Working in A Restaurant: Everything You Need to Know

Working in A Restaurant: Everything You Need to Know
Nick Darlington

By Nick Darlington

Maybe you’re out of school for the year–or for good, and looking for work. Perhaps you’ve found that the daily nine-to-five work day isn't for you and you want to make a change. Or maybe, the idea of working in a restaurant—and one day starting a restaurant of your own—is your dream.

Restaurant work can be daunting if you’ve never been in the industry before. There are many different paths in, but you really won’t know if you’ve made the right choice until you start your new job. What you can do is learn about what each position entails, and give yourself the best chance of success. And we’re here to help.

The following guide will not only help you decide if you’re better suited to FOH or BOH restaurant work, but it will also show you how to excel in your position once you land that new job.

In this guide, you’ll learn almost everything you need to know about working in a restaurant:

Ready?

Let’s Get started.

Working at A Restaurant: What to Expect

Restaurant work can be both challenging and rewarding. It’s not for everyone, and deciding to enter the industry is a decision you need to make carefully. After all, what one person may love about restaurant work, another may not.

The key, though, is making sure your decision is informed and taking you in a direction you want your career grow. Here are several pros and cons to weigh up and help you decide if working in a restaurant is right for you:

4 Benefits of Working in a Restaurant

Here are the most common reasons people love working in a restaurant. How many of these are important to you?

1. Scheduling Flexibility

A restaurant job gives you the flexibility to work both full and part-time. You can work full time if you choose to pursue a restaurant career, or part-time if working in a restaurant is a short-term job, or way to make extra cash on the side to, for example, fund your studies.

2. Sales & Service Skills  

You learn several new skills that are transferable to other jobs. For example, as a waiter, you'll learn how to cross-sell and upsell as you guide diners to better meal choices. Experience with practicing these skills is invaluable if you one day want to apply for a sales job. Waiters are also well-suited for customer service positions because they learn how to interact with people and solve interpersonal problems.

3. Dynamic Atmosphere

Restaurants can be quiet one moment, and bustling the next. In a matter of minutes,  you will need to adjust to a fast-paced environment with competing demands on your attention. This always-changing atmosphere is exciting, and comes with the great opportunity to meet and connect with many interesting people.

4. Take-Home Tips

Besides the typical hourly minimum wage or salary you'll earn working a restaurant position, you may also make decent money from cash tips to take home at the end of a shift. Gratuities after a tough shift are a supportive, motivating, and timely reward for delivering excellent service and can create ease in your life by giving you the convenience of having cash on-hand. As an added benefit, in most places tips are not not taxable.

But while we're on the topic, how much can you expect to earn from cash tips anyway?

Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It will depend on many factors like your position, the type of restaurant you work in, the time of day (and week) of your shifts, the tip distribution system your restaurant uses.

In general, servers and bartenders because of their customer-centric roles, are able to earn the most in gratuities. That said, some restaurant managers and owners recognize that all the staff play an integral role in customer satisfaction and may opt for a shift-wide tip distribution system.

How Do Tips Work in a Restaurant?

The way tips are shared differs by the establishment, but here are two common methods:

  1. Tip Outs: Servers and bartenders tips the support staff out directly, at their discration from the total tips they earn after a shift.
  2. Tip Pooling: Servers pool 20% to 100% of their tips, and the manager distributes the pool to support staff based on percentages determined by a points system.1

EXAMPLE
If a busser has 7 points, a server has 15 points and a bartender has 10 points, then a $1,000 total tip is pooled distributed with these propotions:

  1. Tallying the total points (32)
  2. Dividing the total points into all tips to get the value per point ($31,25 or $1,000/32)
  3. Multiplying the value per point by each position meaning the busser receives $218,75, the server $468.75 and the bartender, $312.50

Pro Tipping Tip: When applying for a job at a restaurant, ask about the average take-home tips for the position to get an idea of what you can expect to earn besides your basic wage.

4 Challenges of Restaurant Work

Like any job, there are challenges in restaurant work. Identify which of the following are show-stoppers for you, before saying 'yes' to your next role.

1. Unusual Work Hours

Working in a restaurant can involve long-working hours, evening shifts, late-nights and weekends. Chefs, for example, are notorious for working longer than most. Depending on your lifestyle, this may or may not be a problem for you.

