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Food & Beverage

Waiter/ Waitress

The Work

Waiters and waitresses serve customers by taking orders, serving food and preparing tables. Making customers feel welcome and comfortable is an important part of this work.

Waiters and waitresses greet customers as they arrive and show them to a table. They also give out menus, and take orders for food and drinks. At the end of the meal they deal with payment of the bill, and then ensure tables are clean and tidy. Sometimes drinks orders are taken by a specialist wine waiter or waitress.

In more formal restaurants silver service is provided. This involves serving the main part of the dish separately to the vegetables or accompaniments. In such restaurants a team of waiters and waitresses may be supervised by the head waiter or waitress, known as the maitre d'.

Senior waiters and waitresses, responsible for specific tables, are known as chefs de rang. They advise diners on menu choice, as well as serving food. There are also commis de rang waiters and waitresses, who are learning the skills involved under the guidance of an experienced member of staff.

Waiters and waitresses sometimes serve food at a carvery or buffet. In gueridon service the food is cooked at the table.

Hours & Environment

Waiters and waitresses are usually required to work evenings, and some weekends and public holidays. It is common to do shift work. Those working for contract caterers are more likely to work office hours.

Most employers expect waiters and waitresses to wear uniforms. These are often supplied or paid for by the employer.

Waiters/waitresses spend most of their time in the dining area. Some time will be spent in the kitchen, where it is likely to be hot, humid and noisy.

Skills & Interests

Waiters and waitresses should be:

  • welcoming, friendly, and polite
  • comfortable with dealing with customers
  • interested in food and have a knowledge of drinks
  • clean and tidy, with high standards of personal hygiene
  • able to remain calm under pressure
  • aware of health and safety issues
  • able to memorise orders
  • numerate for dealing with bills and payments
  • physically fit
  • able to work on their own and as part of a team


It is not usually necessary to have formal qualifications to work as a waiter or waitress, but you must have a good standard of literacy and numeracy.

A working knowledge of a foreign language and previous experience of serving food, or customer service, would be useful.


Most employers will arrange on-the-job training for new staff.

Some waiting staff undertake relevant courses such as:

  • SVQ in Food and Beverage Service
  • Elementary Food Hygiene
  • Wines and Spirits Education Trust Courses
  • Personal Licence Holders course

Some waiting staff progress to an SVQ Level 3 in Hospitality Supervision which covers supervisory and management skills.

Specialist courses are also available in areas such as food safety, and food hygiene awarded by organisations including the REHIS and RSPH.

Apprenticeships may be available for those under the age of 24. (See Modern Apprenticships in the Funding section)

A list of courses Hospitality Training provide for Waiters / Waitresses can be found here.


Employment opportunities exist in hotels, restaurants, cafes, bistros, bars, fast food outlets and contract catering companies throughout the UK.

It is possible to work overseas, although this usually requires a working knowledge of the language used.

Promotion prospects are related to the size of the organisation. Smaller organisations are unlikely to have a career structure. It may be necessary to change jobs to gain a promotion. Larger organisations are more likely to have a clear promotion structure, which may provide the opportunity to progress to head waiter or waitress, or restaurant supervisor.

Bar Person

The Work

Bar staff, also known as bartenders, work in pubs, clubs, wine bars, café bars and hotels. Their main duties can include:

  • serving customers with drinks
  • collecting payment
  • providing snacks such as crisps and nuts
  • serving hot and cold food at lunchtime and in the evening

The bar area needs to be kept clean and well stocked. Other duties may include:

  • washing glasses
  • emptying ashtrays
  • storing empty bottles
  • clearing and cleaning tables and the bar regularly

Talking with customers and providing a welcoming, friendly atmosphere are important aspects of the work. Bar staff need to be alert for any trouble that may develop and must be prepared to try to prevent it.

Hours & Environment

Hours in a bar can be long and usually involve evening and weekend work. Full-time employment is likely to be on a shift basis, but many employees work part-time.

There are opportunities for seasonal work.

Bars, pubs and restaurants can differ greatly. They can be noisy when busy.

Skills & Interests

As a bar person, you will need:

  • good communication skills
  • an outgoing personality and a pleasant manner
  • a smart and tidy appearance
  • tact and diplomacy for dealing with difficult customers
  • good physical fitness and stamina
  • a good memory
  • an honest nature
  • numeracy skills for handling cash
  • the ability to work well in a team
  • flexibility and adaptability


Some pubs and bars - especially when part of a large chain - may prefer bar staff that are prepared to work towards relevant SVQs, or ServeWise.

An outgoing, pleasant personality is regarded as more important than qualifications by most employers. Experience of customer service is useful.

You usually have to be aged 18 or over to work in a bar.

There is no upper age limit for bar work, and employers are often keen to take on mature people with the right personality and stamina.


Most employers will arrange on-the-job training for new entrants.

Although not essential, there are a range of relevant qualifications available in this field including:

  • SVQ in Food and Beverage Service
  • SVQ in Beverage Service
  • Personal Licence Holders course

Some bar staff progress to an SVQ Level 3 in Hospitality Supervision which covers supervisory and management skills.

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) have developed courses and awards in the following areas:

  • Customer and Drinks Service
  • Award in Beer and Cellar Quality
  • Award in Responsible Alcohol Retailing
  • Professional Barperson's Qualification
  • Award in Conflict Management

Bar staff with supervisory responsibilities may be encouraged to achieve a Personal Licence Holders qualification. In Scotland the ServeWise On-Licence course, offered by Alcohol Focus Scotland, is a six-hour course split into two units: Licensing Law and Introduction to Alcohol, and Alcohol and People Skills. Pubs or bars usually book this course to run in-house. ( See Course Information)

Apprenticeships may be available for those under the age of 24. (See Modern Apprenticships in the Funding section)

A list of courses Hospitality Training provide for Bar Persons can be found here.


Bar staff are employed in pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels and other leisure complexes. Opportunities for work may also be available in theatre bars, holiday centres, sports clubs, airport terminals, and on ships, trains and aircraft.

Prospects for promotion are excellent for those prepared to combine hard work with the determination to succeed. With experience and training, bar staff can move on to become supervisors, deputy bar managers and eventually bar managers. Others become club stewards, publicans or bar managers with a chain of hotels. Some eventually buy a freehold pub or apply for a tenancy.