Food and beverage serving and related workers perform a variety of customer service, food preparation, and cleaning duties in eating and drinking establishments.
What they do
Food and beverage serving and related workers typically do the following:
- Greet customers and answer their questions about menu items and specials
- Take food or drink orders from customers
- Relay customers’ orders to other kitchen staff
- Prepare food and drink orders, such as sandwiches, salads, and coffee
- Accept payments and balance receipts
- Serve food and drinks to customers at a counter, at a stand, or in a hotel room
- Clean assigned work areas, dining tables, or serving counters
- Replenish and stock service stations, cabinets, and tables
- Set tables or prepare food trays for new customers
Food and beverage serving and related workers are the front line of customer service in restaurants, cafeterias, and other food service establishments. Depending on the establishment, they take customers’ food and drink orders and serve food and beverages.
Most work as part of a team, helping coworkers to improve workflow and customer service. The job titles of food and beverage serving and related workers vary with where they work and what they do.
The following are examples of types of food and beverage serving and related workers:
Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food, are employed primarily by fast-food and fast-casual restaurants. They take food and beverage orders, prepare or retrieve items when ready, fill cups with beverages, and accept customers’ payments. They also heat food items and make salads and sandwiches.
Counter attendants take orders and serve food over a counter in snack bars, cafeterias, movie theaters, and coffee shops. They fill cups with coffee, soda, and other beverages, and may prepare fountain specialties, such as milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. Counter attendants take carryout orders from diners and wrap or place items in containers. They clean counters, prepare itemized bills, and accept customers’ payments.
Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers—sometimes collectively referred to as bus staff—help waiters, waitresses, and bartenders by cleaning and setting tables, removing dirty dishes, and keeping serving areas stocked with supplies. They also may help waiters and waitresses by bringing meals out of the kitchen, distributing dishes to diners, filling water glasses, and delivering condiments. Cafeteria attendants stock serving tables with food trays, dishes, and silverware. They sometimes carry trays to dining tables for customers. Bartender helpers keep bar equipment clean and glasses washed.
Food servers, non-restaurant, serve food to customers outside of a restaurant environment. Many deliver room service meals in hotels or meals to hospital rooms. Some act as carhops, bringing orders to customers in parked cars.
Hosts and hostesses greet customers and manage reservations and waiting lists. They may direct customers to coatrooms, restrooms, or a waiting area until their table is ready. Hosts and hostesses provide menus after seating guests.
Food and beverage serving and related workers spend most of the time on their feet and often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and glassware. During busy dining periods, they are under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently.
How to become a Food and Beverage Serving and Related Worker
Most food and beverage service workers receive short-term on-the-job training. There are no formal educational requirements.
Most states require workers, such as non-restaurant servers, who serve alcoholic beverages to be 18 years of age or older.
There are no formal education requirements for becoming a food and beverage serving worker.
Most workers learn through on-the-job training, usually lasting several weeks. Training includes basic customer service, kitchen safety, safe food-handling procedures, and good sanitation habits.
Some employers, particularly those in fast-food restaurants, teach new workers with the use of self-study programs, online programs, audiovisual presentations, or instructional booklets that explain food preparation and service procedures. However, most food and beverage serving and related workers learn duties by watching and working with more experienced workers.
Some full-service restaurants provide new dining room employees with classroom training sessions that alternate with periods of on-the-job work experience. The training communicates the operating philosophy of the restaurant, helps new employees establish a personal rapport with other staff, teaches employees formal serving techniques, and instills a desire in the staff to work as a team.
Some non-restaurant servers and bartender helpers who work in establishments where alcohol is served may need training on state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages. Some states, counties, and cities mandate such training, which typically lasts a few hours and can be taken online or in-person.
The median hourly wage for food and beverage serving and related workers was $11.06 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.49, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $14.92.
Overall employment of food and beverage serving and related workers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
As a growing population continues to dine out, purchase take-out meals, or have food delivered, more restaurants, particularly fast-food and casual dining restaurants, are expected to open. In response, more food and beverage serving workers will be required to serve customers. Employment of fast food and counter workers is expected to show the fastest growth, as these workers have a variety of tasks in restaurants.
Similar Job Titles
Banquet Server, Buffet Server, Cocktail Server, Food Runner, Food Server, Restaurant Server, Server, Waiter, Waitress, Waitstaff, Bar Back, Bus Boy, Bus Person, Busboy, Dietary Aid, Dietary Aide, Dining Room Attendant, Server, Server Assistant, Shift Manager, Car Hop, Deli Clerk (Delicatessen Clerk), Deli Worker (Delicatessen Worker), Dietary Aide, Food Service Assistant, Food Service Worker, Prep Cook (Preparation Cook), Sandwich Artist, School Cafeteria Cook, Server
Stock Clerk (Floor), Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners, Cashier
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Court of Master Sommeliers
- Federation of Dining Room Professionals
- International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education
- National Restaurant Association
- UNITE HERE
- Women Chefs and Restaurateurs
- School Nutrition Association
Magazines and Publications
Whether inspecting a restaurant’s place settings, or crunching the numbers in the back office, food service managers find their passion in keeping restaurant and food service operations smooth and profitable. As the head of sometimes large and diverse teams, these managers coordinate staff, schedule their hours, order and store supplies, and oversee food production. And when it comes to meeting health and safety standards, the buck stops with food service managers. All this while they maintain a balanced budget. To keep so many plates spinning, managers must be detail-oriented leaders with the stamina to stay organized even when the pace is fast and doesn’t let up. In food service— communication and problem-solving skills are essential— since customers’ experiences rely on them. Dealing with dissatisfied customers is part of the territory, and can be challenging. Food service managers work full time in restaurants from fast-food to fine dining, and depending on the establishment, evening, weekend, and holiday work can be common. Managers of food service in institutions such as schools, factories or office buildings, usually work traditional hours. Most managers work their way up from entry-level food service positions. A bachelor’s degree is not required, but some postsecondary education is increasingly preferred. When customers leave their dining experience satisfied, you can be sure a capable food service manager set the scene to make it possible.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org