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By
Sarah Ward

Waiter/Waitress: 5 Differences of Job Description, Duties, and Responsibilities

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A waiter or waitress is the backbone of the restaurant and bar industry. Waiters and waitresses are often also called restaurant servers, although there are, occasionally, differences between waiters and waitresses as opposed to servers. We’ll dive into the difference between those roles in a later post. For the purposes of this post, we’ll mainly use the term waiter, to stick to one term.

The waiter job description, duties, and responsibilities will vary from place to place in the hospitality industry. They can range from keeping the bar equipment layout tidy to serving meals. That said, there are many consistent duties and responsibilities that apply to waiters and waitresses everywhere.

Here, we’ll outline the general waiter job description and responsibilities. We’ll also break down the similarities and differences for these roles in restaurants and bars alike. From waiter tips to bartender resume and bartender cover letter skills, there's a lot to learn, including common restaurant lingo.

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Duties of a Waiter in a Restaurant

Waiter duties and responsibilities in a restaurant cover everything from customer service to clearing tables. While some parts of the waiter job description will vary depending on the restaurant, a few constant responsibilities are:

  • Greeting customers and distributing menus
  • Taking orders from customers to relay to the kitchen staff
  • Making recommendations by being familiar with the menu and the specials
  • Delivering meals and drinks as they’re prepared
  • Checking back on customer satisfaction
  • Preparing the bill or bills as requested
  • Cashing out bills and returning change as needed
  • Keeping tables cleaned and in order for the next guests

The general practice of great customer service is part of everything a waiter does. Management might ask waiters to participate in swot analysis for restaurant improvement ideas. They know that waiters interact with customers on a daily basis, so they hear what they're discussing about the restaurant.

Duties of a Waiter in a Bar

While the duties of a waiter in a bar are similar to a waiter job description in a restaurant, there are some notable differences. These include:

  • Keeping the bar top stocked with everything guests may use
  • Taking inventory of bottles and related products
  • Verifying customers are of drinking age
  • Having knowledge of the general wine, beer, and alcoholic beverages the bar serves, to be able to make recommendations and answer questions
  • Presenting specialty drinks in certain ways - for example, drinks that are displayed with dry ice such as on a liquor bottle display

Beyond these responsibilities, a bar waiter or waitress will need to be aware and prepared for anything unique the bar serves. This will help them be ready for customer requests. 

Restaurant Waiter Uniform

Typically, a restaurant waiter uniform borders on the business side of business casual. The range of clothes usually fitting the uniform include:

  • Slacks/Skirts
  • Button downs
  • Polo shirts
  • Blazers
  • Dresses
  • Vests

Often, restaurant waiter attire will also include an apron of some sort. This apron helps with carrying a notepad and pen, items for the table, and other miscellaneous items to aid the waiter or waitress. 

Bar Waiter Uniform

The requirements for a bar waiter uniform are very similar to that of a restaurant waiter. That said, there are some differences, which are sometimes related to what type of bar the waiter or waitress works at.

If, for instance, the bar has a theme, the uniform requirements will fit around that theme. If a place is more upscale, then the bar waiter uniform will reflect that style. In a dive bar, while the uniforms will still be regulated, there will be a more relaxed vibe. Across the bar, bar waiters will carry tools of the trade - corkscrews, bottle openers, wine lists - to assist customers.

Skills of a Waiter in a Restaurant

Waiter duties and responsibilities are fairly easy to learn, but they do require some skills right off the bat. These skills include:

  • The ability to walk and stand for long periods of time
  • Flexible working hours, including weekends and evenings
  • The ability to handle all manner of customers, even the difficult customers
  • Communication skills for customers and coworkers alike
  • Coordination for carrying plates and trays, although this can be a practiced skill for sure

Beyond these skills, restaurants will have their own ways of doing things. Waiters and waitresses will also need to be able to adapt to these specifics of where they’re working. They may need to help a customer with learning the a la carte meaning, or something else, that doesn't come up in training.

Skills of a Waiter in a Bar

The skills of a waiter in a bar incorporate all the skills of a restaurant waiter and more. A lot of the extra skills a bar waiter needs are about beverages, as well as the legal aspects of working in a bar. Those specific skills include:

  • Understanding of cocktails, wine, beer, and other beverages
  • An understanding of food pairings for beverage orders
  • A passion for wine, beer, and alcoholic beverages is helpful
  • Being of the legal age to handle liquor, whatever that age may be for each location
  • Compliance with all licensing in the location - this may include a personal license to serve alcoholic beverages
  • Experience with serving and recommending alcoholic beverages is appreciated

Similar to restaurants, bars may have their own ways of doing things. Bar waiters and waitresses will need those same adaptable skills.

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Wait Station Restaurant Equipment

Some standard wait station restaurant equipment is important for any restaurant to keep on hand and keep things running smoothly. The wait station should have everything from extra table settings to small refillable snacks. The list includes, but certainly is not limited to:

  • A small refrigerator for storing food items ready to serve
  • Plates, cups, dishes, and extra utensils
  • Coffee and tea supplies
  • Pitchers and other serving supplies
  • Sugar packets, dinner mints, and other small snacks 
  • Napkins
  • Soap and other cleaning supplies
  • Take-out supplies
  • A POS system
  • The point of contact for the inventory system
  • Ordering pads
  • Garbage can
  • A fire extinguisher

Wait Station Bar Equipment

As it is with many other areas of this article, wait station bar equipment shares a lot of similarities with restaurant wait station equipment. The other items for a bar wait station include:

  • The house wines and often-used bottles, if the station is outside the customer area
  • Glassware for all the possible drinks
  • Salt, sugar, and other drink ingredients outside of alcohol
  • Prepared garnishes
  • A guide to checking identification and other important information
  • Spare corkscrews, bottle openers, and similar items
  • Inventory information with descriptions for staff knowledge

Restaurant Waiter Salary

Across the United States the average salary for a restaurant waiter is $13.99 an hour. Several years of experience can get this up to around $15.43. On top of this base salary, it's also important to factor in tips of about $100 a day.

Bar Waiter Salary

For bar waiters, the national average salary is close to the restaurant waiter salary, falling within the $11 to $15 range. The difference with the bar waiter salary is related to tips. As bars don't always serve food, there can be the possibility of fewer tips. That said, people drinking often tip more generously. In general, bar waiters are likely to get slightly more in tips.

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Waiter Job Description: Serving It Up

You may be looking for a job as a waiter or waitress, or looking to hire some serving staff (and factoring salaries into the cost to open a bar). Either way, this article is a great place to start learning all about what you should expect.

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