. Start looking for a job by asking people you know if they are aware of any job openings. Your best chance of getting introduced to restaurant managers and owners will be through members of your family and friends network. Reach out to everyone you know and ask if they know anyone in the restaurant business. Ask any friends who are already working in restaurants if there are any open positions where they work.

If you do find someone with a job lead, you can pass your resume so it will get to the right person quickly.

Proactive Job Hunting

Visit restaurants in your target location and ask to speak with the manager. Stop by during lull times in the restaurant's activity when managers might be more available to meet you. The quiet time in a restaurant is usually before the lunch rush. Bring a copy of your resume for the manager and be prepared to fill out a job application.

Remember to interact with these managers as you would a customer. Show off your warm smile and bubbly personality. It is a good idea to review the menu in advance and note the experiences you have had with that type of food or clientele. Restaurants are concerned about the image they project to the public. Make sure that your appearance is appropriate for the position you are interviewing for.

Interview Essentials

Choose clothing that would be considered business casual. It should be on the dressy side yet not overly formal unless it is a very high-class establishment. If you can visit the restaurant ahead of time, check out how the waiters are dressed and wear an interview outfit that is comparable.

Personality is everything for servers, so the interview is the time to exude positive energy. Greet your interviewer with a warm smile and a firm handshake. Listen carefully and articulate clearly. Interviews for server jobs are often more about how you interact and communicate than what you say to show your expertise. Be ready to share examples that highlight your ability to be reliable, outgoing, and well-organized.

Start by showing your reliability, arriving about 10 minutes early. You may want to do a test drive to the restaurant beforehand to make sure you are familiar with where it is. Don’t forget your resume and a list of references. Even if the interviewer does not request them, offer them, and encourage him to contact your past employers.

Interview Questions You May Hear

Review some of the interview questions you'll be asked for a waitstaff job.

  • What jobs have you worked that required you to be in a fast-paced and crowded environment? How did you maintain quality standards in this environment?
  • What do you consider to be good customer service?
  • Describe a time when you had to deal with a particularly difficult customer/table. How did you handle the situation? Is there anything you would have done differently?
  • Have you ever taken charge in a restaurant in an emergency?
  • How do you handle fast-paced work environments?
  • How do you entertain customers as a waiter?
  • What is the most difficult part of being a waiter?
  • Imagine a customer asks for an item on the menu that is not available at the time. How do you convince him to select something else?
  • What would you do if a customer sent his meal back?
  • If a customer asks for a suggestion, what would you say?
  • What is your favorite item on our menu?

After the Interview, Say Thank You

After your interview, compose a thank-you card or letter expressing your keen interest in the job. Briefly, mention why it is a good fit and express your thanks for your interview. It is best to hand-deliver it to the restaurant as soon as possible after your interview.