How to become a Waiter/Waitress - Waitress taking order of couple

How to become a Waiter or Waitress?

Overview

Job Role Waiter / Waitress 
Responsibilities Seating customers, taking  food and drink orders and serving and clearing tables 
Salary

£9.23 - £10.25 per hour / £18,789 per year

Dress Code

Top: Usually plain white or black shirt
Bottoms: Usually plain dark trousers
Shoes: Plain black shoes that are comfortable 
Apron: Usually provided by the employer

Handy Hints:

  • For less formal establishments, casual clothes are normally worn. Ensure they’re clean, in good condition and appropriate to the place of work – see what your colleagues are wearing or ask the manager
  • Always be sure to take water or another drink to your shift and stay hydrated. If you’re not provided with food for your break, don’t forget to take something to eat.

What do I need to do to become a Waiter or Waitress? 

If you’re friendly, love talking to people and don’t mind being on your feet for most of a shift, then a job as a waiter/waitress would be perfect for you. It’s a great place to start building experience in hospitality and catering if you’re considering a career in this industry. Or, if you’re a student needing extra cash while you study, the flexible hours and casual positions available may suit you well.

Pay can vary greatly depending on where you work, but average salaries for full-time waiting staff are between £18,500 and £20,000 a year. On a permanent contract you will be looking at upwards of 40 hours a week. For temporary positions it will depend on a number of things like how busy it is, whether they’re fully staffed, if anyone is sick or going on holiday. When you start any new job as a casual employee, be clear about what hours would suit you. And, of course, try to be flexible and help them out in busy times if you can.

Vacancies will be posted online, on specialist jobs websites, in Facebook groups, newspapers and through word of mouth. Jobs may be listed under a number of names including waiter/waitress, wait staff, front of house or floor staff. Don’t feel shy about going to places directly to see if they need any front of house staff. Take a few copies of your CV, but most managers will normally ask you to email it to them, so have an up-to-date copy ready. If you can, get someone to read over your CV and check for things like spelling mistakes.

As this is a practical job, you will usually be asked to go in for a trial shift at the place of work. This will involve an interview or chat with the hiring manager, and working for an hour or two on the floor. You should expect to be shown where things are, talked through the menu and how the till system works. This can be nerve wracking if it’s your first job as a waiter/waitress. But remember it is a trial so you won’t be expected to know how to do everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make sure you smile. During the interview, be ready with any questions you might have about the job such as about hours or pay.

After a trial, you may be hired on the spot or told they will call you. Ask when the manager thinks they will be getting back to you. It’s also important to tell them the date when you could start work.

On your CV and in the interview, be sure to highlight any experience serving customers or dealing with money. Of course, previous experience as a waiter/waitress is a bonus. There are no formal qualifications needed for a job as a waiter/waitress, so it’s a great entry-level job, which can be fun and a good way to meet new people.

It is possible to do formal hospitality training, such as a diploma in hospitality but this is not required to work as a waiter/waitress. You may want to consider this if you want to make a career in hospitality and catering, or run your own business one day. And you can always start in a job like this while you consider training options.

Any practical training such as first aid, basic food hygiene or relevant alcohol licenses will add to your application. An online search for first aid training will show you opportunities in your area and local council websites have lots of information about relevant hospitality and catering certificates.

The prime responsibility of a waiter/waitress is to serve customers. This involves seating them, taking food and drink orders, serving and clearing tables. You may also need to liaise with the kitchen about specials, or when people have intolerances or allergies. If you are unsure about food safety issues like this, be sure to clarify with the customer or the chef, and refer to your manager or supervisor if needed.

There are pros and cons to this type of work. It can offer great flexibility, no two days being the same, a good way to meet new people and usually a free staff meal. However, bear in mind that you may have to deal with difficult or rude customers, and late nights and weekends.

When choosing where to work, look for somewhere where you like the pace of work. A quiet café or a high-end fine dining restaurant can give you different working days but also hone different skills. This is also a job which can take you anywhere in the world, so it’s a good option if you want to go travelling or live in different countries.

Depending on the size of your place of work, there will be roles with more responsibility and the chance to progress. You may be put in charge of a number of sections of the restaurant or be tasked with ensuring staff take their breaks. Once you’ve gained plenty of experience with customers and the till systems, you could then apply for assistant manager roles or even try to go straight for a manager position. As long as you can show you’re reliable, hard working and good with people there’s nothing stopping you going all the way.

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