Food and Beverage Server

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Food and Beverage Server


Restaurants employ all different types of workers from kitchen staff such as dishwashers and chefs, to hosts and bartenders. Next to the host, food and beverage servers are the front line staff in restaurants. Depending on the establishment in which they work, food and beverage servers perform various tasks. Nevertheless, for all of them, their main job is to serve food and drinks in some capacity. This usually takes place in a very fast-paced environment. In fact, serving is actually quite a good workout, requiring them to be on their feet for the entire day.

The food and beverage server takes the customers' orders and in fine dining restaurants they may suggest daily specials or good wines to accompany a steak, fish or a pasta, perhaps. In certain theme restaurants, servers might have to also play an entertaining role or dress up in a particular costume, for example in a 1950s diner style restaurant. They usually bring patrons drinks first and when the food is ready, they serve it to the tables and bring any garnishes or sauces needed, like ketchup. After the meal, they help clear the table and then bill the customers. Most restaurants these days run on a computer system like SQUIRREL, so servers do not have to tabulate the bills on their own.

In whatever type of establishment the server works, one with experience can answer any of the customers' questions about ingredients, preparation of the food, suggest wines or beers and even entrees. They can time out a meal properly and make sure that any special food requests or allergies be attended to. They are in tune with the customers wants and can read a table well.

Also, food and beverage servers must deal with difficult customers. Since the nature of the job is customer service oriented, servers must maintain a level of diplomacy and learn to deal with these customers in an effective manner.
Furthermore, some servers have additional side duties to perform before, during and after one's shift. This involves opening up and closing down the restaurant, making coffee, bringing out clean plates, escorting guests to tables, clearing and re-setting tables, and many other duties.
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Institute of Culinary Education - Los Angeles
  • Named a Culinary School of Excellence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in 2015.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Programs Offered:
  • Culinary Management
  • Double Diploma: Culinary Arts and Culinary Management
  • Double Diploma: Pastry & Baking Arts and Culinary Management



  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
The key to becoming a successful food and beverage server is people skills and sociability. They must be able to serve customers cheerfully, courteously and efficiently in their work with good coordination. They must maintain a neat appearance and be able to work under intense pressure. They must have the stamina and endurance to be able to stand for long periods of time (up to 10 hours) and an incredible memory for details. They need to get along well with coworkers and patrons and be a real team member. Finally, they must use good judgment when serving alcohol, as it is their responsibility to make sure everyone is safe leaving the bar.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare tables or counters for meals
  • Stock the service area with supplies, such as coffee, milk and glassware
  • Greet customers, present menus, make recommendations and answer questions regarding food and beverages
  • Inform customers about daily specials
  • Record orders and place them with the kitchen and bar
  • Recommend wines that complement patrons' meals
  • Pick up and serve food and beverages
  • Check that customers are enjoying their meals and correct any problems
  • Suggest and serve desserts and beverages
  • Tabulate and present bill to patrons and accept payment
  • Clean and re-set tables
  • Most food and beverage servers work in shifts, which are sometimes scattered all over the place. Since restaurants are open evenings and weekends, most servers work during these times. Servers must be flexible and they are sometimes expected to be on-call for shifts. Also, the hours are always strange. Sometimes you work a lunch, sometimes a split shift (meaning lunch and dinner) or if you work in a pub, your hours could be from 10pm until 2am. A typical evening is a hectic yet melodic balancing act of greeting customers, taking orders, serving food, presenting wine, and keeping the customers happy and satisfied. Also, servers spend the whole shift walking around on their feet. Food and beverage servers' duties vary considerably from one type of establishment to another.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Food and beverage servers work in restaurants, diners, bars, cafes, taverns, fast food joints, delis, concession stands, taverns, private clubs, banquet halls, hotels, lounges, resort areas, casinos and similar establishments. There are more part-time positions in this occupation than there are in most other occupations, and the majority of food and beverage servers are young.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Food and beverage servers can move progressively to better paying jobs in larger and more formal food establishments. They may also advance to "lead hand" positions (e.g. captain or head waiter/waitress, maitre d' hotel) or other supervisory positions. Although some larger organizations have management training programs or less formal on-the job training for dependable workers who have leadership ability, related postsecondary education and certification are definite assets for advancement

  Educational Paths  
There is no direct educational route to becoming a food and beverage server. Some restaurants require servers to have food safety certification, which qualifies them to handle food in a hygienic manner. Also many servers have alcohol service certification, which tests liquor laws, liability and knowing when to stop serving liquor to a customer.

There are many courses at community colleges and bartending schools, which teach the basics, on the job training is by far the best education a server can receive. In some fine dining establishments, managers require that servers take wine steward courses, which teaches about wine formally. Finally, food and beverage servers who serve alcohol must meet the minimum age requirement.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Institute of Culinary Education - Los Angeles
  • Named a Culinary School of Excellence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in 2015.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Programs Offered:
  • Culinary Management
  • Double Diploma: Culinary Arts and Culinary Management
  • Double Diploma: Pastry & Baking Arts and Culinary Management

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