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Career Profile: Waiters and Waitresses

Take orders and serve food and beverages to patrons at tables in dining establishment.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 2,023,200 people employed as waiters and waitresses in the United States. The median annual salary is $23,700. Entry level employees earn approximately $17,520 per year and senior employees earn approximately $42,550 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Take orders from patrons for food or beverages.
  • Check with customers to ensure that they are enjoying their meals and take action to correct any problems.
  • Check patrons' identification to ensure that they meet minimum age requirements for consumption of alcoholic beverages.
  • Collect payments from customers.
  • Roll silverware, set up food stations, or set up dining areas to prepare for the next shift or for large parties.
  • Stock service areas with supplies such as coffee, food, tableware, and linens.
  • Bring wine selections to tables with appropriate glasses, and pour the wines for customers.
  • Fill salt, pepper, sugar, cream, condiment, and napkin containers.
  • Describe and recommend wines to customers.
  • Perform food preparation duties such as preparing salads, appetizers, and cold dishes, portioning desserts, and brewing coffee.
  • Provide guests with information about local areas, including giving directions.
  • Garnish and decorate dishes in preparation for serving.
  • Write patrons' food orders on order slips, memorize orders, or enter orders into computers for transmittal to kitchen staff.
  • Prepare checks that itemize and total meal costs and sales taxes.
  • Present menus to patrons and answer questions about menu items, making recommendations upon request.
  • Remove dishes and glasses from tables or counters and take them to kitchen for cleaning.
  • Serve food or beverages to patrons, and prepare or serve specialty dishes at tables as required.
  • Clean tables or counters after patrons have finished dining.
  • Prepare tables for meals, including setting up items such as linens, silverware, and glassware.
  • Explain how various menu items are prepared, describing ingredients and cooking methods.
  • Assist host or hostess by answering phones to take reservations or to-go orders, and by greeting, seating, and thanking guests.
  • Escort customers to their tables.
  • Perform cleaning duties, such as sweeping and mopping floors, vacuuming carpet, tidying up server station, taking out trash, or checking and cleaning bathroom.
  • Inform customers of daily specials.
  • Prepare hot, cold, and mixed drinks for patrons, and chill bottles of wine.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
2,023,200
Annual Openings:
470,200
Increase in Openings by 2030:
20%
Annual Salary Range:
$17,520 - $42,550
Education Requirements:
Some high school