Waiter / Waitress

Average Waiter / Waitress Salary Nationwide

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Overview and Basic Information


Are you the type of person who can charm even the grumpiest of old men? Could you carry a hot bowl of soup through a hurricane without breaking a sweat? Then you’ve got what it takes to be a great waiter or waitress! Most waiters and waitresses, also called servers, work in full-service restaurants. They greet customers, take food orders, serve food and drinks, take payment and make change.

Casual dining restaurants and cafés will expect you to be quick, efficient and friendly. Casual dining restaurants can be local family-owned restaurants or larger chain restaurants such as Applebee’s and Cracker Barrel.

Fine dining places require a little more of a restaurant server. You’ll likely need to:

  • Understand a wine list and make recommendations (depending on the restaurant, this can be a big job)

  • Make wine and food pairings

  • Know how each dish is prepared

  • Make food recommendations and answer questions

Some fine dining restaurants even require servers to prepare specialty food items at a customer’s table.

Being a waiter or waitress is hard work. You’ll deal with rude customers, screaming children and people who don’t tip. You’ll roll a lot of silverware and clean a lot of ketchup bottles. Your feet will hurt. But it’s a great career for someone who likes to work with people. And waiting tables can be great money for someone with the right mix of personality and serving skills.

Example waiter or waitress job description

Our busy family-owned restaurant has an opening for a part-time server. You’ll be responsible for taking customer orders and serving food. Duties will include taking food and drink orders and writing them down on order slips, ensuring that tables are served properly and that all payments are collected.

To be successful, you need a positive attitude and the ability to work well under pressure with bussers, cooks and other staff. Previous work experience involving customer service in a fast-paced environment is desired.

To do well in this role you have to be comfortable standing for long periods of time and managing a busy shift.

Typical duties include:

  • Accurately take food and drink orders from customers

  • Write customers’ orders on order slips and enter into computer to send to kitchen staff

  • Engage with customers in a friendly manner

  • Knowledge of our menu items and the ability to make suggestions to customers

  • Ensure tables are satisfied with their dining experience and take action to correct any problems

  • Collect payments


  • High school diploma or equivalent

  • Experience providing excellent customer service in a fast-paced environment

  • Positive attitude and ability to work well under pressure

  • Great communication skills

  • Accurately handle credit cards and cash and operate a point-of-sale system

Common questions about waiter and waitress jobs

How much does a waiter or waitress make?

Since most of your pay will come from tips, the better you are, the more money you’ll make. On average, waiters and waitresses make about $10.50 an hour. By law, you have to be paid at least $7.25 an hour. The minimum a restaurant can pay you is $2.13 an hour—the rest of your pay comes from tips. If you score a job in a busy, expensive restaurant, you can make upwards of $20 an hour on a good night. Beware, though: if you get stuck with bad tippers or a bad shift you can end up walking out with zip.

What are the education requirements?

You’ll get a ton of on-the-job training as a server, but no formal education is typically required. Some do require that you have a high school diploma. Having a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management or culinary school is a plus if you want to work in a fine dining restaurant.

Keep in mind that some restaurants will have minimum age requirements if you'll be serving alcoholic beverages. 

Career paths for waiters and waitresses

After working your way up to scoring the best shift at your first server job, you’ll probably move on to a better-paying position at another restaurant. After working there for a few years, you (or they) might decide you’re prime management material. Some restaurants have a formal training program, while others require several years of experience before a promotion. Some people really love being servers and will stay in that role for years.

The future of waiters and waitresses

According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), job opportunities are not too shabby. They’re expected to grow about 7% from 2016-26. Prospects are good because not everyone is cut out for restaurant work and they quit. If you’re looking for work at upscale restaurants, you’ll have a lot more competition.

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