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Head waiters and waitresses are the food and beverage serving workers at full-service restaurants, casual dining eateries and other food service establishments. As senior members of the food service staff, head waiters assist the maitre d' and also supervise, coordinate and train junior wait staff, such as bar porters and buffet stewards. Their food service duties include interacting with customers, answering questions, informing patrons of special menu items and keeping the dining area clean and organized.
Primary Responsibilities and Tasks
Head waiters typically work in fine dining restaurants that offer a more formal dining experience. In addition to providing food service to restaurant patrons, head waiters also lead the wait staff working on their shift. They train new wait staff, assign opening and closing duties and monitor wait staff duties through completion. Head waiters also handle wait staff-related problems and work to resolve them in a positive and professional way.
Food servers are on their feet for extended periods of time. Their work involves frequent lifting and carrying of heavy food trays and other heavy items. The U.S. Department of Labor classified waiters as high risk for injuries from slips, cuts, burns and the mishandling of sharp tools. Food servers are among the top three occupations reporting higher incident rates compared to many other occupations throughout the U.S. economy, according to the 2010 Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Education and Work Experience
There are no universal educational requirements for many food server jobs. Head waiter positions at more upscale establishments, where income from tips is greater and service standards are higher, typically require previous food service experience or vocational training. In general, restaurants prefer to hire high school graduates for many food server positions.
Head waiters must have good memories and organizational skills to keep track of food and drink orders and the preferences of frequent restaurant patrons. They maintain a neat appearance, possess excellent interpersonal skills and easily build rapport with customers. Head waiters work well in a team environment and lead by example. Knowledge of a foreign language is helpful for communicating with restaurant patrons, kitchen workers and wait staff. Prior table service experience is often required for head waiters seeking positions at restaurants and hotels with higher service standards.
Food and beverage servers derive their earnings from a combination of hourly wages and customer tips. Many factors, such as the provisions of the minimum wage tip receiver laws, pay structure of the restaurant establishment and job type are some of the factors that can dramatically affect a head waiter’s earnings. In general, SalaryWizard.com estimates a range of $18,041 to $24,283 as the 2010 median expected salary for food servers in the United States