Waiter: Job Profile and Role

You may remember Rachel from Friends and Penny from The Big Bang Theory. Both women worked as waitresses and gave a blueprint for how not to do this particular job by forgetting or messing up orders, for example. From this, you already have your first tip on how to be a good waiter/waitress: ensuring that your customers get what they ordered.

Attention to detail and a good memory are therefore two of the skills you need for this job. In the following sections, you find out what other skills and qualifications you need. We also tell you what annual salaries you can expect and where you can find employment. After that, we detail three tasks that a waiter performs daily and give you more important tips for thriving as a waiter.

Short Summary

  • As a waiter, you have to ensure that your customers have a pleasant experience at the restaurant or café you work at. This includes dealing with their dietary specifications and other requests related to their food and drink orders.
  • As a waiter, you are in charge of a clean and inviting customer area which involves clearing empty dishes after courses and after the customers have left.
  • As a waiter, you need to multitask and keep your eyes peeled to ensure excellent service. This way, customers who want your attention and new customers do not escape your attention.

Job description

As a waiter/waitress, you have to perform various tasks daily, starting from setting up the customer seating area. This includes ensuring clean tables, correctly set-up menus, maybe lit tea lights, and clean floors. It is also your job as a waiter to ensure a memorable dining experience so your customers return to your establishment. As a waiter, you need to pay attention to the smallest detail to ensure that nothing escapes your notice. To perform a brilliant job, you also need to be friendly, attentive, quick, and efficient – and have an excellent memory so you do not accidentally forget an order.


  • Menu Knowledge
  • Customer Service
  • Table Maintenance
  • Order Taking/Serving
  • Billing and Payments
  • Performing Shift Duties
  • Collaboration/Teamwork
  • Upselling and Promotion
  • Providing Detailed Information
  • Offering Menu Recommendations

Different types of Waiters

  • Casual Dining Waiter
  • Fine Dining Waiter
  • Speciality Waiter
  • Catering Waiter
  • Head Waiter


Your starting annual salary as a waiter/waitress in the UK comes in at around £19,000 and can increase to £25,000 if you have work experience and excellent work performance. If you want to earn more per year, you may want to look into the position of head waiter/waitress where you can earn between £23,000 and £31,000 per year. Also, factor in that your employer and the location will affect your annual wages as well as the tips you make. These can increase your salary considerably.

Working hours

If you work as a full-time waiter/waitress, you are expected to work between 39 and 41 hours per week. This job is not a classic 9 to 5 but a shift job, meaning that you can start early in the morning, around lunchtime, or in the afternoon. This shift pattern results in you also working in the evenings. Weekend shifts on both Saturday and Sunday are also common and may be the busiest working times for you. Please make sure that this setup works for you since free weekends tend to be a luxury when working in this profession.


Cafés, restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, and coffee shops are all places where you can find employment as a waiter/waitress. These establishments can be both part of a hospitality franchise or independent. We recommend that you think about what work environment fits you the best since chain establishments can be less individual and personal. If you want to work in this job, you can also look into part-time positions, for example, waitressing at events as part of the event staff.


You are not required to have specific qualifications if you want to work as a waiter/waitress. You can apply directly for a job and get all the training you need on the job. Depending on your ambitions, you may want to consider doing a college course or apprenticeship. To enter these training options, you typically need pass grades at GCSEs which can include the following: 3 to 1 (D to G), 9 to 3 (A* to D), or 9 to 4 (A* to C). 

You can also benefit from familiarising yourself with useful software, such as Square for Restaurants, Lightspeed Restaurant, and Epos Now which make table management, billing, and payment easier and more efficient.

The job as a waiter could be suitable for you if you have one or more of the following qualifications:

If you want to work as a waiter/waitress, you need to be at least 16 years of age. You may also be required to have completed health and safety training and food hygiene training. Depending on your employer, it may also be required of you to have passed a DBS Check (Disclosure and Barring Service) and that you have an alcohol licence. 


