Is becoming a food server right for me?

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What do food servers do?
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Are food servers happy with their careers?
What are food servers like?

Still unsure if becoming a food server is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a food server or another similar career!

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How to become a Food Server

Becoming a food server involves a combination of education, practical experience, and developing essential skills for the role. Here are general steps to become a food server:

  • Meet Minimum Requirements: Most food service establishments require servers to be at least 18 years old, though some may hire individuals as young as 16. Check with local and state regulations to ensure you meet age requirements.
  • Educational Background: While formal education is not mandatory, having a high school diploma or equivalent is beneficial. Some employers may prefer candidates with basic math and communication skills.
  • Obtain a Food Handler's Permit: Many states require food servers to obtain a Food Handler's Permit, which involves completing a short training course on food safety and hygiene. Check with your local health department for specific requirements in your area.
  • Gain Experience: Seek entry-level positions in the food service industry to gain experience. This could include roles such as a busser, host/hostess, or cashier. Familiarize yourself with restaurant operations and customer interactions.
  • Apply for Positions: Look for job opportunities at restaurants, cafes, or other dining establishments. Submit your resume, emphasizing any relevant experience or customer service skills you possess.
  • Prepare for Interviews: Be ready to discuss your relevant skills, experience, and your enthusiasm for providing excellent customer service during interviews. Employers often look for candidates who are personable, reliable, and adaptable.
  • On-the-Job Training: If hired, you'll likely undergo on-the-job training. This may involve shadowing experienced servers, learning the POS system, understanding the menu, and practicing customer interactions.
  • Understand State and Local Regulations: Familiarize yourself with state and local regulations regarding serving alcohol, if applicable. Some establishments may require servers to obtain a Responsible Beverage Service Training Program certification.
  • Develop Time Management Skills: Efficient time management is crucial for food servers. Learn how to prioritize tasks, manage multiple tables, and deliver orders promptly.
  • Advance Your Career (Optional): Some servers choose to advance their careers by gaining experience in higher-end establishments, specializing in wine service, or pursuing supervisory roles.

There are specific certifications and training programs that can enhance a food server's skills and marketability. Here are a few examples:

  • Food Handler's Permit: While not a certification per se, many states and local health departments require food servers to obtain a Food Handler's Permit. This involves completing a short training course on food safety, sanitation, and hygiene. The requirements vary by state and locality, so check with your local health department for specific regulations.
  • Responsible Beverage Service Training Program: In establishments that serve alcohol, servers may be required to complete a Responsible Beverage Service Training Program. This certification covers topics such as checking IDs, recognizing signs of intoxication, and understanding legal responsibilities related to serving alcohol.
  • ServSafe Alcohol Certification: The ServSafe Alcohol Certification program is widely recognized in the food service industry. It covers responsible alcohol service and helps servers understand the best practices for ensuring the safety of customers and complying with alcohol service laws.
  • Hospitality and Food Service Management Certification: Offered by organizations like the National Restaurant Association, this certification is designed for those seeking managerial roles in the food service industry. While not specific to servers, it can be valuable for career advancement.
  • Certified Professional Food Manager (CPFM): Some food service establishments may require or prefer servers who have obtained the Certified Professional Food Manager (CPFM) certification. This certification is often pursued by those in supervisory or managerial roles within the industry.