Waitresses and waiters greet customers, take orders and serve food and drinks to guests at restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels and at events.
As the primary point of contact for customers, they are ultimately responsible for ensuring that all guests have a satisfying dining experience.
This in-depth guide includes a full waitress job description and everything else you need to know about waitresses, including typical duties, average salaries, opportunities for progression and more.
- Waitress/waiter job description
- How much do waitresses earn?
- What does a waitress/waiter do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs waitresses?
Waitress job description
Waitress/Waiter | The Old Oak Pub
About The Old Oak Pub
We are a privately owned, busy pub & restaurant situated based in Norwich, with a reputation for high quality, fresh, locally produced food and drink.
About the role
We are currently looking for an enthusiastic and hard-working waitress/waiter to join our tight-knit team. Reporting to the team leader, you will prepare tables, greet customers, serve food and drinks and ensure every single customer has an excellent dining experience.
- Taking reservations, alterations and cancellations via phone and email
- Preparing tables and setting up plates, cutlery, silverware and glasses
- Greeting and escorting customers to their tables
- Handing out menus and providing detailed information on menu items
- Informing customers of our daily and seasonal specials
- Taking accurate orders via a tablet, using our in-house app
- Serving food and drinks orders accurately and confidently
- Thoroughly cleaning and re-setting tables upon customer’s departure
- Delivering bills and processing cash and card payments
- Providing an exceptional level of customer service to guests at all times
Location & commitments
- A range of full and part-time roles available, hours to be discussed
- Ideally lives within close distance of our city-centre Norwich pub
- Must be available to work anytime between the hours 11 am and 2 am, Monday to Sunday
- Excellent time management and organisational skills
- Outstanding communication, social and interpersonal skills
- Flexible attitude and willing to take on extra tasks as necessary
- Previous experience in a customer facing role
- Knowledge of wine, spirits and other beverages
Contact us to apply
If you’d like to build upon your customer service and hospitality skills, apply today! Send your CV and cover letter to our assistant manager, John Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much do waitresses earn?
Waitresses and waiters normally earn less than the national average salary, but wages can be increased with experience and progression. The average waitress salary in the UK (pro rata) is currently £21,000.
Waitresses can also boost their yearly earnings with tips from customers, although these are never guaranteed.
Waitress salaries in the UK
- Low: £18,570
- Average: £21,000
- High: £24,449
Waitress salaries will vary hugely depending on:
- The type of establishment – A restaurant, cafe, hotel, gastro-pub etc — for example, a restaurant of a high-end 5* hotel is likely to pay more than a small, local cafe
- Service specialisation – Those with training in advanced types of service, such as silver service or wine, for example, may earn more due to their expertise.
- General salary factors – The level of candidate experience, along with location, can also impact wages
For example, an experienced waiter working in an upmarket city-centre wine bar, is likely to earn a higher hourly rate than a school-leaver working their first job in a cafe in a small town.
These are average figures taken from job advert samples and they do not include extra benefits such as tips, bonuses and overtime and non-financial benefits such as flexible working hours.
What does a waitress/waiter do?
Job descriptions tend to vary between establishments, but here are some of the most common tasks, duties and responsibilities of a waiter or waitress:
- Setting up service areas – Setting tables ready for customers, refilling condiments and ensuring the premises is presentable
- Taking bookings – Taking and recording bookings via phone, email, social media and online booking systems
- Greeting customers – Greeting customers, showing them to a table and presenting menus and daily specials, whilst building a strong rapport
- Answering questions – Answering food, drink and menu-related questions from customers
- Making suggestions – Recommending menu items to guests based on their preferences
- Taking orders – Taking food and drink orders from customers accurately and swiftly
- Preparing drinks – Preparing a range of hot and cold beverages line with customer requirements
- Relaying orders to the kitchen – Informing the chef, sous chef, and other kitchen staff of food and beverage orders, plus any special requests from customers
- Serving food & drinks – Collecting finished orders from the kitchen/bar and delivering them to customers
- Cleaning tables – Removing dirty plates and glasses during meals and cleaning tables after customers leave
- Taking payments – Giving bills to customers and processing cash and card payments
- Dealing with complaints – Dealing with customer complaints, escalating them to the manager if necessary and communicating problems to the kitchen staff and management
- Stocking service areas – Checking stock levels and replenishing as required
- Cleaning the premises – Helping to maintain a neat and clean dining area at all times
What does a waiter/waitress need?
Waitressing is generally an entry-level role with no formal education or experience requirements. This is why waiting-on makes a great CV-building part-time or summer job for school, college and university students.
With that said, previous experience, a good standard of general education and any relevant vocational qualifications can act as a bonus during the application process, whilst also allowing for faster progression within the hospitality industry.
Specific requirements will vary between companies, but here’s what’s typically required:
Waitress jobs generally don’t require any prior experience, as full on-the-job training is provided. With that said, for competitive roles, any customer service or waiting on experience is a huge advantage — even if it’s just from a short work experience placement or temporary job.
Senior waitress roles will normally require candidates to have proven experience as a waitress in a busy environment — normally upwards of 1 to 2 years. Depending on the establishment, specialist knowledge may also be required — for example, silver service setup or mixology for cocktails.
