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2 Key Differences and Similarities Between Server and Waiter/Waitress

By
Sarah Ward
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Difference Between Server and Waiter/Waitress

When you hear the terms server and waiter, you may think to yourself, “is there a difference?” The answer is, sometimes yes, sometimes no. The difference between server and waiter is often purely based on the gender of the term. While waiter is always paired with waitress, server is a non-gendered term that can refer to any gender. 

That said, depending on the state and the individual establishments, the difference between server and waiter can be about more than gender. The two terms can refer to a slight difference in job responsibilities. They can also be used to describe two entirely different jobs

Whether you’re looking for a job, or you’re looking to hire servers, this article will help you understand the difference between server and waiter. That difference might make a difference for you, or it might not, depending on your location, job requirements, and more. Either way, read on to learn more. 

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What is a Server in a Restaurant

A restaurant server is a person who assists with all manner of customer service and restaurant service. In addition to serving food, a server is responsible for making sure guests are taken care of throughout their time at the restaurant. This includes everything from greeting customers to keeping the tables cleared and ready to maintaining an overall positive experience for customers. The role of the restaurant server can be different depending on the restaurant, the state, and the customers. Often, the role that customers play in the job description of the server is dependent on the restaurant. In some places and circumstances, these general duties of a server are the duties of the waiter, with the server playing a different role.

That said, there are some general restaurant server duties that are pretty much the same across the board. If you’re looking to be a server in a restaurant, there are some skills you’ll want to brush up on before applying. If you’re a restaurant owner, it’ll be good to know what you can expect and what skills you might want to look for. 

Restaurant Server Duties

Since servers are a huge part of what makes a restaurant run smoothly, the list of possible restaurant server duties is quite long. A server is more than a person who serves food in a restaurant. They’re a person who ensures the quality of service that restaurant guests enjoy. The list of restaurant serve duties includes, but is not entirely limited to:

  • Submitting orders to the kitchen 
  • Bringing out food and presenting it in a timely manner
  • Refilling drinks and checking on other refillable items
  • Checking on all tables in their section to ensure guest satisfaction
  • Preparing the bill (or bills) and making change as needed
  • Tracking receipts and tips
  • Keeping tables cleaned and ready 
  • Sanitizing as needed
  • Greeting customers
  • Presenting menus and specials, and making recommendations
  • Answering questions about menu items and options
  • Working with other servers and staff to keep everything running smoothly
  • Dealing with complaints as needed 
  • Staying up to date with the menu items and ingredients
  • Being knowledgeable about allergens present in dishes
  • Helping food preparation staff as needed
  • Following all laws about selling alcoholic beverages
  • Keeping the server station organized and refilling supplies as needed

Restaurant Waiter Duties

In many states and establishments, all of those restaurant server duties and responsibilities are the same for restaurant waiters. Server and waiter are used synonymously so often, we learned even the people holding these jobs don’t always know if there’s a distinction. However, in many places in different restaurants with different rules, there is a distinct difference between server and waiter. Some possible distinctions between the two terms are:

  • Being paid minimum wage (waiters) or an hourly wage (servers). In some states, the minimum wage for waiters is vastly below a living wage. A shocking example of this is in Texas, where waiters are paid minimum wage and do not always get to keep tips. 
  • Being the person who brings and removes food (servers) as opposed to the person who provides direct customer assistance (waiter). In the case of this distinction, the server fills more of a busser-type role. The waiter takes on the responsibility of making sure the guests are fully satisfied. 

Of course, these differences can be different from state to state and restaurant to restaurant. If you’re looking to be a server or waiter/waitress, be sure to look into the rules in your location. That way you'll know exactly what you’ll be doing and what you can expect. 

Top Paying Restaurant Server Jobs

Of all the types of establishments that are hiring servers, there are some places out there that pay better in general. If you’re searching for work as a server the best way to find the top paying jobs in your area is to search around. Your location will make a big difference in what’s available. That said, there are some general types of restaurants you should check out, as they tend to pay more and attract some substantial tips. The best types of establishments to look for higher pay are:

  • Fine dining locations.
  • Banquet events, such as catered events and occasions. 
  • Chain restaurants with a wide variety of customers. 
  • Clubs, bars, and nightclub spaces. 

These options generally offer higher pay and tip opportunities because of:

  • The clientele.
  • A usually robust nature of the industries.
  • The skill and training required to be a great server in these locations.
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Difference Between Server and Waiter: Two Sides of the Coin

Overall, the differences between server and waiter are entirely dependent on location and the restaurant operations. The server and waiter difference isn't always a clear distinction, in fact, sometimes there's no difference at all. Ultimately, these two positions go hand in hand. Even if there is a difference, the two types of employees work together towards the same goal of customer satisfaction.