Waiter or Waitress

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Job Outlook:
Education: None
High: $55,360.00
Average: $33,020.00
Average: $15.87

What they do:

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

On the job, you would:

  • 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.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Waiters and waitresses must listen to customers, ask questions as needed, and relay information to the kitchen staff so that orders are prepared to the customers’ satisfaction.

Customer-service skills. Waiters and waitresses are frontline workers for their restaurant. They should be friendly and polite and be able to develop a rapport with customers.

Detail oriented. Waiters and waitresses must record customers’ orders accurately. They should be able to recall the details of each order and match the food or drink orders to the correct customers.

Physical stamina. Waiters and waitresses spend most of their work hours standing or walking and carrying trays, dishes, and drinks.

Physical strength. Waiters and waitresses need to be able to lift and carry trays of food or other items.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

81% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
80% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
80% Self-Control  -  Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
78% Cooperation  -  Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
77% Stress Tolerance  -  Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
76% Social Orientation  -  Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
74% Concern for Others  -  Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
74% Adaptability/Flexibility  -  Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
73% Initiative  -  Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
73% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
67% Achievement/Effort  -  Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
66% Independence  -  Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
A3 Your Strengths Importance


78% Social  -  Work involves helping, teaching, advising, assisting, or providing service to others. Social occupations are often associated with social, health care, personal service, teaching/education, or religious activities.
72% Enterprising  -  Work involves managing, negotiating, marketing, or selling, typically in a business setting, or leading or advising people in political and legal situations. Enterprising occupations are often associated with business initiatives, sales, marketing/advertising, finance, management/administration, professional advising, public speaking, politics, or law.
67% Conventional  -  Work involves following procedures and regulations to organize information or data, typically in a business setting. Conventional occupations are often associated with office work, accounting, mathematics/statistics, information technology, finance, or human resources.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Values of the Work Environment

83% Relationships  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

72% Oral Comprehension  -  The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
72% Oral Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
66% Speech Recognition  -  The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
66% Speech Clarity  -  The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

Job Details

Arrange tables or dining areas.
Collect dirty dishes or other tableware.
Schedule dining reservations.
Assist customers with seating arrangements.
Clean food preparation areas, facilities, or equipment.
Provide customers with general information or assistance.
Enforce rules or regulations.
Process customer bills or payments.
Communicate dining or order details to kitchen personnel.
Take customer orders.
Take customer orders.
Communicate with customers to resolve complaints or ensure satisfaction.
Serve food or beverages.
Cook foods.
Process customer bills or payments.
Present food or beverage information or menus to customers.
Present food or beverage information or menus to customers.
Clean food service areas.
Prepare hot or cold beverages.
Present food or beverage information or menus to customers.
Arrange tables or dining areas.
Prepare foods for cooking or serving.
Prepare hot or cold beverages.
Stock serving stations or dining areas with food or supplies.
Add garnishes to food.
Stock serving stations or dining areas with food or supplies.
Assist customers with seating arrangements.
Present food or beverage information or menus to customers.
Serve food or beverages.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

95% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
93% Spend Time Walking and Running  -  How much does this job require walking and running?
92% Spend Time Standing  -  How much does this job require standing?
81% Indoors, Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in environmentally controlled conditions?
78% Physical Proximity  -  To what extent does this job require the worker to perform job tasks in close physical proximity to other people?
76% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
75% Importance of Being Exact or Accurate  -  How important is being very exact or highly accurate in performing this job?
75% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
72% Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions  -  How much does this job require making repetitive motions?
72% Deal With External Customers  -  How important is it to work with external customers or the public in this job?
70% Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls  -  How much does this job require using your hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools or controls?
68% Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People  -  How frequently does the worker have to deal with unpleasant, angry, or discourteous individuals as part of the job requirements?
67% Coordinate or Lead Others  -  How important is it to coordinate or lead others in accomplishing work activities in this job?
67% Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results  -  What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the image or reputation or financial resources of your employer?
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

76% Getting Information  -  Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
75% Performing for or Working Directly with the Public  -  Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
72% Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates  -  Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
68% Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships  -  Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
66% Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others  -  Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.

What Waiters and Waitresses Do

Waiters and waitresses
Some states require workers who serve alcohol to be at least 18 years old.

Waiters and waitresses take orders and serve food and beverages to customers in dining establishments.


Waiters and waitresses typically do the following:

  • Greet customers, explain daily specials, and answer questions related to the menu
  • Take orders from customers for food and beverages
  • Relay food and beverage orders to the kitchen, such as via a point-of-sale system
  • Prepare certain menu items, such as assembling garnishes or brewing coffee
  • Carry trays of food or drinks from the kitchen to the dining tables
  • Check on customers to confirm satisfaction and assist with other requests
  • Clear tables after customers finish dining, or as needed
  • Prepare customers’ itemized checks, take payment, and return change
  • Set up dining areas and stock service areas

Waiters and waitresses, also called servers, ensure that customers have a satisfying dining experience. Specific duties vary with the establishment in which they work.

