Food and beverage servers are the first point of contact for customers in an eating establishment. Commonly referred to as waiters and waitresses, food and beverage servers are employed in a range of venues, from fine dining restaurants to casual eateries. The role consists of taking customers orders for food and drink, making recommendations regarding the menu and informing customers of daily specials. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 21 percent of those working in the industry were between 16 and 19 years of age in 2008.
Those employed in food and beverage serving roles require little in terms of educational qualifications. The BLS report that although employers often prefer those who have a high school diploma, this is not always necessary. Many of those employed often have little, if any, work experience. Many may still be full-time students and work part time to supplement their income. Employers often look out for those who have the relevant skills, such as an outgoing personality, rather than academic qualifications.
The responsibilities of a food and beverage server vary depending on experience, age, location and employer. For example, those serving alcohol may be required to be 18 years or older, according to the BLS. The Career Planner website lists typical day-to-day tasks include escorting customers to tables, taking customer orders, monitoring customers' needs, dealing with any problems or complaints, and clearing tables of empty glasses and dishes.
Working as a food and beverage server is a customer-facing role. Those working in the industry should be polite, courteous and outgoing. Career Planner notes that food and beverage servers should be able to listen carefully and take instruction. The ability to deal with problems sensitively is also required when dealing with customer complaints in room full of diners. The BLS reports that food and beverage servers should have a good memory to avoiding confusing orders and to recall faces, names and orders of frequent customers.
The BLS reports that there is little opportunity for advancement. Some workers may progress to supervisory roles while others may move to bigger, more exclusive restaurants where there is the potential for higher tips. However, the BLS notes that employment opportunities are positive, with job growth increasing by 10 percent until 2018. A large number of vacancies are created each year as the industry has a high staff turnover.
The salary range of food and beverage servers can vary widely depending on the type of establishment and the correspondingly typical amount of tips made. According to the BLS, the average hourly wage of a waiter in May 2008, including tips, was $8.01. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $6.73, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $14.26 per hour.
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