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Food Service, Bartending and Waitress Careers, Jobs, and Training Information

Food Service, Bartending, and Waitress Career and Job Highlights

  • The majority of jobs are part time, giving many opportunities to younger-aged people. About 25 percent of these workers were 16 to 19 years old, about 5 times as many as all the workers.
  • Because there are substantial replacement needs, job openings are projected to be abundant through 2012.
  • In jobs where tips can potentially be a big part of earnings, intense competition exists. These jobs include: bartenders, waiters and waitresses and others in well-known restaurants and up-scale food establishments.

Food Service, Bartending and Waitress Career Overview

In restaurants, coffee shops, and other food service establishments, food and beverage serving and related workers are important to first impressions of costumer service. The responsibilities of these workers include: welcoming customers, showing them to their seats and providing them with menus, taking food and drink orders, and serving food and beverages. Additionally, they answer questions, clarify featured and normal menu items, and maintain the cleanliness of tables for new costumers. The majority work cooperatively as they assist coworkers throughout busy times to improve workflow and customer service.

Waiters and waitresses make up the largest group of these workers. They perform many responsibilities as they write down customers’ orders, serve food and beverages, prepare detailed checks, and occasionally accept payment. Certain duties will differ with various restaurants. In coffee shops where similar items are always served, such as salads, soups, and sandwiches, it is expected of servers to provide quick, efficient, and well-mannered service. In nicer, up-scale restaurants who offer more complex meals and several different courses, waiters and waitresses take their time to give more proper service as they focus on personal and thoughtful treatment. Costumers may ask them for their opinions about certain dishes as well as how dishes are prepared. A few waiters and waitresses prepare items at the table, such as salads, desserts, or others. In addition, they may check identifications of some costumers ordering alcoholic beverages or tobacco products.

Sometimes waiters and waitresses do things that other food and beverage service workers do, such as taking guests to tables, waiting on customers seated at counters, cleaning and preparing tables, or using the cash register. Nevertheless, most restaurants who provide full service usually hire enough staff for various positions, such as hosts and hostesses, cashiers, or dining room attendants, to fulfill these responsibilities.

Bartenders prepare drink orders given by costumers at the bar or by waiters and waitresses who take dining room costumers’ orders. To make sure costumers meet the minimum age requirement for the purchase of alcohol beverages and tobacco, bartenders check identification. Their responsibilities include: preparing mixed drinks, serving bottled or draught beer, and pouring wine or other beverages. Bartenders are expected to know several different drink recipes as well as quickly mixing drinks accurately and efficiently. Bartenders also stock and prepare drink garnishes; keep a supply of ice, glasses, and other bar materials; maintain the cleanliness of the bar and bar utensils; serve as a cashier, and serve food to those seated at the bar. Bartenders are in charge of inventory for the bar, maintaining enough liquor, mixes, and other bar supplies.

Most bartenders work directly with costumers. Bartenders should be sociable and like interacting with the public. Conversely, bartenders at service bars don’t work closely with costumers because they work in confined bars located near the kitchens in restaurants, hotels, and clubs where only servers come to place orders. A few establishments, with higher volumes, use automatic appliances that mix and make drinks with just the push of a button. This still requires bartenders using this equipment to work fast in order to keep up with a lengthy list of drink orders and to know what certain ingredients different drinks call for. Also, many of the orders still require preparation by hand for specific requests of the costumers.

Hosts and hostesses greet guests and keep track of reservations and waiting lists. If the costumers must wait, a host or hostess can take them to a coat room, bathroom, or seating area until their table is ready. They must seat guests at tables appropriate for the number of people, walk them to their seats, and hand them menus. Further, they schedule dining reservations, organize parties, and arrange for any necessary special services. A few restaurants require hosts and hostesses to be cashiers as well.

Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers clean tables, remove used and soiled dishes, and supply serving areas to assist waiters, waitresses and bartenders. They are also known as backwaiters or runners as they bring meals from the kitchen and help waiters and waitresses in passing out dishes to tables. Further responsibilities include: stocking up clean linens, dishes, silverware, and glasses in the dining room and keeping the bar supplied with glasses, liquor, ice, and garnishes for drinks. Dining room attendants are in charge of setting tables using clean tablecloths, napkins, silverware, glasses, and dishes; filling glasses with ice water; and supplying rolls and butter. When the costumers are done eating, attendants take away the dirtied dishes and linens. The responsibilities of cafeteria attendants include supplying serving tables with food, trays, dishes, and silverware and assisting dining patrons with their trays. The responsibilities of bartender helpers include maintaining clean bar equipment and glasses. Dishes, cutlery, and other bar equipment may also be cleaned by dishwashers.

Counter attendants work in cafeterias, coffee shops, and carryout eateries to take orders and serve food. Those who work in cafeterias serve food presented on steam tables, cut and carve meat, spoon out vegetables, scoop sauces and soups, and fill up drink glasses. Counter attendants who work in lunchrooms and coffee chops are responsible for waiting in costumers at the counter, taking orders to the kitchen, and transferring food from the kitchen to costumers. Additionally, they are in charge of beverages such as, coffee, soda, and other beverages; and make fountain specialties including milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. Counter attendants take to-go orders from diners, package these orders up, clean counters, write up detailed bills, and occasionally take payments. A few counter attendants may prepare sandwiches and salads or other short-menu items.

A few food and beverage serving workers at fast-food restaurants may take orders of costumers at counters or in drive-through. They put orders together, distribute the orders, and take payment. Several of these workers are combined food preparation and serving workers with duties of cooking and wrapping food, preparing coffee, and filling beverages from dispensing machines.

Other workers may serve to costumers outside of a restaurant. For example, they may wait on people in hotel room, cars, etc.

Food Service, Bartending and Waitress Employment Information

In 2002, food and beverage serving workers and related employees occupied 6.5 million jobs. The following are numbers of the distribution of these jobs:

  • Waiters and waitresses – 2,097,000
  • Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food – 1,990,000
  • Dishwashers – 505,000
  • Counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee – 467,000
  • Bartenders – 463,000
  • Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers – 409,000
  • Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop – 298,000
  • Food servers, nonrestaurant – 195,000
  • All other food preparation and serving related workers – 117,000

By far most of the jobs for food and beverage serving and related workers were provided by food services and drinking places, including restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Remaining jobs were mainly in hotels; pleasure, gambling, and leisure industries; school systems; grocery stores; nursing care facilities; civic and social organizations; and hospitals.

Typically jobs are found in big cities and where tourism is prominent; however, jobs are found throughout the country. Seasonal jobs are offered through resorts. Many employees go back and forth between summer and winter jobs instead of staying in one place year round.

Food Service, Bartending and Waitress Training and Job Qualifications

Food and beverage service jobs require no education. Several employers fill waiter and waitress, bartender, and host and hostess positions with those who have graduated from high school; however, it is not mandatory for fast-food workers, counter attendants, dishwashers, dining room attendants, and bartender helpers to graduate from high school. Food and beverage workers receive an hourly wage that is immediate, rather than a salary. Most individuals starting in these jobs are just out of high school (late teens or early twenties) and may not have a high school diploma. Many have no prior experience and are full-time students or homemakers. These jobs are popular for high school and college students looking for a part-time job.

Fine food and quality costumer service are essential for acquiring loyal costumers and keeping up with intense competition among other restaurants. Highly desired qualities for food and service workers include: excellent personal skills, a clean appearance, good verbal abilities, cooperation, and a pleasant attitude toward costumers.

