A waiter or waitress works in a bar, restaurant, hotel or for a catering company taking customers’ orders, carrying the meal from the kitchen to the table. They may work in a specialised area such as silver service or wine service.
You could be:
setting the tables with cloths, napkins, cutlery and decorations such as flowers
welcoming the diners and showing them to a table, answering questions about the menu and recommending wine
writing down or remembering orders for food and drink and taking the order into the kitchen
carrying each course of the meal from the kitchen to the table
in silver service, serving food onto diners' plates from a platter balanced on your arm
watching the diners to see when they are ready for the next course and collecting dirty plates
printing off the bill, taking payment by cash, debit or credit card and giving change and the receipt
cleaning and setting the tables for the next diners
dealing with several tables at once, each at a different stage of the meal.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting pay is often based on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or the National Living Wage (NLW).
As of 1 April 2023 the National Minimum Wage is £5.28 an hour for workers under 18, £7.49 an hour for workers aged 18 to 20 and £10.18 an hour for workers aged 21 to 22. The National Living Wage for those aged 23 and over is £10.42 an hour.
With experience and depending on the type of establishment, you could earn up to £8.50 an hour or more. Tips can boost your earnings.
You work shifts, including early mornings, evenings and weekends.
Part time work is common.
Kitchens are often hot, crowded and noisy.
You are on your feet the whole time.
You have to carry several heavily laden plates at once, balancing them on your arms or on a tray.
You do not need formal qualifications but a good general education is useful.
You might get in through a Modern Apprenticeship in Hospitality (Food and Beverage pathway) at SCQF Level 5.
You could study the Foundation Apprenticeship in Hospitality (SCQF Level 4 or 5) in S3-S6, which can help to get into a relevant Modern Apprenticeship.
Excellent customer service skills are more important than formal qualifications.
Licensed restaurants want you to be over 18 as you may be serving alcohol.
Jobs are in restaurants, hotels, works canteens, hospitals, nursing homes and catering companies. Because turnover is high there are usually a lot of vacancies in jobcentres both for experienced and inexperienced waiters or waitresses.