Server Job Description: Main Duties & Responsibilities [+ Free Template]

Imagine being surprised that you aren’t able to use a magnet to pick up pieces of plastic. 

We know that magnets attract certain kinds of metal. Hoping to use them to attract plastic is foolish. Why don’t we understand this principle when it comes to job descriptions? 

You attract what you put out there.

Too often, vague or poorly written job descriptions are used, and then managers are confused at the quality of candidates that are showing up to apply and end up hiring the wrong people

That’s not all of it, of course. A good job description helps guide the training and performance measurements. A good job description dispels unwelcome surprises for everyone involved and clarifies issues that might lead to firing.

Getting the server job description right is wildly important. In a restaurant, your food servers are the front line. They’re the face your customers see, the experience they have, and play a huge role in whether or not they’ll come back or leave you a good review. 

Many managers don’t understand this, however, putting far too little effort in their server job description. Because of that, we want to show you how to write a great one.

Not only will it help you attract the best employees, but you’ll also get a new understanding of the position and maybe even a new appreciation for how important it is.

Duties and skills requirements

A food server job description should encapsulate both the actual server duties required, plus the skills and personality necessary. Customers see the latter without realizing the former is happening.

Let’s take a look at the general duties and skills required for your servers before branching into some specifics depending upon your situation.

Job duties

Servers are expected to:

  • Greet customers, and maintain a friendly demeanor throughout their experience.
  • Accurately take food and beverage orders, correctly using the ordering system.
  • Take special note of food allergies or preferences, and be able to communicate that clearly to kitchen staff.
  • Understand and communicate what’s on the menu, answering questions customers might have, and making recommendations on menu selections to customers if necessary.
  • Accurately deliver food to customers, making sure that what comes out of the kitchen is correct and appealing before taking it to the table.
  • Periodically check in with customers to make sure everything is going well with their meal, being attentive, and responding to additional requests as needed.
  • Respond quickly to issues customers have, getting management involved if necessary.
  • Collect payment from customers accurately and honestly.
  • Help with basic food prep as needed, and/or perform light cleaning in the dining, serving stations, or kitchen areas.
  • Keep serving stations stocked with ice, soda, etc., as well as keeping their section clean and prepared for new guests.
  • Know and follow applicable food service safety regulations and best practices.
  • Be able to stand on their feet for hours at a time and lift up to 25 pounds of weight.
  • Be willing to work flexible hours that may include weekends and holidays.

Skills

Servers need to be able to:

  • Communicate well with coworkers and customers, and maintain personable and professional communication at all times. This includes being able to listen and collaborate where applicable.
  • Be punctual and reliable, showing up for their shifts as scheduled.
  • Maintain a positive attitude, even under pressure. Patience with customers and coworkers is a must, particularly during busy rushes.
  • Handle tasks unsupervised, including being able to spot tasks that need to be done (even though they might not have been assigned by managers).
  • Listen to customer feedback and relay or make suggestions to managers. This may include suggestions for service, menu, or ambiance.
  • Handle money accurately and honestly, using the point-of-sale systems.
  • Quickly learn how to use the tools and systems in the restaurant.
  • Quickly learn and memorize details about the menu to be able to respond to customer questions. This includes knowing key ingredients relating to food allergies.

Industry-specific info

Not every food service situation is the same. A diner is not a four-star restaurant, and neither is a bar. The server responsibilities, expectations, and duties will vary.

First, consider the “personality” of your business. 

Is it casual? Mostly regulars? Formal? Banquets and catered events? A formal setting will require more in terms of full-service and customer expectation, while a casual diner might have customers who expect little beyond getting their food delivered to the table. You may prefer experienced servers only, if you know your clientele have high expectations. 

Servers working for caterers or banquet facilities aren’t dealing with rotating customers, but are working within an event setting which changes how they serve their tables.

Then, consider how different regulations or expectations affect what servers need to do.