A keen memory is required for waiters and waitresses to keep orders straight and to remember common costumers’ faces, names, and favorites. Additionally, these workers should be able to easily use a computer to process orders and produce costumer checks. A few may need to add up bills mentally using good substantial math skills. A foreign language may be beneficial when communicating with diverse costumers and staff. Some restaurants may have strict expectations and therefore require prior experience waiting on tables. Because these jobs are higher paying and offer higher potential income from tips, they may have stricter requirements than other restaurants before being hired, such as furthered education or training.

Typically, 21 year of age is the minimum age requirement for bartenders, but many restaurants prefer 25 year-olds. It is important for bartenders to be familiar with laws, both state and local, regarding the sale of alcohol.

The majority of workers in the food and beverage industry learn needed skills on-the-job as they observe and follow more experienced workers’ examples. A few employers, especially fast-food establishments, train new employees certain food preparation and service skills through self-instruction programs with audiovisual productions and instructional pamphlets. A generalized curriculum for food service can be offered by a few public and private vocational schools, restaurant associations, and big restaurant chains.

A few bartenders learn their required skill as they attend a vocational and technical or bartending school. Through these programs, bartenders learn State and local guidelines, recipes for cocktails, what to wear and how to behave, and how to stock a bar. Graduates might be assisted in finding a job from a few of these schools. Even though formal training is not required for many food service positions, some employers require specialized training for handling food and dealing with legal issues that go along with serving alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Promotions and hiring may be based more upon personal qualities and people skills than schooling when employers evaluate candidates.

Because the majority of food-serving establishments are small, the chance to be promoted may be hard. After some experience is acquired, a few dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers become promoted to waiter, waitress, or bartender jobs. For waiters, waitresses, and bartenders, advancing to something better may be just to transfer to a job in a busier or more upscale restaurant or bar where the potential for tips is superior. Some bartenders choose to start their own bars. A few hosts and hostesses and waiters and waitresses become supervisors or related positions, such as maitre d’hotel, dining room supervisor, or the manager of a restaurant. Food and beverage service workers who perform extraordinarily may be asked to join the company’s formal management training program in larger restaurant chains.

Food Service, Bartending and Waitress Job and Employment Opportunities

Food and beverage serving and related workers should expect a surplus of job openings in their field. Over the 2002-12 period, general employment for workers is projected to grow about as fast as the average, due to an increasing population, higher personal earnings, and extra spare time. While many new positions will be created and filled, most of the openings will come from the high percentage of openings of individuals who leave the occupation each year. Because requirements for training and education are few, there is considerable turnover in these occupations, and the large number of part-time jobs is appealing to those looking for temporary earnings rather than a career. Nevertheless, intense competition is estimated for bartender, waiter and waitress, and other food and beverage service jobs in well-known eating places and superior dining establishments, where earnings from tips can potentially be high.
Between 2002 and 2012, expected employment expansion varies by the kind of job. Due to the persisting fast-paced lifestyle in most of the United States plus the trend of more nutritious foods at several fast-food restaurants, employment of combined food preparation and serving workers, counting fast-food workers, is projected to grow faster than the average. A larger number of families and a richer 55-and-older population will push an increase in restaurants that offer table service and a big selection of menu items—resulting in average expansion for waiters and waitresses and hosts and hostesses. Dining room attendants and dishwashers’ work will increase slower than other food and beverage serving and related workers due to the popularity of more casual dining spots, such as coffee bars and sandwich shops, as opposed to full-service restaurants who hire more of these workers. Employment of bartenders is expected to grow slower than the average.

Historical Earnings Information

Food and beverage serving and related workers make money through both hourly wages and customer tips. As a result, earnings are dissimilar and based upon various job types and restaurants. For example, fast-food workers and hosts and hostesses hardly ever get tips, so their base wage rates are probably higher than those of waiters and waitresses and bartenders in full-service restaurants, earning the majority of their income through tips. In a few restaurants, tips are sometimes combined in one large pool and then divided equally among all of the eligible workers. This practice permits those, such as dining room attendants, who don’t usually receive tips from customers to benefit from the good service payments.