Waiting staff, wait staff, waitstaff[2] or serving staff are those who work at a restaurant or a bar, and sometimes in private homes, attending customers—supplying them with food and drink as requested. An individual waiting tables is commonly called a server, waitperson,[3] waitress (females only), waiter (referring to males or less commonly either gender), or less commonly the 1980s American neologism waitron.[4][6][8][9] Archaic terms such as serving girl, serving wench, or serving lad are generally used only within their historical context. A server or waiting staff takes on a very important role in a restaurant which is to always be attentive and accommodating to the guests. Each waiter follows rules and guidelines that are developed by the manager. The main rule is to always stay busy. Wait staff can abide by this rule by completing many different tasks throughout his or her shift. Such as food-running, polishing dishes and silverware, helping bus tables, and restock working stations with needed supplies.

Waiting on tables is (along with nursing and teaching) part of the service sector, and among the most common occupations in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, as of May 2008, there were over 2.2 million persons employed as servers in the U.S.[10]

Many restaurants choose a specific uniform for their wait staff to wear. Waitstaff may receive tips as a minor or major part of their earnings, with customs varying widely from country to country.[11]

Duties of waiting staff

The duties a waiter, wait staff or server partakes in can be tedious, but are vital to the success of the restaurant. Such duties include, prepping a section before guests sit down, offering cocktails or specialty drinks, recommending food options, requesting special chef items, pre-clearing the tables, and serving food and beverages throughout the shift. Silver service staff are specially trained to serve at banquets or high-end restaurants. These servers follow specific rules and service guidelines which makes it a skilled job. They generally wear black and white with a long, white apron (extending from the waist to ankle).

The head server is in charge of the waiting staff, and is also frequently responsible for assigning seating. The head server must insure that all staff does their duties accordingly. The functions of a head server can overlap to some degree with that of the Maître d'hôtel. Most restaurants employ busboys or busgirls, increasingly referred to as busser or server assistant to clear dirty dishes, set tables, and otherwise assist the waiting staff.[12][2][2]

Emotional labour is often required by waiting staff,[2] particularly at many high-class restaurants.


Restaurant serving positions require on the job training that would be held by an upper level server in the restaurant. The server will be trained to provide good customer service, learn food items and drinks and maintain a neat and tidy appearance. Working, in a role such as captain, in a top rated restaurant requires disciplined role-playing comparable to a theater performance.[17]

Individuals employed to handle food and beverages in the United States must obtain a food handlers card or permit.[2] Servers that do not have a permit or handlers card can not serve. The server can achieve a permit or handlers card online.