We have already mentioned two important skills you should have as a waiter/waitress: attention to detail and a good memory. We are sure that these skills are also valued by your future employer – but you should still check the job posts for the exact skill set required. To give you an idea of the competencies you may need, we will now explore three more skills you should have as a waiter/waitress.

Is the waiter job a good fit for you? Typically, a waiter should have or develop the following skills:


By grace, we do not mean that you need the elegance of a ballet dancer when you want to work as a waiter/waitress. A certain level of elegance and flexibility is nevertheless essential if you want to succeed in this job. There are times when a café or restaurant gets so busy that it is nigh on impossible to get from A to B. Knowing how to navigate the little space you have ensures that orders arrive where they are supposed to arrive. But do not worry – the odd bit of clumsiness is also okay since you are only human, after all (and it might get you brownie points from your customers if you can laugh about it).


To work as a waiter/waitress unfortunately involves dealing with customers you would rather not have met. Meaning that some of the people frequenting your café/restaurant/etc. cannot only be high-maintenance but also downright rude and inappropriate. We do understand that you could be quite tempted to chuck a hot beverage or a plate of food over said customers. However, we recommend that you refrain from doing so and work on your resilience instead. This skill will also help you deal with the day-to-day stress the waitressing job involves.

Positive Attitude

We are certain you have a favourite coffee shop or pub where you like to switch off from your day. Think about what attracts you to this place. We would like to venture the guess that it is not only the good food, drinks, and atmosphere but also the friendly waiting staff who maintain a positive attitude in even the most challenging situations. Therefore, you know how important this particular skill is if you want to work in this profession. Always try to wear a smile on your face and do not let anyone see that their words or actions have affected you. It will make your life easier and also contribute to your resilience levels.

Career Path

As a waiter/waitress, you can pursue different career paths, one of them being that you work towards a senior or managerial position, for example, as a head waiter/waitress or assistant manager where you are responsible for training new waiting staff. You can also look into working in specific fields in this sector, for example, as a barista or a bartender. With work experience and a good business mindset, you can also open your own hospitality establishment.

Educational Background

As mentioned, you do not need a specific educational background to work as a waiter/waitress. You may, however, benefit from completing a college course or an apprenticeship, especially, if you want to advance to the position of a head waiter/waitress or assistant manager. 

Appropriate college courses can be the Level 1 Award in Introduction to Employment in the Hospitality Industry, a Level 1 Certificate in Food and Beverage Service, and a Level 2 Diploma in Professional Food and Beverage Service. If you want to look into apprenticeships, you can complete a Hospitality Team Member Level 2 Intermediate Apprenticeship.

Entry Level

When you work as a waiter/waitress, your first job is your entry-level position. Here, you gain relevant work experience and get training from more senior colleagues who show you the ropes of this job. By applying everything you learn, you become a more efficient and professional waiter/waitress and can think about your next career steps, for example, working towards becoming a shift leader or a head waiter/waitress.

Continuous Learning

Let’s assume that being a waiter/waitress is your chosen profession and career. In this case, you should look into ways to improve your professional skills and qualifications. The hospitality sector offers a wide range of qualifications and certifications that are beneficial to you. Since the list is very long, we will give you “just” a few of the options you should look at more closely, which include a Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate and customer service training which can sometimes be arranged as a mandatory event by your employer as part of your work. You can also earn qualifications with City & Guilds, such as Hospitality and Catering Principles, Food Safety in Catering, and Professional Food and Beverage Service.

A Day in the Life of a Waiter

Taking and serving orders, printing bills and taking payment from your customers are only some of your daily waitressing jobs. Being a waiter/waitress is, however, about way more than performing these tasks. What other jobs await you in a day in the life of a waiter/waitress is what we will look at now.

Preparation and Shift Tasks

Working as a waiter/waitress involves quite a lot of prep work. Depending on your shift, this can start with getting the café/restaurant/bar ready for the day or finishing up and setting out the necessary things for the next day. In between these bookends, you are in charge of rolling cutlery, stocking up the various service stations, and sometimes even helping out in the kitchen with the washing-up. Naturally, you are also responsible for clearing tables, cleaning them, and getting them shipshape for the next customers.

