Waiting staff

"Waiter" and "Waitress" redirect here. For other uses, see Waiter (disambiguation) and Waitress (disambiguation).
"Waited" redirects here. For other uses, see Waiting.
A Miami Beach waitress in 1973.
A server in Ancora.
A waitress in the Samjiyon Pegaebong hotel, North Korea.

Waiting staff are those who work at a restaurant or a bar, and sometimes in private homes, attending customers—supplying them with food and drink as requested. A server or waiting staff takes on a very important role in a restaurant which is to always be attentive and accommodating to the guests. Each waiter follows rules and guidelines that are developed by the manager. The main rule is to always stay busy. Wait staff can abide by this rule by completing many different tasks throughout his or her shift. Such as food-running, polishing dishes and silverware, helping bus tables, and restock working stations with needed supplies.

Waiting on tables is (along with nursing and teaching) part of the service sector, and among the most common occupations in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, as of May 2008, there were over 2.2 million persons employed as servers in the U.S.[1]

Many restaurants choose a specific uniform for their wait staff to wear. Waitstaff may receive tips as a minor or major part of their earnings, with customs varying widely from country to country.[2]


An individual waiting tables is commonly called a waitress (females only), waiter (referring to males or less commonly either gender), member of the wait staff, waitstaff[3] or serving staff server, waitperson,[4] or less commonly the 1980s American neologism waitron.[5][6][7][8] Archaic terms such as serving girl, serving wench, or serving lad are generally used only within their historical context.


Saganaki, lit on fire, served by a waiter in Chicago.

The duties a waiter, wait staff or server partakes in can be tedious, and challenging but are vital to the success of the restaurant. Such duties include, preparing a section of tables before guests sit down (e.g., changing the tablecloth, putting out new utensils, cleaning chairs, etc.), offering cocktails, specialty drinks, wine, beer or other beverages, recommending food options, requesting the chef to make changes in how food is prepared, pre-clearing the tables, and serving food and beverages to customers. In some higher-end restaurants, servers have a good knowledge of the wine list and can recommend food-wine pairings. At more expensive restaurants, servers memorize the ingredient list for the dishes and the manner in which the food is prepared. For example, if the menu lists marinated beef, the customer might ask what the beef is marinated in, for how long, and what cut of beef is used in the dish. Silver service staff are specially trained to serve at banquets or high-end restaurants. These servers follow specific rules and service guidelines which makes it a skilled job. They generally wear black and white with a long, white apron (extending from the waist to ankle).

The head server is in charge of the waiting staff, and is also frequently responsible for assigning seating. The head server must insure that all staff does their duties accordingly. The functions of a head server can overlap to some degree with that of the Maître d'hôtel. Restaurants in North America employ an additional level of waiting staff, known as busboys or busgirls, increasingly referred to as busser or server assistant to clear dirty dishes, set tables, and otherwise assist the waiting staff.[9][10][11]

Emotional labour is often required by waiting staff,[12] particularly at many high-class restaurants.


Restaurant serving positions require on the job training that would be held by an upper level server in the restaurant. The server will be trained to provide good customer service, learn food items and drinks and maintain a neat and tidy appearance. Working, in a role such as captain, in a top rated restaurant requires disciplined role-playing comparable to a theater performance.[13]

Individuals employed to handle food and beverages in the United States must obtain a food handlers card or permit.[14] Servers that do not have a permit or handlers card can not serve. The server can achieve a permit or handlers card online.

Tipping in the U.S.

Different countries maintain different customs regarding tipping, but in the United States, tipping more than the bill for the food is customary. At most sit-down restaurants, servers and bartenders expect a tip after a patron has paid the check.[15] Many U.S. states pay waiters and waitresses a minimum wage that is lower than their state wage to account for the tips that substantiate the server's income. Most tip percentages average between 15% and 20%. 15% is expected for good service, 20% is expected for great service, and some patrons tip over 20% for exceptional service.[16] If the waiter or waitress goes above and beyond to ensure the patron enjoys his/her meal, it is customary to give a higher tip. Some restaurants charge an automatic gratuity for larger parties (usually 6 or more), and the gratuity ranges from 15%-20% depending on the restaurant.

See also


  1. U.S. Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics (24 May 2006). "Occupational Employment and Wages - Waiters and Waitresses". US Department of Labor. Retrieved 2006-12-31.
  2. Reg Butler; Carole French (2011). Tips on Tipping: A Global Guide to Gratuity Etiquette. Bradt Travel Guides. pp. viii–ix. ISBN 978-1-84162-210-1.
  3. "Waitstaff." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004, via dictionary.com website. Retrieved on 17 September 2007.
  4. "Waitperson – Definition and More from the Free Mirriam–Webster Dictionary". Dictionary and Thesaurus – Mirriam–Westbster Online. Mirriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  5. "Waitron." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, via dictionary.com website. Retrieved on 17 September 2007.
  6. Hall, E. J. (1993). "WAITERING/WAITRESSING:: Engendering the Work of Table Servers". Gender & Society. 7 (3): 329–346. doi:10.1177/089124393007003002. ISSN 0891-2432.
  7. Allan, Keith (2007). "The pragmatics of connotation". Journal of Pragmatics. 39 (6): 1047–1057. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2006.08.004. ISSN 0378-2166.
  8. Siegal, Allan M.; Connolly, William G. (1999). The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Three Rivers Press. p. 354. ISBN 978-0-8129-6389-2.
  9. (2004.) "Busboy." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, via dictionary.com. Retrieved on 19 September 2007.
  10. "Busgirl." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1), Random House, Inc., via dictionary.com. Retrieved on 19 September 2007.
  11. Schmich, Mary. (24 August 2007.) "Uh, no offense, but do you still say 'busboy'?" Chicago Tribune Web Edition. Retrieved on 19 September 2007.
  12. "Emotional labour: a comparison between fast food and traditional service work". International Journal of Hospitality Management. 19: 159–171. 2000-06-30. doi:10.1016/S0278-4319(00)00009-8. Retrieved 2014-01-22.
  13. Edward Frame (August 22, 2015). "Dinner and Deception". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2015. ...as captains or servers or sommeliers, our job wasn’t just serving food, it was playing a part....
  14. Restaurant Server: Job Description, Duties and Requirements. Education Portal. educationalportal.com. Retrieved on 13 February 2015.
  15. "Why do we tip?". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  16. "Restaurant Tipping Guide". Real Simple. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
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