2. Physically Demanding

Whether you’re serving guests or working in the kitchen, expect to be on your feet, moving around, and carrying things for long periods. You may also have to do some heavy lifting in specific restaurant roles, e.g., barbacks may need to carry kegs, cases of beer, or boxes of liquor to stock the bar.

3. Fast-Paced Environment

Restaurant work can be stressful, especially when it gets busy.  Waiters have to juggle several tables simultaneously, and kitchen staff are constantly pushing to get orders out on time. While some people do thrive in this environment, others may find it too uncomfortable.

4. Radical Kindness

Everyone has bad days and can get caught up in their own personal dramas–including, and especially customers–who, if you haven’t heard, are always right. In the service industry, you'll need to be willing and able to meet customers needs–even when you’d rather not.

Finding the Right Restaurant Position

So now that you know what saying "I want to work in a restaurant," actually entails, you can decide if you’re up for an adventure in the restaurant industry. If you are, the next step is to find the best position for you.  

The next section will help you choose a restaurant position by exploring the pros and cons of various job positions in a restaurant across the Front of House (FOH) and Back of House (BOH).

You’ll learn what the FOH and BOH are, and critical details about each position including:

  • The duties and tasks you are responsible for
  • The pros and cons of working each position
  • Common skills and characteristics you'll need
  • How much you can expect to earn*

*The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a fantastic online resource with a salary breakdown for most restaurant positions²

And because serving is such a popular job, you’ll also learn how to become a superb server and earn amazing tips.

Let’s dive in.

Thinking of working in a restaurant, but not sure where to start? Check out this blog post to learn about the different positions in a restaurant you could apply for – plus their duties, required experience, pros, cons, and salary: The Truth About the Different Positions You Can Work in A Restaurant

FOH and BOH Restaurant Positions Explained

Any restaurant is typically split into two parts—the Front and Back of House. The FOH refers to the front or customer-facing areas of the restaurant like the bar, the dining room or the reception. Common FOH job positions include servers, bartenders, hostesses, and runners.

The back of house (BOH) consists of all the behind-the-scenes areas in a restaurant where food is made and inventory is stored. BOH restaurant employees are support staff including chefs, dishwashers, expeditors, and barbacks.

The restaurant industry is loaded with its own brand of slang, jargon and lingo. If you are interested in working in a restaurant, it is important to familiarize yourself with some of the lingo. Read our blog post to learn the language: What the FOH!? Restaurant Industry Lingo, Terms, and Their Meaning

Restaurant Scheduling Software
for managers that want to stay in control

The easiest way to spend 80% less time scheduling your restaurant staff.

Try 7shifts for free.

Foh Positions: What's It Like?

If you thrive on meeting new people, enjoy conversing with guests, and aren’t undaunted by the physical demands of some FOH positions, then working in the FOH may be right for you.

Here's an overview of the seven main FOH positions to choose from:

Position Duties Pros Cons Skills Salary
Bartender Serves drinks at the bar Good money from cash tips and social atmosphere Long work hours and mentally taxing Social and multitasking skills $26,780
Barback Helps the bartender, stocks bar, cleans Superb entry-level position and ideal for 'helper' types Physically demanding and mundane work Fast learner, hard-working, and attentive $23,950
Server Provides table service to customers Decent money from cash tips and dynamic atmosphere Communication challenges and long work hours Interpersonal and problem solving skills $25,830
Hostess Welcomes, manages, and seats guests Growth opportunities and ideal for extroverts Stressful as you juggle multiple needs Well organized, excellent communicator, and friendly $23,260
Manager Creates schedule, manages operations Helps you learn what it takes to own and run a restaurant Balancing everyone's needs Leadership, People and Financial Skills $50,000
Busser Clears, cleans, and resets tables You learn about how a restaurant works Can be mundane and repetitive work Attentive and hard-working $21,396
Runner Helps servers and runs food to tables You learn about how a restaurant works Can be mundane and repetitive work Attentive and hard working $22,633

And here's some more detail on what it's like working each FOH position:

Sometimes referred to as mixologists, bartenders mix and serve drinks for customers at the bar and in the dining room, and occasionally take food orders.