Answering Questions

As a waiter/waitress, you will answer a lot of questions – and we do mean A LOT! Not all of these questions will make sense or will be brand new meaning that sometimes, you feel like a broken record with its own question marks. Nevertheless, you will have to have the right answers which usually revolve around ingredients, potential allergies, and recommendations and which ensure that your customers do not have any complaints.

Handling Bookings

As a waiter/waitress, you can be in charge of bookings. This involves answering calls and checking online reservations which are then either written down in a booking ledger (yes, they are still in use!) or noted in the appropriate software. You are also responsible for remembering these bookings and setting up the tables well before your customers arrive. Also, you should keep the respective seating wishes in mind to ensure that everything runs smoothly. One more tip: always inform your colleagues as well so no mix-ups occur.

Tips for Thriving as a Waiter

Maybe being a waiter/waitress is a means to finance a different educational approach, maybe this job is the one you want to do for the foreseeable future. Whatever your motivation, you will always benefit from thriving in this job – if nothing else, this will make your working life easier and give you valuable skills for different careers. Therefore, we will now explore three tips that help you thrive as a waiter/waitress:

  • Teamwork
  • Recommendations
  • Go the extra mile


Being a team player will be one of your strongest assets as a waiter/waitress. Do not even think that you will be able to rock everything on your own – again, you are only human and you also do not want to come across as aloof or even greedy. Therefore, work well with your colleagues. Discuss which parts of the restaurant/café you are in charge of, and talk about which prep tasks each one of you is responsible for. Also, help your colleagues out during peak times, both in front and behind the bar. This way, you will thrive – and have what it takes to climb up the career ladder.


You may know that deciding what to choose from a menu can be very challenging – especially when everything on offer just sounds yummy! As a waiter/waitress, you should therefore be ready to give recommendations, for example for dishes and drinks you love or by asking your customers which menu items they fancy. This way, your customers know that they are being looked after properly and that you know what you are talking about.

Go the Extra Mile

Which brings us to our last tip: going the extra mile. If you have indecisive customers, it never hurts to go the extra mile. For instance, you can offer them small samples of drinks they are not sure about or ask the kitchen staff if they are prepared to put together a bespoke dish that contains all your customers would love to eat. If your superiors are fine with it, you can also offer a complimentary coffee or digestif with the bill. Yes, these little things cost money – but they also ensure happy returning and new customers who will value your excellent customer service.

Other jobs that are similar and might also interest you:

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a waiter earn?

When you start working as a waiter/waitress, you can expect an annual salary of around £19,000. With work experience and excellent work performance, you can earn up to £25,000 per year. Your waitressing position further influences your annual wages, for example, if you have advanced to the position of a head waiter/waitress. Here, you can expect to be paid between £23,000 and £31,000 annually. Moreover, you need to keep in mind that the restaurant/café you work at and its location will affect your wages. And do not forget that your salary can considerably increase by the tips you make.

What qualifications do I need to become a waiter?

Generally, you do not need specific qualifications to work as a waiter/waitress which means that you can apply directly for this job. Your approach always depends on your ambitions. If this career is your perfect fit, you should look into training, for example, doing a college course or an apprenticeship. Here, you are required to have pass grades at GCSEs which can be the following: 3 to 1 (D to G), 9 to 3 (A* to D), or 9 to 4 (A* to C). Moreover, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with helpful software to manage tables, billing, and payment. Some options are Square for Restaurants, Lightspeed Restaurant, and Epos Now.

What is the job of a waiter?

As a waiter/waitress, you need to be a multitasking expert to deal with your daily tasks. Your jobs include everything from setting up the customer seating area, ensuring that it is clean and inviting at all times, and offering your guests a positive dining experience that contributes to them coming back to your establishment. It is also your job as a waiter/waitress to keep a constant eye on your waitressing area to ensure that nothing escapes your attention. As a waiter, you furthermore need to be friendly, quick, and efficient – valuable competencies that help you perform your job brilliantly.