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Food Services Worker

(aka: Server, Waiter / Waitress, Restaurant Employee)

Most of us -- from the humblest of civil servants, to the most senior of corporate executives -- began our working lives in food services, an industry employing over 5 Million Americans. There are an endless variety of positions: fast food cashiers, fine dining restaurant servers, short order line cooks, caterers, bartenders, food cart operators, etc. The work is often unglamorous, but with few formal educational requirements, it's one of the most popular jobs for high school students and recent graduates.

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What do Food Services Workers do?

  • Take food and drink orders. The bread and butter, so to speak, of most jobs in food services. Some order-takers may also prepare the food itself, while others convey orders to the kitchen staff or bartender.
  • Clean food preparation and dining areas. Health and cleanliness is one of the most tightly-regulated aspects of the food service industry. All areas of an establishment including the kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, and bar area must be cleaned regularly.
  • Prepare and serve customer orders. It's not uncommon for fast food restaurant employees to both take customer orders, and prepare them, often in front of the customer (e.g. Chipotle, Baskin Robbins). Even in fast food restaurants where the food preparation is done in a separate kitchen, most employees are trained in multiple duties, so that they can change shifts in a rotation to prevent monotony.
  • Take customer payments. Fast food employees are usually trained to work the cash register, while sit-down restaurant servers will bring bills to customer tables, and process payments via cash or credit card.

How much do Food Services Workers make?

Food services jobs are typically paid hourly, at least up until more senior managerial roles, which may be salaried, depending on the employer. The median hourly wage for food and beverage serving workers in 2012 was $8.85, only slightly higher than the $7.25 / hour federal minimum wage. Workers often earn supplemental income in the form of tips -- some States allow employers to pay tipped employees less than the $7.25 minimum hourly wage, reasoning that the difference is made up for via gratuities.

How do I become a Food Services Worker?

Education Requirements. With no formal educational requirements, working in food services is one of the most popular jobs in the country, and frequently one of the first paying jobs for teenagers. Most entry-level and junior positions receive on-the-job training. Large fast food chains may offer a standardized training course common to new workers across the country, while smaller restaurants may offer less formal training. Positions that involve serving beer or liquor require additional certification in most States.

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