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Nature of the Work
674-010, and -018, and .677; 312; 319.474, .677-014, and .687; 350.677-010, -026, -030; and 352.677-018)
* Most jobs are part time and many opportunities exist for young people 2 out of 3 food counter and fountain workers are 16-19 years old.
* Job openings are expected to be abundant through the year 2006, reflecting substantial turnovercharacteristic of occupations attractive to people seeking a short-term source of income rather than a career.
* Tips comprise a major portion of earnings; consequently, keen competition is expected for bartender, waiter and waitress, and other jobs in popular restaurants and fine dining establishments, where potential earnings from tips are greatest.
Whether they work in small, informal diners or large, elegant restaurants, all food and beverage service workers deal with customers. The quality of service they deliver determines in part whether or not the patron will return.
Waiters and waitresses take customers' orders, serve food and beverages, prepare itemized checks, and sometimes accept payments. The manner in which they perform their tasks varies considerably, depending on the establishment where they work. In coffee shops, they are expected to provide fast and efficient, yet courteous, service. In fine restaurants, where gourmet meals are accompanied by attentive formal service, waiters and waitresses serve meals at a more leisurely pace and offer more personal service to patrons. For example, servers may recommend a certain wine as a complement to a particular entree, explain how various items on the menu are prepared, or complete preparations on a salad or other special dishes at table side. Additionally, waiters and waitresses may check the identification of patrons to ensure they meet the minimum age requirement for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco products.
Depending on the type of restaurant, waiters and waitresses may perform additional duties generally associated with other food and beverage service occupations. These tasks may include escorting guests to tables, serving customers seated at counters, setting up and clearing tables, or cashiering. However, formal restaurants frequently hire staff to perform these duties, allowing their waiters and waitresses to concentrate on customer service.
Bartenders fill the drink orders that waiters and waitresses take from customers seated in the restaurant or lounge, as well as orders from customers seated at the bar. They prepare standard mixed drinks and, occasionally, are asked to mix drinks to suit a customer's taste. Most bartenders know dozens of drink recipes and are able to mix drinks accurately, quickly, and without waste, even during the busiest periods. Besides mixing and serving drinks, bartenders collect payment, operate the cash register, clean up after customers leave, and, on occasion, serve food items to customers seated at the bar. Bartenders check identification of customers seated at the bar, to ensure they meet the minimum age requirement for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco products.
Bartenders at service bars have little contact with customers, as they work at small bars in restaurants, hotels, and clubs where drinks are served only by waiters and waitresses. However, the majority of bartenders who work in eating and drinking establishments directly serve patrons and interact with them.
Some establishments, especially larger ones, use automatic equipment to mix drinks of varying complexity, at the push of a button. However, bartenders still must be efficient and knowledgeable, in case the device malfunctions or a customer requests a drink not handled by the equipment. Additionally, most customers frequent drinking establishments for the friendly atmosphere and would rather have their drinks prepared by a bartender than a lifeless machine.
Bartenders usually are responsible for ordering and maintaining an inventory of liquor, mixes, and other bar supplies. They often form attractive displays out of bottles and glassware and wash the glassware and utensils after each use.
Hosts and hostesses try to evoke a good impression of the restaurant, by warmly welcoming guests. They may courteously direct patrons to where coats and other personal items may be left and indicate where patrons can wait until their table is ready. Hosts and hostesses assign guests to tables suitable for the size of their group, escort patrons to their seats, and provide menus.
Hosts and hostesses are restaurants' personal representatives. They try to insure that service is prompt and courteous and that the meal meets expectations. Hosts and hostesses schedule dining reservations, arrange parties, and organize any special services that are required. In some restaurants, they also act as cashiers.
Dining room attendants and bartender helpers assist waiters, waitresses, and bartenders by keeping serving areas stocked with supplies, cleaning tables, and removing dirty dishes to the kitchen. They replenish the supply of clean linens, dishes, silverware, and glasses in the restaurant dining room, and keep the bar stocked with glasses, liquor, ice, and drink garnishes. Bartender helpers also keep bar equipment clean and wash glasses. Dining room attendants set tables with clean tablecloths, napkins, silverware, glasses, and dishes and serve ice water, rolls, and butter. At the conclusion of meals, they remove dirty dishes and soiled linens from tables. Cafeteria attendants stock serving tables with food, trays, dishes, and silverware and may carry trays to dining tables for patrons.
