Waiting Staff Jobs

Waiting staff jobs… did you know?

Working as a waiter or waitress is the perfect CV builder and quick money-maker. Plus… it can lead to great things. So why wait…?

Waiting on tables is work you can find almost anywhere, because people always need to eat. It can be done part-time or as a summer job in a way you can fit around studies. It can help you to get valuable life and work skills that can be used in ALL KINDS of jobs, so it’s a real door-opener for opportunities. Oh, and you can cook up a sweet career in hospitality and catering too, if you’ve got the passion for it. Find out more!

Industry: Catering and Hospitality

Waiting staff job trends

How much money can you make as waiting staff?

£12,000 – £27,000 (UK average)
Recent labour market information says you can earn on average between £12,000 and £27,000 a year as a waiter or waitress in the UK.
You’ll usually get paid an hourly rate, with tips to top up your earnings.
Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, location or the size of the company. Your salary as a waiting staff will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge and experience. Once you are highly experienced you could be paid around £22-27,000 a year.

What entry qualifications and training do you need for this job?

School, college and training

You don’t need any set requirements for this job, so your study qualifications don’t matter if you want to get your foot in the door. Previous waiting experience does come in useful, but it’s often not essential. Everyone has to start somewhere – and even with no experience, you can treat this as a chance to shine as brightly as the glasses you’re laying out on the table!

Waiting is a fantastic job because you can add it to your CV as the first paid work you’ve ever done. That’s not to say it’s easy or low-level, though. Good waiting staff know it’s a learned skill, and there’s a huge difference between phoning it in and being passionate about what you do.

You’ll learn about customer service, meeting tight deadlines and managing your time. You’ll learn about human psychology and anticipating someone’s needs. You’ll develop skills in prioritising everything that needs doing, visual presentation and many other valuable elements that make up a true Young Professional.

Waiting on tables is what you make it. It could lead to networking opportunities, your dream apprenticeship and more.

Useful subjects to study at HNC/HND or degree level if you want a hospitality and catering career that puts the icing on the cake:

  • Hospitality management
  • Hotel and catering management
  • Hospitality, leisure and tourism

Apprenticeships

You can enter the hospitality and catering industry via an apprenticeship. You’ll typically get structured training while you work and earn, and industry-recognised qualifications.

There are lots of catering apprenticeships available with a range of providers. You’ll find all kinds of catering apprenticeships available to meet your level of work experience and learning, from introductory apprenticeships to ones specialising in catering management.

Learning and earning as a catering trainee or apprentice will get you a good grounding in the industry, and you can build work experience and further education learning to work towards a management position.

Example catering apprenticeships include:

  • Hospitality and Catering Apprenticeship
  • Food and Beverage Catering Management Apprenticeship
  • Hospitality Management Higher Apprenticeship

While at school or college, speak to your careers advisor about useful training and/or courses for you to take and find out more about the types of career routes available.

Career progression and further qualification

With time and experience you could have the opportunity for promotion to team leader or head waiter or waitress. You could go all the way up to restaurant supervisor (and by then, you may know enough about the catering industry to consider if you want to set up your own restaurant business).

You could also study for further qualifications in catering (we’ve linked to apprenticeships listed with the Hospitality Guild).

As a hospitality industry manager, you could also take part in Continuing Professional Development thanks to new qualifications brought out by the Institute of Hospitality.

You could also become self-employed and set up your own contract catering business.

What experience do you need for waiting staff jobs?

Work experience

Some employers won’t require you to have any previous work experience at all. Previous customer service work will always help.

  • Look for part-time or seasonal work (you could do shift work, a few days a week, or seek summer jobs when UK tourism is at its height)
  • Seek work experience in a range of venues including restaurants, pubs, fast food outlets or hotels.
  • Practice your skills by offering to arrange everything for a friend’s birthday party. Manage everything from what food should be served (are you restricted by budget or dietary requirements?) to how it should be presented (picnic with cold storage? Vintage chic with jam jar glasses?)

Volunteering

You could build your skills in an unpaid capacity by volunteering with charities who cook and supply food (e.g. to homeless people, or otherwise vulnerable people like the elderly who might receive meals on wheels.)

What skills do you need for waiting staff jobs?

Useful skills to highlight to your employer when applying for a restaurant or bar customer service job include:

  • Great communication skills – you’ll set customers at their ease, anticipate their needs
  • Keeping calm under pressure – restaurants can get big busy periods where you’ll be flying around the restaurant like a rocket, but you’ll look cool, calm and collected. Customers are there to eat delicious food served on time in a great atmosphere, not to watch staff looking hot and bothered as they start to panic.
  • Good number, word and memory skills – you may need to add numbers together, or help customers who want to chip in separately for one big bill. You definitely want to be sure you’ve got the orders right and don’t forget them!.
  • Good personal presentation skills – you are the ambassador for the restaurant, and also like an actor on a show. It’s your job to not only deliver the food but a great atmosphere. You’ve often heard it said that good customer service makes people remember your name, tip you well and come back time and time again. For you, presentation means how neat and tidy you look, and how carefully and smoothly you deliver and remove food. Try not to drop any glasses!

Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

What do waiting staff do?

You could be working in restaurants, gastropubs, posh hotels, fast food franchises… you name it. Anywhere where they serve food that customers can sit down to eat.

Depending on your level of experience, your responsibilities could include:

  • Greeting customers and helping them find a table
  • Handing out menus and taking orders
  • Serving food and drinks – and clearing them away
  • Dealing with payments
  • Answering customer queries (e.g. about dietary requirements and bathroom locations)
  • Making sure the tables and eating areas are clean and tidy.

Your first steps into waiting staff jobs

Jobs like these are advertised under different job titles. When you’re looking on job boards, look for the following types of job:

  • Hospitality/catering apprenticeship
  • Waiter/waitress jobs
  • Waiting staff jobs
  • Hospitality host/hostess

All these types of job can be a good match for your skills.

You can look for jobs in trade magazines like Caterer and Hotelkeeper, and also search online for catering and hospitality recruitment agencies like and get on their books.

Useful organisations and links for catering management careers

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