Before and between waiting on customers, servers usually prepare tables and work stations. Tasks may include refilling containers, such as napkin holders, salt and pepper shakers, and condiment dispensers; keeping tables from becoming overcrowded; and tidying the serving area and dining room. Servers also may prepare some foods and nonalcoholic drinks, such as assembling salads, brewing coffee, and portioning desserts. In fine-dining restaurants, they may set tables with linens, eating utensils, and glassware.

Food service duties include taking customers’ orders, placing those orders with the kitchen, and delivering food and drinks to the table. Servers attend to customers throughout the meal and collect payment at the end. In restaurants that do not employ bus staff, servers often are responsible for cleaning tables after customers finish dining.

In establishments that sell alcohol, servers verify that customers meet the age requirement for its purchase.

Servers may meet with managers and chefs before each shift to discuss topics such as the menu or specials, ingredients for potential food allergies, and coordination between the kitchen and dining room. They may have cleaning duties, such as vacuuming carpet and emptying trash, at the end of the shift.

Work Environment

Waiters and waitresses held about 2.2 million jobs in 2022. The largest employers of waiters and waitresses were as follows:

Restaurants and other eating places 82%
Traveler accommodation 5
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 4

Waiters and waitresses stand most of their shift and often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and drinks. The work may be hectic and fast-paced. During busy dining periods, they may be under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently. They must be able to work as part of a team with kitchen staff to ensure that customers receive prompt service.

Waiters and waitresses may be required to wear a uniform or to comply with a specific dress code.

Work Schedules

Part time work is common, and schedules may vary to include early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays.

In establishments that offer seasonal employment, waiters and waitresses may be employed for only a few months each year.

Getting Started

High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED)
Less than a High School Diploma

How to Become a Waiter or Waitress

Waiters and waitresses
Waiters and waitresses typically learn on the job.

Waiters and waitresses typically do not need formal education or related work experience to enter the occupation. They typically learn through on-the-job training that lasts 1 month or less.

Most states require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 18 years old, but some states require servers to be older. Waiters and waitresses who serve alcohol must be familiar with state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages.


Typically, no formal education is required to become a waiter or waitress. However, some employers require or prefer that workers have a high school diploma.


Waiters and waitresses typically learn through short-term on-the-job-training, usually lasting from several days to a few weeks. Trainees typically work with an experienced waiter or waitress, who teaches them basic serving techniques.

On-the-job training helps new workers learn serving techniques and use of the restaurant’s order-placement, payment, and other systems. Training also prepares waiters and waitresses to properly handle difficult situations and unpleasant or unruly customers.

Training for waiters and waitresses in establishments that serve alcohol typically involves learning state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages. Some states, counties, and cities mandate the training, which typically lasts a few hours and may be offered online or in-house.

Some states require that servers take training related to the safe handling of food.


Waiters and waitresses who have experience may advance to work in fine-dining restaurants. Advancement may offer improved conditions, such as preferred schedules or higher tips.

Job Outlook

Employment of waiters and waitresses is projected to decline 3 percent from 2022 to 2032.

Despite declining employment, about 440,000 openings for waiters and waitresses are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Many establishments will continue to use waiters and waitresses to serve food and beverages and to provide customer service. However, reduced need for these workers is expected due to increases in the use of self-service technology, such as kiosks that allow customers to order and pay for food, and in carryout.

Contacts for More Information

For more information on careers as a waiter or waitress, visit

Choose Restaurants

Occupational Requirements Survey

For a profile highlighting selected BLS data on occupational requirements, see

Waiters and waitresses (PDF)

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of waiters and waitresses.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2022
Bartenders Bartenders

Bartenders mix drinks and serve them directly to customers or through wait staff.

No formal educational credential $29,380
Cashiers Cashiers

Cashiers process payments from customers purchasing goods and services.

No formal educational credential $28,240
Flight attendants Flight Attendants

Flight attendants provide routine services and respond to emergencies to ensure the safety and comfort of airline passengers.

High school diploma or equivalent $63,760
Food and beverage serving and related workers Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers

Food and beverage serving and related workers take and prepare orders, clear tables, and do other tasks associated with providing food and drink to customers.

No formal educational credential $28,130
Retail sales workers Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments.

No formal educational credential $30,750
Food service managers Food Service Managers

Food service managers are responsible for the daily operation of restaurants or other establishments that prepare and serve food and beverages.

High school diploma or equivalent $61,310

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.