Job search FAQs
Frequently asked questions about Server jobs
Servers are responsible for many of the aspects of a customer’s dining experience, and much of their role focuses on providing exceptional customer service. This includes greeting and seating guests, answering questions, taking food and drink orders and serving them once prepared, and processing customer payments.
Additionally, a server must clean and prepare tables, restock items such as cups, napkins, straws and silverware, clean and organize the floor or bar area, and assist other servers who may need it.
Other specific tasks may depend on where you work. For example, you may be responsible for more management or administrative duties if you work at a small, family-owned restaurant. Or, you may be expected to perform tasks a certain way if you work for a five-star catering service. If you aren’t sure, the job description should outline specific duties expected.
Most serving roles don’t have an education requirement, but in the U.S. servers must be at least 16 years old, or 18 or older to serve alcohol. Many restaurants will hire servers as long as they've completed some high school, though others may require a high school diploma or equivalent.
Some states, including Washington, Oregon, Honolulu, and Alaska, require certification for those who serve alcohol. If you live in one of those states, you may want to obtain that certification before being hired for a serving position.
Most training and skills needed to be a successful server come with experience on the job, including customer service and serving skills, food handling knowledge, sanitation guidelines, and safety procedures. Once you’re hired, you’ll learn how to serve customers accurately and efficiently.
In general, requirements for a server job may include:
High school diploma or equivalent
Experience providing excellent customer service in a fast-paced environment
Positive attitude and ability to work well under pressure
Able to handle money accurately and operate a cash register/point-of-sale system
Able to take and deliver orders promptly
Prior experience in a food-serving establishment
Excellent written and verbal communication skills
High level of stamina or able to work on your feet for extended periods
The company may ask for experience in performing specific tasks that are related to the restaurant. Again, working at a small family-owned establishment may have slightly different requirements than a role with a winery or five-star catering business.
Also, keep in mind when it comes to educational requirements, it can depend on the state and company you’re applying with. You may be asked to complete the alcohol certification before hire, or you may be given time to do so after you’re hired. Some locations may request a high school diploma, while others will hire if you’re still in high school or haven’t graduated.
The job description should clearly outline requirements, but if you have questions, ask the hiring manager.
Most servers are paid a lower hourly wage and rely on tips as their income, but salary depends on their experience, location, and employer. For example, the minimum wage may be lower in casual dining restaurants than gourmet restaurants or five-star establishments, and the number of tips you take home may vary as well.
Most servers technically make between $2-3 hourly, but tips can vary to $100 or more each shift. This makes the common “average” salary about $11.30 per hour, but again, this can vary significantly.
Interview questions vary, but you can expect a mix of general questions, ones about your background and experience, and in-depth or job-specific queries.
Knowing what types of questions may be asked, and preparing answers ahead of time, can help you succeed in your interview.
Tell us about your prior experience in the restaurant industry.
Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. What did you do?
What are the most important skills/qualities for a server to have?
How would you keep yourself busy during a slow shift?
How do you prepare for a long shift?
What do you do when you have several guests who need your attention?
What’s your favorite/least favorite part about being a server?
Imagine it’s a busy shift, and a coworker is struggling to keep up with their tables. What do you do?
What is your schedule like? When are you available for work?
Describe a time you made a mistake while serving. How did you handle it?
There are several qualities and skills a good server will have to be successful in their role. Some of the best qualities or traits include:
Friendly and polite
Able to work well under pressure
Excellent communication skills
Ability to multitask well
A server’s skills should focus on customer service, communication, and food handling/serving skills. These can include:
Knowledge of foodservice regulations
Basic math skills
Knowledge of alcohol beverage rules and regulations
Active listening skills
If you work at the same establishment for some time, your advancement opportunities may be more abundant. This could include promotion into a shift leader, supervisor, or management position. You may also have the opportunity to work as a bartender.
It’s also important to note that many skills server perfects are transferable to other careers. Many servers do well in careers in sales, customer service, management, or in a retail environment. You may also be interested in roles such as administrative assistant, assistant manager, or general manager in another industry.
Servers may work full-time or part-time, and hours can vary based on where you work. Mornings, days, evening, night, and weekend hours are common, as are holidays.
Most serving shifts are organized around the most popular dining times - breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bars or restaurants that serve alcohol may remain open later at night, even until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., though they may not open until the afternoon. On the other hand, buffet-style restaurants may open early for breakfast and close shortly after dinner, or cafe locations may close shortly after lunch.
When interviewing for your role, ask the hiring manager which days of the week and shits they need to be covered. This could give you a better idea of what your hours would be. Or, if you have limitations, such as you can only work during the day shift, you can make that clear in your application
Servers may work in restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs, and any other food-serving establishment. The location could be large or it could be small. Regardless, you’ll likely be under pressure to serve quickly and efficiently during busy hours. You’re typically on your feet most of the shift, and often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and drinks, so stamina is important.
Working as a server can be fast-paced and even sometimes stressful, but it can also be very rewarding. You can connect with customers, and even create “regulars” who come back regularly because they enjoy their time at your establishment.