Although waitress roles can be gained without prior experience, employers will be on the lookout for the following soft, generic skills:
- Customer service: Being friendly and approachable – building strong relationships with customers
- Communication: Being an attentive listener and an engaging communicator with customers
- Organisation: Managing several tasks at once and juggling the demands of guests, tables, bar staff and the kitchen
- Basic numeracy: Confidently handling simple cash and card transactions
- Good memory: Remembering customer orders and preferences, as well as seasonal and daily menu changes
- Working under pressure: Working at a fast pace in a busy environment, whilst outwardly remaining assured and calm
- Physical stamina: Working long hours standing up and moving around a lot
- IT: Using point-of-sale systems, apps, computer software and digital tills to assign tables, enter orders and process payments
Employers rarely ask for specific qualifications when hiring for waiting-on positions, as the skills and knowledge required can generally be learnt on-the-job.
However, roles can be competitive, especially in the cities — so vocational diplomas, certificates and a good standard of general education can definitely give candidates a competitive edge.
Alongside general education (GCSEs, A-Levels, degrees etc), the following qualifications can help to bolster the application process and speed up career progression:
Professional waiting-on diploma
The professional waiting-on diploma provides practical and hands-on teaching in the areas of customer service, food pairings and ingredients, memory methods and sales. While not essential to gaining a waitress role, the qualification is a great way to stand out during the application process, while the knowledge gained may help to boost confidence for interviews and trial shifts.
Hospitality & catering diploma
There are a number of City and Guilds hospitality & catering diplomas available, all of which can provide candidates with a basic understanding of hospitality work, food and drink preparation and customer service. These qualifications are valued by hospitality employers throughout the UK and can help waitresses thrive in their role and progress into senior, higher-paying hospitality jobs.
Customer service qualifications
Being a good waitress is all about meeting the needs of the customer. For this reason, gaining a customer service qualification can help waitresses to provide better standards of service; leading to increased tips and faster career progression.
What is expected of waitresses?
Waitresses will generally be expected to commit to the following:
- Full or part-time hours – Waiting-on jobs are available on a wide range of contracts, with anything between 4 and 40+ hours on offer
- Unsociable shifts – Waitresses often work late evenings and weekend shifts, and working on public holidays is common
- Overtime – Overtime outside of the contracted hours is common, especially on bank holidays and during the festive season
- Challenging work – Responding to customer complaints and dealing with a fast pace of work can make waiting stressful at times
- Location – Normally based at a single establishment in a warm, but often cramped and busy, environment
The benefits included in a waiting-on jobs package can vary significantly, especially as many roles are part-time or temporary. However, permanent employees can expect to receive benefits such as:
- Tips – Customers may decide to tip waiters if they feel they have received exceptionally good service – Some employers allow waiters to keep all of the tips they gained personally, whereas others pool tips from all waiters during the course of a day and then distribute them to the team evenly
- Holiday pay
- Extra pay for public holidays
- Free drinks and meals on shift
- Company discounts – Especially in large restaurant chains
Part-time employees are given a holiday allowance and pension contributions on a pro-rata basis, in line with the hours they’re contracted.
Who employs waitresses and waiters?
Any establishment serving food and drink will require waiting staff to serve their customers, and so waiter and waitress roles are available across the country in cities, towns, and even the smallest of villages.
Typical waitress employers include:
- Events venues
- Conference venues
- Cruise ships
Employment opportunities for waitresses have increased in recent years and are predicted to continue to grow at a steady rate.
Waiter jobs are available on a wide range of contracts, with 76% of waitresses working part-time, 26% working full-time and the remaining 1% being self-employed.
Which junior jobs progress to waitress roles?
It’s possible to enter a waiter role without any prior experience. However, it’s not uncommon for candidates to have some form of temporary or casual waiting-on or customer service experience prior to gaining a permanent role.
There are hospitality staffing agencies based up and down the UK, who offer a chance to work ad-hoc, casual shifts via online booking systems. This can be a great way to try out a waitressing role, build relevant skills, gain valuable experience and, ultimately, make it easier to gain a permanent contract.
Which senior jobs do waitresses progress to?
For those who love the fast-paced, challenging and exciting world of hospitality, gaining experience as a waitress can lead to progression into more senior, higher-paying hospitality roles, such as:
With a few years of waiting experience, waitresses and waiters can progress into a supervisor or team leader role. Supervisors are responsible for leading a team of waiters, ensuring that good standards of customer experience are consistently delivered, and that staff are working efficiently and meeting their targets.
After several years of managerial experience in a supervisory capacity, progression into an assistant manager role is possible. Assistant managers, whether in a restaurant, cafe or bar, generally run the establishment when the manager is off duty, direct front-of-house employees and assist in training and recruitment. They will also likely be the escalation point for big customer complaints and other issues that arise
With the right combination of practical experience, business acumen and sector knowledge, it’s not uncommon for waitresses to eventually work their way up into a restaurant manager role. Managers are responsible for overseeing the running of an establishment as a whole and might spend a lot of time in an office; working on budgets, menu creation, sales & marketing, ordering stock and recruitment – as well as leading the front of house team during opening hours
Waitress job description – conclusion
Waitresses are in demand across the UK, with employment opportunities regular and plentiful. The job is challenging and can be stressful, but also rewarding — and often fun!
Although the wages and entry-requirements are typically low, a role as a waitress is a fantastic way to gain hospitality and customer service skills and experience.
With hard work and determination, waitresses can easily work their way into senior roles with more generous salaries.
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