For example, alcohol. Servers at family restaurants don’t have to deal with alcohol, but fine restaurants or bars do. That means compliance with regulations regarding who can have alcohol (e.g. checking ID), and dealing with customers who might have had too much. Food servers may need to know about cocktails or wine in order to make recommendations, unless it’s a restaurant with its own sommelier or wine server.

State and local regulations may also affect your job description in terms of what food servers are expected (or exempted) from doing.

Job description template

The server job description comes from those two lists of job duties and skills, but it’s packaged in a way that’s easier to understand (and less daunting). You want a description that helps you find great candidates quickly, but doesn’t overwhelm those who would be turned off by long lists.

We love good food and we love creating an atmosphere where people can connect with each other. As a server, you’d play an important role in creating this connection while maintaining a great work-life balance.

Responsibilities include:

  • Accurately taking and delivering food and beverage orders.
  • Prompt and professional customer service.
  • Understanding the menu to answer questions and offer recommendations.
  • Light food prep and dining area cleaning as needed.

We’re looking for part-time servers willing to work ___ hours and varying shifts. Benefits include flexible self-scheduling, free meals, and vacation time. There is potential for increased hours with additional benefits.

Our servers are successful because they are:

  • Good at communication and conflict resolution.
  • Comfortable with basic math.
  • Punctual and reliable.
  • Enjoy working with others.
  • Pay close attention to detail.

If you’ve had previous server experience, we’d like to talk to you. We have immediate openings. Apply now.

The idea is to summarize much of what is written in the duties and skills list into a concise description, particularly if you’re using this as your job listing. A wall of text makes your job listing less appealing from other postings that look less foreboding.

Think of those detailed lists as a kind of hiring rubric. They can be included elsewhere (perhaps in a “find out more” section), or you can go through them during the interview. It’s important to have those detailed lists of skills and expectations for use in your hiring process, employee handbook, and for yourself as a reminder of what the job entails. The better detailed server job description you have of what you’re looking for, the easier it will be to know if a candidate is who you’re looking for.

There are two things worth noting.

First, you can see we’ve added a light version of a kind of mission or vision statement woven into the opening line, just enough to let candidates know about the culture of your workplace. We’ve also referenced a benefit (flexible self-scheduling and work-life balance) so candidates see that there’s something in it for them. 

Second, we made it easy to apply. End your job description with a clear call to action, whether it’s a link to an online application, a chance to find out more, or a phone number to call.

A great server job description should attract the right person, but also help you understand what you’re looking for. If done right, you can avoid expensive employee turnover.

How to attract great candidates

Birds of a feather flock together. So it’s worth asking where your ideal candidates would be “flocking.” If you write the worlds’ greatest job description but post it where they’re unlikely to see it, what’s the point?

There are a few ways to find employees:

  • Internally. Posting available job openings in the breakroom or on other internal systems leads to word-of-mouth from current employees. If you’ve already got great employees, chances are they’re going to refer the right people to you.
  • Online. Posting your job listing on your website and on online job boards opens it up to the general public. Using the right keywords and listing categories is important, and may also change the language in your description.
  • On site. If you have a “help wanted” sign on your business, candidates will come to you online or walk in and ask the hostess or manager for a job application. If it’s the latter, be sure you have a copy of the job description ready to give them, as well as an application.
  • Social media. Posting a job listing on social media can be a powerful method, mixing all of the above. Current employees can share it, and send the listing to friends. Customers might think of people to send your way. Plus, with demographic tools, you can customize the audience of your listing a bit.

The narrower the availability of the listing, the more control you have over who will apply. Walk-ins may be the least predictable, as there’s no guarantee that they’ve read any job description and may simply be filling out applications for whatever is available. Online job boards, on the other hand, let you at least categorize and get the full description and requirement list out for candidates to read before applying.

When you’re battling a labor shortage, it’s tempting to get a little soft on the job description and hiring process just to find warm bodies to fill positions. Instead, using restaurant scheduling software like When I Work can help you adjust your schedule to be more flexible with a smaller crew so that you have a little leeway to find the best candidates out there.

Always write your job description for the best possible candidate. Always aim high, and have high expectations. And then, make it easy for those candidates to apply and join your team.