Counter attendants take orders and serve food at counters. In cafeterias, they serve food displayed on counters and steam tables, as requested by patrons; carve meat; dish out vegetables; ladle sauces and soups; and fill beverage glasses. In lunchrooms and coffee shops, counter attendants take orders from customers seated at the counter, transmit the orders to the kitchen, and pick up and serve the food, when it is ready. They also fill cups with coffee, soda, and other beverages and prepare fountain specialties, such as milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. Counter attendants prepare some short-order items, such as sandwiches and salads, and wrap or place orders in containers for carry out. They also clean counters, write itemized checks, and accept payment.
Fast-food workers take orders from customers at counters or drive-through windows at fast-food restaurants. They get the ordered beverage and food items, serve them to customer, and accept payment. Many fast-food workers also cook and package food, make coffee, and fill beverage cups using drink-dispensing machines.
Food and beverage service workers are on their feet most of the time and often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and glassware. During busy dining periods, they are under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently. The work is relatively safe, but care must be taken to avoid slips, falls, and burns.
Part-time work is more common among food and beverage service workers than in almost any other occupation. Workers on part-time schedules include half of all bartenders, 2 out of 3 waiters and waitresses, and 8 out of 10 food counter and fountain workers, compared to 1 out of 4 workers throughout the economy. The wide range in dining hours creates work opportunities attractive to homemakers, students, and other individuals seeking supplemental income. For example, 2 out of 3 food counter and fountain workers are 16-19 years old. Many food and beverage service workers are expected to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. Some work split shiftsthat is, they work for several hours during the middle of the day, take a few hours off in the afternoon, and then return to their jobs for the evening hours.
Food and beverage service workers held 4.8 million jobs in 1996. Waiters and waitresses held 2 million of these jobs; counter attendants and fast-food workers, 1.7 million; dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers, 439,000; bartenders, 390,000; and hosts and hostesses, 260,000.
Restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other retail eating and drinking places employed the overwhelming majority of food and beverage service workers. Others worked in hotels and other lodging places, bowling alleys, casinos, and country clubs and other membership organizations.
Jobs are located throughout the country but are typically plentiful in large cities and tourist areas. Vacation resorts offer seasonal employment, and some workers alternate between summer and winter resorts, instead of remaining in one area the entire year.
There are no specific educational requirements for food and beverage service jobs. Although many employers prefer to hire high school graduates for waiter and waitress, bartender, and host and hostess positions, completion of high school is generally not required for fast-food workers, counter attendants, and dining room attendants and bartender helpers. For many people, a job as a food and beverage service worker serves as a source of immediate income, rather than a career. Many entrants to these jobs are in their late teens or early twenties and have a high school education or less. Usually, they have little or no work experience. Many are full-time students or homemakers. Food and beverage service jobs are a major source of part-time employment for high school and college students.
Because maintaining a restaurant's "image" is important to its success, employers emphasize personal qualities. Food and beverage service workers are in close contact with the public, so these workers should be well-spoken and have a neat, clean appearance. They should enjoy dealing with all kinds of people, and possess a pleasant disposition.. State laws often require that food and beverage service workers obtain health certificates showing that they are free of communicable diseases.
Waiters and waitresses need a good memory to avoid confusing customers' orders and to recall faces, names, and preferences of frequent patrons. These workers should also be good at arithmetic, so they can total bills without the assistance of a calculator or cash register if necessary. In restaurants specializing in foreign foods, knowledge of a foreign language is helpful. Prior experience waiting on tables is preferred by restaurants and hotels that have rigid table service standards. Jobs at these establishments often have higher earnings, but may also have higher educational requirements than less demanding establishments.
Generally, bartenders must be at least 21 years of age, but usually employers prefer to hire people who are 25 or older. Batenders should be familiar with State and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Most food and beverage service workers pick up their skills on the job by observing and working with more experienced workers. Some employers, particularly those in fast-food restaurants, use self-instruction programs with audiovisual presentations and instructional booklets to teach new employees food preparation and service skills. Some public and private vocational schools, restaurant associations, and large restaurant chains provide classroom training in a generalized food service curriculum.
Some bartenders acquire their skills by attending a bartending or vocational and technical school. These programs often include instruction on State and local laws and regulations, cocktail recipes, attire and conduct, and stocking a bar. Some of these schools help their graduates find jobs.