Duties
  • Takes food and drink orders
  • Mixes and serves drinks
  • Provides and explains the menu
  • Monitors bar inventory stock
  • Keeps a clean bar
  • Minds customer intoxication levels

Pros

  • Connects and builds relationships with customers
  • The work environment is often social and vibrant
  • Invents, prepares, and serves signature cocktails
  • Can be a fast-paced and exciting environment
  • Take-home cash tips at the end of a shift

Cons

  • Can be exhausting during busy periods
  • Can be physically demanding as you’re on your feet for long periods
  • Fast-paced environment may be stressful during rush periods
  • It’s often mundane and boring during slow periods
  • Long or odd work hours

Characteristics and Skills

  • Effective communicator
  • Creative, hard working
  • Solid under pressure
  • Strong focus and multitasking skills

How Much Does A Bartender Make?

The average bartender salary in the U.S. is $26,780. However, your earnings will depend on the restaurant type and state minimum wage.³ For a full breakdown of the average salary in your state read What Is the Average Bartender Salary by State?⁴

Also known as the bartender’s apprentice, bartender’s assistant, and bartender's helper, the barback is a supporting role to the bartender.

Duties

  • Cleans and stocks the bar
  • Gives bartenders what they need to do their job (glassware, ice, menus, etc.)
  • Helps wait staff clear tables, fill waters
  • Clears the floor or dining room of dirty dishes
  • Cleans up spills

Pros

  • Perfect role if you lack restaurant skills or experience and consider yourself a "helper" type who's happiest in support positions
  • This is an excellent entry-level position because you get a feel for the entire operation as you interface with many other functions.
  • Barbacks often move on to bartending and/or management positions

Cons

  • Often the last one out of the building
  • Tasks can include taking out trash, recycling, and/or cleaning floors
  • Expect lots of heavy lifting and physical work

Characteristics and Skills

  • Attentive to the bar and bartender's needs
  • Ability to work quietly in a busy environment, navigate crowds
  • Hard working, diligent
  • Collaborative and support-minded

How Much Does A Barback Make?

The average barback salary in the U.S. is $23,950, but, this will vary depending on the minimum wage in your area.

Thinking about becoming a bartender but not sure if its the right fit for you? Check out our blog post to learn more: Bartending vs. Serving: Which one should you choose?

Waiter, waitress, server, or service crew member—whatever you want to call them, they're responsible for taking orders, and serving customers.

Duties

  • Takes food orders, helps guests with meal selection
  • Times and relays orders to the kitchen
  • Picks up orders when food is ready and serves guests
  • Solves customer problems, provides hospitality

Pros

  • You get to interact with guests, making it a perfect position for the extrovert
  • You earn decent money from cash tips
  • The many different types of shifts means you can have flexibility in your schedule
  • The atmosphere is forever changing, which makes the job incredibly interesting

Cons

  • Difficult guests can be challenging at times
  • On your feet a lot, carrying trays of food and drink
  • Long work hours, evening and weekends

Characteristics and Skills

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Attentiveness to customer needs
  • Hard working
  • Positive attitude—many hiring managers will place more importance on attitude vs. skills because skills can be easily taught, whereas attitude can’t.

How Much Does A Server Make?

On average servers in the U.S. earn $25,830, though the minimum wage and cash tips influence take-home pay.

Learning how to get a job at a restaurant and bring in great tips boils down to acquiring the very same skills: friendliness, flexibility, and being a team player who puts the customer first. Read our blog post for more information: How to Get a Job at A Restaurant (and Make Great Tips)

How Do Tips Work in a Restaurant?

The way tips are shared differs by the establishment, but here are two common methods:

  1. Tip Outs: Servers and bartenders tips the support staff out directly, at their discration from the total tips they earn after a shift.
  2. Tip Pooling: Servers pool 20% to 100% of their tips, and the manager distributes the pool to support staff based on percentages determined by a points system.1

EXAMPLE
If a busser has 7 points, a server has 15 points and a bartender has 10 points, then a $1,000 total tip is pooled distributed with these propotions:

  1. Tallying the total points (32)
  2. Dividing the total points into all tips to get the value per point ($31,25 or $1,000/32)
  3. Multiplying the value per point by each position meaning the busser receives $218,75, the server $468.75 and the bartender, $312.50

Pro Tipping Tip: When applying for a job at a restaurant, ask about the average take-home tips for the position to get an idea of what you can expect to earn besides your basic wage.

How to Be A Good Server (and Earn Great Tips)

No guide to working in a restaurant would be complete without a walkthrough of how to make great tips as a server. The following five ‘tipping tips’ will help you become a fantastic server and earn great take-home cash.

