Food and beverage serving and related workers are the front line of customer service in full-service restaurants, casual dining eateries and other food service establishments. These workers greet customers, escort them to seats and hand them menus, take food and drink orders and serve food and beverages. They also answer questions, explain menu items and specials and keep tables and dining areas clean and set for new diners. Most work as part of a team, helping coworkers to improve workflow and customer service.
Waiters and waitresses, also called servers, are the largest group of these workers. They take customers' orders, serve food and beverages, prepare itemized checks and sometimes accept payment. Their specific duties vary considerably, depending on the establishment. In casual-dining restaurants serving routine, straightforward fare, such as salads, soups and sandwiches, servers are expected to provide fast, efficient and courteous service. In fine dining restaurants, where more complicated meals are prepared and often served over several courses, waiters and waitresses provide more formal service emphasizing personal, attentive treatment at a more leisurely pace. Waiters and waitresses may meet with managers and chefs before each shift to discuss the menu and any new items or specials, review ingredients for potential food allergies or talk about any food safety concerns. They also discuss coordination between the kitchen and the dining room and any customer service issues from the previous day or shift. In addition, waiters and waitresses usually check the identification of patrons to ensure they meet the minimum age requirement for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco products wherever those items are sold.
Waiters and waitresses sometimes perform the duties of other food and beverage service workers, including escorting guests to tables, serving customers seated at counters, clearing and setting up tables or operating a cash register. However, full-service restaurants frequently hire other staff, such as hosts and hostesses, cashiers or dining room attendants, to perform these duties.
Bartenders fill drink orders either taken directly from patrons at the bar or through waiters and waitresses who place drink orders for dining room customers. Bartenders check the identification of customers seated at the bar to ensure they meet the minimum age requirement for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco products. They prepare mixed drinks, serve bottled or draught beer and pour wine or other beverages. Bartenders must know a wide range of drink recipes and be able to mix drinks accurately, quickly and without waste. Some establishments, especially those with higher volume, use equipment that automatically measures, pours and mixes drinks at the push of a button. Bartenders who use this equipment, however, still must work quickly to handle a large volume of drink orders and be familiar with the ingredients for special drink requests. Much of a bartender's work still must be done by hand.
Besides mixing and serving drinks, bartenders stock and prepare garnishes for drinks; maintain an adequate supply of ice, glasses and other bar supplies and keep the bar area clean for customers. They also may collect payment, operate the cash register, wash glassware and utensils and serve food to customers who dine at the bar. Bartenders usually are responsible for ordering and maintaining an inventory of liquor, mixers and other bar supplies.
Hosts and hostesses welcome guests and maintain reservation and waiting lists. They may direct patrons to coatrooms, restrooms or to a place to wait until their table is ready. Hosts and hostesses assign guests to tables suitable for the size of their group, escort patrons to their seats and provide menus. They also enter reservations, arrange parties and assist with other special requests. In some restaurants, they act as cashiers.
Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers ? sometimes referred to collectively as the bus staff ? assist waiters, waitresses and bartenders by cleaning and setting tables, removing dirty dishes and keeping serving areas stocked with supplies. They may also assist waiters and waitresses by bringing meals out of the kitchen, distributing dishes to individual diners, filling water glasses and delivering condiments. Cafeteria attendants stock serving tables with food, trays, dishes and silverware. They may carry trays to dining tables for patrons. Bartender helpers keep bar equipment clean and glasses washed. Dishwashers clean dishes, cutlery and kitchen utensils and equipment.
Food also is prepared and served in limited-service eateries, which don't employ servers and specialize in simpler preparations that often are made in advance. Two occupations with large numbers of workers are common in these types of establishments: combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast-food; and counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession and coffee shop. Combined food preparation and serving workers are employed primarily by fast-food restaurants. They take food and beverage orders, retrieve items when ready, fill drink cups and accept payment. They also may heat food items and assemble salads and sandwiches, which constitutes food preparation. Counter attendants take orders and serve food in snack bars, cafeterias, movie theaters and coffee shops over a counter or steam table. They may fill cups with coffee, soda and other beverages and may prepare fountain specialties, such as milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. Counter attendants take carryout orders from diners and wrap or place items in containers. They clean counters, write itemized bills and sometimes accept payment. Other workers, referred to as foodservers, nonrestaurant, serve food to patrons outside of a restaurant environment. They might deliver room service meals in hotels or meals to hospital rooms or act as carhops, bringing orders to parked cars.