Server Responsibilities: Server Job Description and Key Duties

By Katie McCann

Server clearing a table

What’s great food, a killer location, and mind-blowing restaurant design without a team to make it all come to life?

Your front of house staff are the people who make your vision a reality for each diner who walks through the door.

While your server’s responsibilities tend to evolve with the job, it’s important to have a predetermined set of tasks that don’t change – especially when posting a new server job description. These are things you always want to make sure are getting done at your restaurant. 

So, what are the responsibilities you should be asking of your servers? We’ll take the guesswork out of it when we share with you:

  • Each front-of-house job description, including a host, bartender, and server job description
  • When to share these responsibilities with your team 
  • The 25 most important server responsibilities, both big and small
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Front of House Job Descriptions: Host, Server, and Bartender

Naturally, you need to have a front of house before you’re giving out your list of responsibilities. So, who do you want to hire for your front of house? 

The main jobs you’ll want are your host, servers, and bartenders. Here are descriptions of these critical front-of-house roles.

Host Job Description and Responsibilities

The host is typically the first face diners see when they enter the restaurant. They greet customers as they come in and bring them to their seats or put them on a waiting list if the restaurant is at capacity. A host’s duties also include handling phone calls and customer inquiries at the front desk, and can jump in where necessary. Oftentimes, restaurants will have less experienced staff start as a host before moving onto serving.

Restaurant Server Job Description and Duties

Sometimes referred to as waitress, waiter, or wait staff, servers are responsible for – pardon the pun – serving up the guest experience. They take food and beverage orders from customers and deliver them to the kitchen or bar staff. A server’s job description also includes checking up on customers throughout the meal, have to act to fix any issues, and ultimately are the key to delivering a good table service. Keep in mind that a great server resume and cover letter should showcase their customer service skills and their ability to put patrons first.

Bartender and Barback Job Description

Your bartenders and barbacks keep the drinks flowing – both alcoholic and not. Their job can often overlap with a server, especially if your restaurant has a bar that people sit at. Bartenders and barbacks can end up taking food orders at the bar, along with the drinks.

Knowing the differentiators between these job descriptions is important for a smooth staffing experience, but even more important for when you are determining duties for each person. You need to know who your staff are and what skills they have before asking them what to do.

Waitress setting up a table in a restaurant
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When to Share Server Responsibilities and Key Duties

Server responsibilities don’t start and end with the customer. There are a lot more tasks involved in this role, which ultimately help your operations run smoothly – both in the front and back of house.

When hiring front of house staff – from servers to hosts – it’s important to be upfront with tasks and duties. 

For the most part, the basic server responsibilities and skills stay the same from restaurant to restaurant (no matter where you work, silverware has to be polished and/or rolled!). However, you still want to communicate these expectations early in the interview process – even if you’re working off of a basic server job description template.  

However, communicating tasks doesn’t end once the contract is signed!

Here are some of the best times to communicate what you expect from each server:

  • As mentioned above, mention it during the interview process so they know what’s required. No surprises!
  • Include the list of server responsibilities and necessary skills in the job description you give any staff as part of their hiring 
  • As an ongoing conversation between you and your team 
Server taking order

25 Most Important Server Responsibilities and Duties

So, you know who’s on your team, the main skills required, and when to let them know what they’re doing. Here’s the good part – the list of the top server duties you want to make sure you have covered. 

1. Arrive On Time: This responsibility applies to all parts of your team, but is especially important for your front of house staff. If your servers are late, it can throw off your whole service.

2. Prep for the Day: Do napkins need to be rolled or silverware polished before the crowds arrive for the lunch rush? Helping out on these pre-opening tasks is a major responsibility for a server. 

3. Cut Garnishes: Whether it’s for a delicious bar drink or on the side of a water, lemons and limes are constantly in demand. Have each server slice these to help keep the bar stocked.

4. Bring Their A-Game: Of course, this is always expected. But this is especially important as a server! Everybody has their off days, but your wait staff are responsible for delivering a great experience to all customers. 

5. Set Up Tables: From making sure napkins are crisp to having clean silverware on the table, servers are responsible for making sure tables are ready for your diners.

6. Greet Your Guests: This typically is done by the host, but any server should be comfortable saying hi or giving customers a smile as they come in. 

7. Know Thy Menu: Of all skills, this is especially important because most restaurants have an ever-changing menu of food items and drinks. A top server responsibility is knowing the menu – they need to answer any questions and share specials!