Tip 1: Be Positive and Attentive

Some people believe that earning great tips requires years of experience and skill. But this isn't always true. Many customers will reward new servers with gratuities even if they forget to bring the ketchup and hot sauce. Having a warm, genuine, and positive attitude, and showing your willingness to attend to a customer’s needs goes a long way to providing exceptional service.

Tip 2: Anticipate Guests Needs

When you welcome your customers for the first time, analyze the table, and assess their needs. Then, adjust your service style accordingly. Some diners want your undivided attention. Others don’t. It’s your job to assess and adapt. Furthermore, monitor tables from a distance, so you’re always able to give customers what they want without them having to ask. This means, for example, monitoring customer drink levels to see when they’re low, and asking for a top up before they do.

Tip 3: Be An Effective Problem Solver

Problems are bound to arise—maybe the food isn’t prepared to the customers liking, or you made a mistake with the order. When a mistake happens and you feel yourself getting flustered, stop. If the situation is urgent, ask a manager or colleague to cover you, and take a short bathroom break, or pop outside for some air. Bring your attention back to your breathing, taking three, full mindful breaths, noticing the physical sensations of breathing. When you’re ready, return to the situation. Trying to fix problems while worked up, tends to only make matters worse.

Tip 4: Apologize Once and Move On

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the server is overly apologetic? Sure you have. The problem with apologizing more than once and is that you risk exaggerating a service problem and encouraging customers to do the same. Once, you’ve listened to the complaint, let your customer know you hear them, take responsibility for whatever specific actions you took that lead to the mistake, then focus on fixing the problem. Remember, whatever is said, don’t take things personally.

Tip 5: Master the Cross and Upsell

Cross-selling is where you recommend certain complementary items with a meal, e.g., pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with a steak. Upselling, on the other hand, is where you entice diners to upgrade or buy a more expensive version of a dish.

Choosing to cross and upsell will depend on the situation, but both methods yield the same result: An increase in average order size, which generally means more tips.

Ever been to a restaurant where someone welcomed you, asked if you had a reservation and then showed you to your table? Say hello to the host or hostess!

Duties

  • Greets and welcomes guests, assesses dining room capacity
  • Queues guests to waiting area, then shows them to tables
  • Balances guest seating across all server sections
  • Takes reservations, answers phone line
  • Communicates with FOH staff on shift

Pros

  • Often no experience required
  • Growth opportunities into other FOH positions
  • Interact with people, ideal (and fun) for extroverts
  • Working hours are not as long compared to other positions

Cons

  • Can be stressful, especially when the restaurant is full.
  • Often have to juggle meeting multiple sets of needs:
    • New Guests: Who want to be greeted and attended to
    • Waiting Guests: Who are hungry and want to eat
    • Staff: Who want a section not too empty, and not overwhelmingly full
  • Enforcing reservation policies and turning people away can be uncomfortable

Characteristics and Skills

  • Good communicator
  • Organized
  • Calm and responsive
  • Attentive
  • Friendly
  • Works well under pressure

What Does a Restaurant Host or Hostess Earn?

The national average salary for a host or hostess is $23,260.

The restaurant manager is responsible for scheduling and managing shifts, as well as all other areas of a restaurant's day-to-day operations.

Duties
  • Oversees the daily running of the restaurant
  • Responsible for growing restaurant revenue
  • Helps with staff hiring, training and management
  • Creates and optimizes employee shift schedules
  • Monitors food quality, inventory levels, and management
  • Oversees menu design and creation
  • Runs promotional advertising and marketing campaigns
Pros
  • Acquire work experience to move up to positions as general manager, district manager or restaurant owner
  • Working with people, It’s a suitable job for leaders who enjoy a challenge
  • You work in a vibrant and dynamic environment
  • You meet new people and build community in your area
Cons
  • Long, and regularly late work hours
  • Balancing work responsibilities with personal life
  • Making difficult decisions to best serve the business' needs (eg. staffing)
  • Balancing meeting staff, owner, customer, and personal needs
Characteristics and Skills
  • Experience in both FOH and FOH
  • Leadership and people skills
  • Work well under pressure
  • An understanding of operations and finances
  • Excellent time management skills

How Much Do Restaurant Managers Make?

Restaurant managers earn an average of $57,000/year*.

*adjusted for inflation

Bussers serve and refill glasses of water, clear, clean, and reset tables, and ensure service stations remain stocked with plates and cutlery.

