The title of food service worker encompasses all employees who prepare, cook or serve food and beverages, from executive chefs in upscale restaurants to counter attendants in movie theaters. Preparation workers, who report to food service managers, chefs or cooks, are responsible for getting ingredients ready by slicing meat, peeling or cutting vegetables, portioning sides and brewing coffee or tea. Employees who take food orders and serve customers also are considered food service workers. They may perform minor food preparation, such as making salads or heating soups.
Requirements and Training
Food service workers have physical strength and stamina, and are skilled in communicating, coordinating and listening. Employers typically don't have education or experience requirements, but they usually put new hires through a short period of training. Additionally, many states, counties and cities require workers who serve alcohol to be a minimum of 18 years old. Some require servers to complete an information course regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages, which may be offered by employers or completed online.
Edibles and Details
Food service workers perform various tasks depending on their position. They may weigh or measure ingredients, prepare fresh side dishes or condiments, and cut or grind meat, seafood and poultry. Workers heat or cook certain foods, finalize the presentation of meals before they're served and prepare or deliver both hot and cold beverages. Some food service workers are in charge of setting up dining tables and decorating them with tablecloths, utensils and centerpieces.
Clean Up and Shut Down
Food service workers often share the general responsibility of restocking diminishing supplies, whether it be sugar packets for a coffee station or dressing for the salad bar. Those in the kitchen maintain and record food and storage area temperatures multiple times during a shift. Food service workers are usually in charge of cleaning or sanitizing certain equipment or areas at the end of each day. They may calculate bills and accept payments from customers, collect dirty dishes, wipe tables and wash dishes.
Advancement and Earnings
Food service workers may advance after gaining experience in the industry. For example, those in food preparation often become assistant or line cooks, while cafeteria workers and dining room attendants can become servers or bartenders. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, food preparation and serving workers combined, including those in the fast-food industry, earned an average annual income of $18,880, as of May 2013. It expects employment opportunities to increase 14 percent between 2012 and 2022, compared to the 11 percent average increase of all occupations.