Food Server Skills List and Examples

You'll Need These Skills to Earn Big Tips

Server picking up order
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Being a food server is not an easy job. The work can be physically grueling as you're on your feet for long shifts, often rushing from table to table, sometimes carrying heavy trays of food. Being a server requires diplomacy, a good memory, and the ability to interact with a wide swath of personalities, from colleagues in the back and front of the house, to customers.

That said, food service can be lucrative, rewarding, and even fun.

Food service can be a fun and personally rewarding job. It can also be quite lucrative, depending on the establishment. Some servers rely on minimum wage checks. Others take home thousands in tips each month. Whether you work at a high end fine dining establishment, or a local diner, the skills listed here are fairly universal, and when applied well, will impact that consistency of your income. 

Top Food Server Skills

Friendliness
Food servers must be cheerful and friendly, no matter how stressed, tired, or frustrated you may be. You may be responsible for fifteen tables at once, but for the family you're serving in a given moment, you are their one contact with the restaurant. Their dining experience depends on you. Likewise, kitchens can be stressful and tense places. A cranky waiter can throw off a kitchen's mood. Being pleasant and enjoyable to be around are important qualities in both the front and back of the house.

Communication
As a food server, you need to be able to communicate effectively and clearly, both with customers and with colleagues. You need to be able to listen attentively, understand customer concerns, and relay them to the cooks or management effectively. Likewise, you may need to memorize aspects of the menu or the restaurant's history and convey those details to customers.

Attention to Detail
Some orders can be complicated, from food allergies to spice or garnish preferences. If you forget a detail, like leaving off a condiment or including croutons when a customer has a gluten-allergy, you'll upset and disappoint them. Worse, your mistake could make someone sick. Paying attention to the details of orders is an important part of your job, and one that matters to the overall quality of your work.

Energy
Shifts can be long and tough on your feet. You need to have significant energy reserves, or the shifts will just drag painfully for you. Naturally high-energy people tend to thrive in food service. 

Problem Solving
Your manager will not always be around to help you deal with upset customers. You have to be able to problem-solve on the spot. If you cannot fix the problem, you still must make the customer feel heard and understood. Whether it's taking off the cost of a meal or offering a free dessert, you need to be creative to save the situation. 

Focus
As a food server, you'll be surrounded by people and their demands. It's easy to get distracted by a loud or persistent customer. Conversely, an interesting conversation with a co-worker or a particularly friendly patron might lead you to neglect your work.

Communicating with co-workers, being friendly with patrons, and attending to high-priority demands are all part of your job, but you have to be able to balance these conflicting priorities in order to give good service. Your ability to keep yourself focused and on task is critical to your success as a food server. 

How to Use Skills Lists
If you are considering applying for a position as a food server, look over this description of necessary skills. Identify those skills you already have and take note of those you may need to brush up on. Restaurants vary in which skills they consider most important.

Some places might forgive a server for being slow if he or she has excellent people skills, while others will not, for example. But in general, the required skill set for food servers is fairly consistent.

Restaurants may accept resumes from applicants for food service positions, but many use application forms instead. In either case, be sure to emphasize those skills your prospective employer is looking for and, when you interview, be prepared to provide examples of how you embody these skills.

Suggested Reading: Types of Restaurant Jobs | Skills Needed to Work in a Restaurant