Runners, on the other hand, provide support to servers by 'running' meals to the tables. Runners usually wait at the kitchen window and report to expeditors (see BOH positions).

Pros

  • Both jobs are starter positions that help you learn about how a restaurant works
  • Each role is a great way to move up or across to other positions

Cons

  • Both roles involve some mundane and repetitive work

Skills and Characteristics

  • Balance and attentiveness
  • Hard working and efficient
  • Organized and clean
  • Ability to anticipate customer needs

What do bussers and runners earn?

  • Generally, minimum wage + tip out

Restaurant Scheduling Software
for managers that want to stay in control

The easiest way to spend 80% less time scheduling your restaurant staff.

Try 7shifts for free.

BOH Positions: What's it Like?

If you love playing the supporting role, getting creative with ingredients and recipes, or just prefer to keep your head down and work hard, then a BOH position may just be the right fit.

Here's an overview of the the popular BOH positions to choose from:

Position Duties Pros Cons Skills Salary
Chefs Works in the kitchen creating food for guests Able to use creativity and work in a fast-paced environment Long work hours and physically demanding Creative, hard-working and a leader $52,160
Dishwasher Cleans dishes Superb entry-level position Lots of standing, late nights, and exposure to chemicals Fast worker and attentive $23,190
Expeditor Checks order accuracy and ensures food goes out on time Opportunity to make good tips Stressful and long work hours Organized, attentive, and excellent communicator $32,961

And here's some more detail on what it's like working each FOH position:

Chefs have specialized culinary experience and training and often take on managerial and operational responsibilities. Chefs can also be involved in menu development and bring ingredients to life to make signature, unforgettable dishes.

The duties, roles, and responsibilities vary significantly depending on the type of chef position, and different restaurant’s need different types. There are several:

The Executive Chef, also known as the Chef de Cuisine, Chef Manager, Head Chef, or Master Chef. These chefs are generally found in larger restaurants and do not concentrate on the daily operations in the kitchen. Instead, they focus on producing quality food and tweaking the menu for the better.

The Sous Chef who is second in charge. This chef is usually more hands-on compared to the executive chef and is involved in prepping, plating, and inventory management. This is a high-pressure position involving lots of hard work.

Chef de Partie or Line Cook who is responsible for a specific station or section in the kitchen. This means you can have a variety of chefs from fry chef, fish chef, meat chef, and pastry chef.

Pros
  • Tap into your creativity to create beautiful dishes
  • It can be refreshing working in a fast paced and busy restaurant
Cons
  • Long work hours. In fact, chefs are known to work the longest hours in the restaurant industry
  • Being a chef is physically demanding as you're on your feet all day
Characteristics and Skills
  • Attentiveness
  • Creativity
  • Hard work
  • Team player
  • Leadership skills, especially if you’re a Sous or Executive chef
  • Positive attitude
What Does a Chef Earn?

The average salary for a chef and head cook is $52,160.

Dishwashers clean dishes, manage and organize the dish pit, and operate the dishwasher. They ensure there's always enough cutlery, plates, and glassware available for a smooth service.

Pros
  • You can work in a team environment
  • You don’t need any specific degree or formal training for this position
  • It’s a fantastic starting role for BOH positions with dishwashers often working their way up to prep and line cooks
  • Free meals
Cons
  • Work isn’t the most stimulating as you’re cleaning dish after dish
  • There’s lots of standing, late nights and regular exposure to handling chemicals and cleaners
Characteristics and Skills
  • Discipline and strong work ethic
  • Efficient and organized
  • Team player
  • Attention to detail
What Do Dishwashers Earn?

The average annual salary of a dishwasher is $23,190.

Expeditors are the communication link between the FOH and BOH. They’re especially common in fine-dining restaurants.

Duties
  • Checks for order accuracy
  • Ensures food goes out in the right order and on time
  • Reviews the final presentation
  • Communicates special requests to the kitchen
Pros
  • You get a strong sense of accomplishment when everything runs smoothly between FOH and BOH
  • There’s an opportunity to make solid tips depending on where you work
Cons
  • Long work hours
  • This is a stressful job in some fast-paced restaurants

Characteristics and Skills

  • Organization skills
  • Good communicator
  • Attention to detail
  • Solid time management
How much expeditors earn?