8. Take Food & Drink Orders: First they know the menu, then they figure out what diners want from said menu! Wait staff are responsible for taking food and drink orders and taking them back to the kitchen.

9. Be Responsible with Serving: It’s often the responsibility of the servers to card guests, as they are the ones bringing drink orders to the bar themselves. Make sure your servers are aware of the legal drinking age in your area – their mistake could cost you your liquor license!

10. Upsell with Ease: When your servers know the menu, they’re able to upsell effortlessly. Train your staff to know where they can offer upgraded cuts of meat or a premium side. It’ll help give guests a better experience, feeling like their meal has been customized, and help raise your average check size

11. Communicate with Diners: Are appetizers delayed or will the food be out in a few minutes? A server should check in continually with their tables and consider their changing needs throughout the whole service. 

12. Top Up the Table: It’s the little things – like ensuring the table has full water glasses or offering refills on drinks – that really make the dining experience. A great server should always be anticipating a table’s needs.

Smiling server taking an order

13. Ensure Food Is Hot (or Cold): Make sure food is served promptly to ensure that it’s arriving to guests in the state it’s supposed to be in. Just consider these examples: guests don’t want cold fettuccine alfredo or apple pie served with melted ice cream.

14. Know Your Tech: A major server responsibility is knowing how to use the technology at your restaurant. Knowing how to use tech – like a simple point of sale – makes their job easier and boosts the customer experience. Your POS can help staff split bills, alert the kitchen of allergies, and track table status. 

15. Room for Dessert? Once a table is done their meal, you’ll want your servers offering them extras to end their meal with. Dessert? Coffee? Shots, maybe? 

16. Make Celebrations Special: From birthdays to anniversaries, people eat when they celebrate! Making sure those celebrations are special is a huge part of delivering a good experience, and most of that falls on servers. You’ll want outgoing staff who are prepared to serve up a special dessert with a side of razzle dazzle!

17. Look the Part: Your servers are, quite literally, the face of your restaurant. Part of their responsibilities are coming to work looking presentable – they are representing your business, after all! This includes things like showing up in a clean uniform. 

18. Work in a Team: Your front-of-house team alone is made up of numerous different roles. But being able to balance working with all the different roles from front to back is essntial – from bartenders to chefs and managers! 

19. Clear Tables: Once tables are done eating, servers need to clear food and dishes from tables promptly. Nobody wants to chat over dirty dishes. 

20. Process Payments: Cash or credit? Part of a food server job responsibilities include processing payments – either at the table or at your POS terminals. While this often means the end of the meal, it doesn’t mean the end of the guest experience. A smooth payment experience ends the meal on a high note.

21. Communicate with Kitchen Staff: Being a good communicator is not only just part of being a good team member, but essential for a server. If your front of house and kitchen staff are communicating effectively, you can avoid a lot of comped meals, missed allergies, and dishes sent back.

Two smiling servers standing in front of restaurant bar

22. Stock Supplies: This can vary from refilling table napkins to topping up condiments like ketchup and mustard. When things slow down, these responsibilities can keep your servers busy and ensure your restaurant generally runs smoother.

23. Be Flexible with Timing: Whether a shift gets cut short or they end up on a long evening, wait staff need to be flexible. The hours of a server are rarely a simple nine to five!

24. Be on Your Feet: Balancing plates, running drinks, and skipping from table to table – the responsibilities of a server never end! You’ll want servers who are able to balance it all after a day on their feet. (Pro tip: make sure your servers are wearing shoes that keep them safe and comfortable after being on their feet for eight – or more! – hours a day).

25. Help Close the Restaurant: If you have time to lean, you have time to clean, right? Tidying up at the end of the night helps ensure a smoother open. Have your severs cleaning pop or coffee machines, polishing cutlery, putting chairs and stools away, or locking up patio furniture. 

The list of responsibilities and skills for a waiter and waitress can seem endless, but these are the tasks that truly do keep your restaurant running. Communicate early with your servers on what you expect from them, and they’ll be more prepared to serve up the best experience every time. You can also help staff get organized with a restaurant opening and closing checklist.

Waitress setting up a table in a restaurant
Download Your Server Responsibility Checklist

Keep your servers busy and restaurant operations running smoothly with this server responsibility checklist!

Find Out More
Photo of Katie McCann
by Katie McCann

Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.

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