What is Waiter? Status, Attributes, Qualities

  • Post last modified:26 April 2023
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What is Waiter?

Waiting staff, wait for staff, or waitstaff are those who work at a restaurant or a bar attending customers – supplying them with food and drink as requested promptly and pleasantly.

The waiter is popularly known as a Steward or commis-de rang. A female who “waits” on tables is often called a waitress. The gender-neutral server and collective waitstaff can also be used.

Some people prefer to use gender-neutral language, using waiter indiscriminately for males and females, waitperson, server, or waiting.

Status of a Waiter

The duties of waiting staff include preparing tables (table setting) for a meal, taking customers’ orders, serving drinks and food, and cleaning up before, during, and after servings in a restaurant. He must know proper rules of etiquette to furnish working service in either a formal or informal sitting. Another task of a waiter includes:

  • Reports to Senior Captain / Captain to receive necessary instructions for the shift and any menu changes.

  • Has to attend briefings conducted by the senior captain.

  • Sets the assigned tables and ensures that the services area too is well-stocked with linen, silver, glassware, china, etc. Sets up any special displays that be used for the meal period.

  • Greets guests and sometimes assists the host/ hostess in seating guests. Fills water glasses, serves butter, and cocktails, answers questions about menu items, and makes suggestions about dishes and wine if the customer requests or desires.

  • Takes orders on a check, turns, or gives over with specification the order to the cooks with consideration to the timing of the preceding courses. Picks up all food and all other required items from various stations.

  • May carve meats, bone fish, and prepare flaming dishes or desserts at guests’ tables. He may assist Senior Captain with the same.

  • May serve guests from plates to the guest’s table.

  • Other tasks to be performed as determined by the establishment from time to time.

  • Replenishes wine, water, butter, and bread as and when required.

  • Observes the guests to anticipate any additional request and to perceive when the meal has been completed.

  • After all the guests have finished each course and before the next one is served, the waiter/ waitress should remove all soiled dishes or ensure that the assistant steward does it.

  • When guests have finished the meal, the table is cleared and reset, and ready for the next customer.

  • Performs other tasks as directed by the supervisor.

Depending on the restaurant, other less common duties may be required, such as singing birthday songs to customers who are celebrating a birthday. A theme restaurant may even require staff to dance (e.g. Joe’s Crab Shack). There are now event caterers that outsource waiting staff to events and specific functions. Silver service staff is specially trained to serve at banquets or high-end restaurants. They follow specific rules of service and it is a skilled/specialized job. They generally wear black and white with a long, white apron (extending from the waist to the ankle).

Attributes of a Waiter

The quality of service staff in any establishment reflects the quality of the establishment itself. No matter how good the food and ambiance are, poorly trained, untidy, or rude staff can antagonize customers. On the other hand, if the staffs are well-trained and efficient, they can, to a certain extent, make up for other shortcomings in the services provided.

Personal Hygiene and Appearance

  • All members of the staff should be well-groomed and clean at all times, as this gives them a sense of well-being and confidence to do their job efficiently.

  • The hands of the waiting staff should be given special attention, as they are constantly under the scrutiny of the guests. Nails should be trimmed and kept clean. Playing with one’s hair and face should be avoided.

  • Chewing gum should be avoided in all public areas of the hotel.

  • Minimum jewelry should be worn by the service staff. A wristwatch, finger ring, and plain earrings (for girls only) should be permitted.

  • If an employee has a skin problem, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

  • Uniform should be clean and well-pressed. Shoes should be properly polished and well-fitting.

Good Conduct

All service staff should be well-mannered and respectful to guests, and to senior members of the staff. They should be calm and pleasant, even in the most tiring circumstances. They should be able to satisfactorily solve any problem that may arise. In case of difficulty, a senior and experienced member of the staff should be consulted. Tact, punctuality, and honesty are admirable qualities among service personnel.

Good Memory

A good memory helps to improve performance. It also helps the service personnel to attend to small but important details such as remembering a guest’s name or his likes and dislikes regarding food and beverage.


A keen sense of observation and an eye for detail will help a member of the staff to be more efficient at his job. An ability to correctly judge people is an advantage. A sense of anticipation in the service industry is an invaluable quality. The ability to anticipate what a guest or the management needs, even before it is asked for creates a very good impression.

Concentration and Skill

Waiting at a table requires concentration and skill. Service staff should develop a sense of urgency in the performance of their duties. Good service may not be commented upon, but bad service is surely noticed and talked about. Service should be prompt and without the show of haste.


Food and beverage service personnel are technical salespersons; hence they should have a thorough knowledge of the proper presentation and service of all the food and beverages served in the establishment. Waiters should be kept informed by their superiors of deletions or additions to the menu.

Ability to Assume Responsibility

All service staff should be able to cope with the demands of the job and possess the ability to assume responsibility. They should be loyal to their employers, responsible to the guests, and friendly towards their fellow workers. They should not consider any job as menial and should be willing to perform all kinds of jobs efficiently. This will help the service staff to grow in their careers and at the same time enhance the image of the establishment in the eyes of the guests.

Maximise Revenue

Cutting down on costs and maximizing the revenue of the establishment should be a prime objective for all members of the staff, even those in junior positions.


Punctuality is all-important. If staff is continually late for duty, it shows a lack of interest in their work and a lack of respect for the management and customers.

Local Knowledge

In the interest of customers, the staff should have a certain knowledge of the area in which they work so that they may be able to advise the guests on the various forms of entertainment offered, the best means of transport to places of interest and so on.


Staff must be tactful, courteous, good-humored, and of an even temper. They must converse with the customer in a pleasing and well-spoken manner and can smile at the right time.

Attitude to Customers

The correct approach toward the customer is of the utmost importance. The staff must not be servile but should anticipate the customer’s needs and wishes. A careful watch should be kept on customers at all times during the service without staring. Care should always be taken when dealing with difficult customers. (There is no such thing as a ‘difficult’ customer – they are normal people whom one is uncertain how to deal with.) Staff should never argue with customers as this will only aggravate the situation. All complaints should be referred to someone in authority in the food service area.


This is all-important for the staff in dealings with both the customer and the management. If there is trust and respect in the triangle of staff, customer, and management relationships, then there will be a pleasant work atmosphere that encourages efficiency and a good team spirit among the food and beverage service operators.

Article Reference
  • A C Marshall, John Fuller, A J Currie (1965), The Waiter, Barrie and Jenkins

  • Lora Arduser (2005), The Waiter & Waitress and Waitstaff Training Handbook: A Complete Guide, Atlantic Publishing Company.

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