Earnings depend on the type of establishment, though average salaries are $32,961.⁵

How to Choose the Right Restaurant to Work In

Once you know what job you want, it’s time to find the type of restaurant you want to work in. Finding a restaurant can be tricky, especially as there are so many different restaurant types, including fast-casual chains, bakeries, bistros, pizzerias and food trucks.

The good news? All the different types fall under four main types. In the next section, you’ll learn about what makes each type different, and the pros and cons to guide your search and help you make the right decision for you. Most importantly, you'll learn how important culture fit is to picking the right restaurant.

The Four Major Restaurant Types

1. Fast Food Restaurants Without Table Service

Fast food establishments prepare food ahead of time and assemble to order. As a result, they deliver food, you guessed it, fast. These establishments generally only provide counter service, and diners don’t expect fancy dishes.

Pros
  • These tend to be bigger chains, with plenty of room for career advancement
  • Free and discounted fast food
  • Meet some interesting people and friendly regulars
  • There are many BOH positions available
  • No culinary training or certification is required
Cons
  • Because there are generally only counter services, a limited number of FOH positions are available
  • Working in the drive-through window can be challenging, especially when communicating order delays with guests
  • Limited to no cash tips, smaller chains my have a tip jar for a shift crew to share

2. Restaurants Offering Table Service

These restaurants staff waiters who serve patrons, take orders, and expedite orders to the kitchen to be prepared, collected, and delivered to customers.

Bistros, family-style restaurants, diners, and fine-dining restaurants usually all follow this type of service model. Customers expect higher quality food and longer food preparation times compared to fast food chains.

Pros

  • There’s no shortage of positions with many FOH and BOH position available
  • There are superb opportunities to make cash tips
  • You can meet interesting people
  • You’re often afforded higher levels of autonomy and creativity in the kitchen, particularly in fine dining restaurants
Cons
  • There are higher expectations and pressure on you to deliver quality service
  • Depending on the position you’re applying for, you may need culinary training and certification
  • The kitchen environment can be stressful and challenging

3. Takeout or Food Delivery Restaurants

Takeout restaurants prepare meals for customers to eat elsewhere, usually at home. Virtual restaurants, a new variation on this type, are a growing phenomenon in the restaurant industry. They typically have limited space and keep a lean FOH staff.

Many new restaurants are popping up that focus exclusively on this concept, with other existing restaurants branching out to offer a new concept through these virtual restaurants.

Pros
  • Many BOH positions and shifts available
  • Limited customer interaction
Cons
  • Focus on takeout and delivery limits the number of FOH positions
  • Difficult to control demand, unexpected rushes may overwhelm kitchen
  • Existing restaurants that offer virtual restaurants puts added pressure on the
  • FOH staff need to attend to in-house guests and manage take-out/delivery
  • Limited  to no cash tips to be made

4. Food Trucks

A food truck is a mobile kitchen that prepares a limited menu of fresh meals to hungry customers wherever they might be.

Pros
  • Location changes depending on where the demand is
  • Meet clientele from different neighborhoods
  • Great way to test out a new restaurant concept without much risk
  • Service is intimate as you interact with customers one on one

Cons

  • Income can be seasonal and dependant on weather
  • There aren't very many jobs available working for a food truck unless you want to be the owner or chef
  • You have to work in a small, cramped space

Finding a Great Fit: What Is Restaurant Culture?

When it comes to choosing the restaurant you want to work in, culture fit is important to consider. Great culture fit makes for an effortless transition into a new crew or staff, a bad culture fit may lead you and your employer to part ways before long.

But what does a good culture fit in a restaurant look like?

A restaurant's culture refers to its values, goals, beliefs, and attitude. It’s the personality of the organization and standards or principles it expects its staff to abide and embody. For example, looking back at my first job, working at a startup, the culture was relaxed and didn’t have a corporate vibe that many large companies have.

You could arrive to work in jeans, it was an open office, and I found the majority of my colleagues friendly and approachable. It also placed a huge emphasis on autonomy and initiative. These were vital aspects that drew me to the company in the first place. There was, as they say, a culture fit.

When deciding whether or not to work at a restaurant, you also need to look for signs of a good culture fit. For example, if you’re you’re friendly, relaxed, family-oriented, creative, and care about producing sustainable food, find a restaurant that shares as many of your values you can.