Due to the relatively small size of most food-serving establishments, opportunities for promotion are limited. After gaining some experience, some dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers are able to advance to waiter, waitress, or bartender jobs. For waiters, waitresses, and bartenders, advancement usually is limited to finding a job in a more expensive restaurant or bar where prospects for tip earnings are better. Some bartenders open their own businesses. Some hosts and hostesses and waiters and waitresses advance to supervisory jobs, such as maitre d'hotel, dining room supervisor, or restaurant manager. In larger restaurant chains, food and beverage service workers who excel at their work are often invited to enter the company's formal management training program. (For more information, see the Handbook statement on restaurant and food service managers.)
Job openings for food and beverage service workers are expected to be abundant through the year 2006. However, keen competition is expected for bartender, waiter and waitress, and other food and beverage service jobs in popular restaurants and fine dining establishments, where potential earnings from tips are greatest.
While employment growth will produce many new jobs, the overwhelming majority of openings will arise from the need to replace the high proportion of workers who leave this very large occupation each year. There is substantial movement into and out of the occupation because education and training requirements are minimal; and the predominance of part-time jobs is attractive to people seeking a short-term source of income rather than a career. Many of these workers move to other occupations, while others stop working to assume household responsibilities or to attend school.
Employment of food and beverage service occupations is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Employment growth will stem from increases in population, personal incomes, and leisure time. Since it is common for both husband and wife to be in the work force, families may increasingly find dining out a convenience.
Growth of the different types of food and beverage service jobs will vary. As the number of families grow, and as the more affluent, 55-and-older population increases rapidly, demand will grow for restaurants that offer table service and more varied menusspurring demand for waiters and waitresses and hosts and hostesses. Employment of fast-food workers is also expected to increase in response to growth of the 16-24 year-old population and the continuing fast-pace lifestyle of many Americans. However, little change is expected in the employment of dining room attendants as waiters and waitresses increasingly assume their duties. Employment of bartenders is expected to decline as drinking of alcoholic beverages outside the homeparticularly cocktailscontinues to drop.
Food and beverage service workers derive their earnings from a combination of hourly wages and customer tips. Earnings varies greatly, depending on the type of job and establishment. For example, fast-food workers and hosts and hostesses generally do not receive tips, so their wage rates may be higher than those of waiters and waitresses and bartenders, who may earn more from tips than from wages. In some restaurants, these workers contribute a portion of their tips to a tip pool, which is distributed among the establishment's other food and beverage service workers and kitchen staff. Tip pools allow workers who normally do not receive tips, such as dining room attendants, to share in the rewards for a well-served meal.
In 1996, median weekly earnings (including reported tips) of full-time waiters and waitresses were about $270. The middle 50 percent earned between $200 and $350; the top 10 percent earned at least $470 a week. For most waiters and waitresses, higher earnings are primarily the result of receiving more in tips rather than higher hourly wages. Tips generally average between 10 and 20 percent of guests' checks, so waiters and waitresses working in busy, expensive restaurants earn the most.
Full-time bartenders had median weekly earnings (including tips) of about $310 in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned from $230 and $400; the top 10 percent earned at least $520 a week. Like waiters and waitresses, bartenders employed in public bars may receive more than half of their earnings as tips. Service bartenders are often paid higher hourly wages, to offset their lower tip earnings.
Median weekly earnings (including tips) of full-time dining room attendants and bartender helpers were about $260 in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned between $200 and $320; the top 10 percent earned over $410 a week. Most received over half of their earnings as wages; the rest of their income was their share of the proceeds from tip pools.
Full-time counter attendants and fast-food workers had median weekly earnings (including any tips) of about $220 in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned between $190 and $270, while the highest 10 percent earned over $360 a week. Although some counter attendants receive part of their earnings as tips, fast-food workers generally do not.
In establishments covered by Federal law, workers beginning at the minimum wage earn $5.15 an hour. Employers are also permitted to deduct from wages the cost, or fair value, of any meals or lodging provided. However, many employers provide free meals and furnish uniforms. Food and beverage service workers who work full time often receive typical benefits, while part-time workers generally do not.
In some large restaurants and hotels, food and beverage service workers belong to unionsprincipally the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and the Service Employees International Union.
Information about job opportunities may be obtained from local employers and local offices of the State employment service.
A guide to careers in restaurants, a list of 2- and 4-year colleges that have food service programs, and information on scholarships to those programs is available from:
National Restaurant Association, 1200 17th St. NW., Washington, DC 20036-3097.
For general information on hospitality careers, write to:
Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education, 1200 17th St. NW., Washington, DC 20036-3097.
For general career information and a directory of private career colleges and schools that offer training for bartender and other food and beverage service jobs, write to:
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, 2101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201.
Health Service Occupations
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