How to Find a Restaurant That’s a Great Culture Fit

Here are five tips to identify your own values and your future employer's culture

  1. Eat at the restaurant before applying to get a feel for the culture
  2. Watch how waitstaff interact with the bar or kitchen. Are they on good terms or are they at odds?
  3. Talk to employees about their experience working at the restaurants you are applying
  4. Ask about the company culture during your interview with the manager (more on this soon)
  5. Understand your values. Maybe you don’t know what your values are. That’s okay, connecting with your values can be difficult if you've never done it before. Take an online values inventory program to get started (see Sources).6 Clarifying your values will help you find a restaurant culture that shares and supports your values–and that will help you to thrive.

The restaurant industry is not for everyone. It is a very high stress environment. If you are thinking about transitioning out of the restaurant industry read our blog post to learn some practical ways you can improve your situation before throwing in the towel. Read This Before You Try Transitioning Out of the Restaurant Industry

Restaurant Scheduling Software
for managers that want to stay in control

The easiest way to spend 80% less time scheduling your restaurant staff.

Try 7shifts for free.

How to Get a Job Working at A Restaurant

Now that you know what position you want to apply for, you have a list of restaurants you want to work for, and you feel good about the culture of your top choices, it’s time to get a job.

Here's a step-by-step process to help you do that, to make it any easier, we'd have to do the hiring!

Step 1: Write An Outstanding Resume

Follow these tips to write a strong resume:

Tip 1: Focus on Certain Critical Elements
  • Start your resume with a clear, concise and objective statement that details any prior experience
  • Follow this with lists of previous restaurant jobs to demonstrate your expertise. Also, include your education.
  • Detail any certifications and specials skills, i.e., wine knowledge
  • Include contact details, so hiring managers can get hold of you.
Tip 2: Highlight job-specific skills

Detail skills that showcase your ability to do the job. For example, when applying for a service position consider including the following skills on your resume:

  • Ability to work in a team
  • Multitasking skills
  • Social skills
  • Aptitude for learning
  • Positive attitude
  • Problem-solving abilities

When detailing a skill, include an example or explanation that shows you have those skills and aren’t only listing them because you know it's what hiring managers want to read.

If you are interested in working in a restaurant, you should be aware of the different restaurant skills you will learn and need to learn in order to stand out. Read our blog post 20 Restaurant Skills You'll Quickly Learn on the Job (Updated) to learn the most in demand and valuable restaurant skills.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have restaurant-specific skills, list other jobs with transferable skills.

Tip 3: Proofread the Document

This ensures consistent formatting and prevents spelling errors.  A resume littered with spelling errors suggests a lack of professionalism and attention to detail.

Tip 4: Be Brief

Keep your resume to 1-2 pages, max. Many hiring managers will glance over a stack of resumes and throw away longer ones.

Pro Tip: Use these restaurant resume examples for inspiration:

  • Sample resume for restaurant server7
  • Bartender resume example8
  • Chef resume example9

Step 2: Apply for Work

Use these three methods to apply for work:

  1. Referrals. Reach out to family and friends to see if they have any contacts.
  2. Visit restaurants and drop-off your resume in person during quieter times, so you don’t disturb service. Make sure you’re well presented and friendly. Ask for the manager, see if they need help, have a conversation, be honest about your experience (tell them if you have none), and then leave your resume. This method is a nice touch and helps you stand out from other candidates.
  3. Check job sites like Indeed or GoodFoodJobs.com. One big drawback of this method is that you’re competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates. It is, however, always a good idea to cast your net wide and keep your options open.

Remember: While on your job hunt, odds are you’ll have to submit several applications and wait before hearing anything back. Follow up after one week with the person who received your resume–in person, during off-hours if possible, otherwise by email.

Step 3: Nail the Interview

When someone contacts you and asks for an interview, it’s time to prepare. Here’s how:

  • Research the restaurant. Browse their website and familiarise yourself with their menu, concept, brand, and target market. This will help you answer questions during the interview stage and demonstrate to hiring managers you’re prepared and want the job.
  • Prepare a list of restaurant interview questions you’ll likely receive and practice how you'll answer. Here are some common ones you can expect:
    • Why do you want to work in a restaurant?
    • Why did you apply for a position here?
    • What can you tell me about our establishment?
    • What qualities do you have that make you a good fit for this role?
  • Be punctual. Arrive no later than 10 minutes before the interview starts.
  • Dress to impress. Interviews remain a formal event, so dress accordingly. If you’re a man, consider wearing clean slacks and a button-down shirt. If you’re a woman, a casual dress or blouse with pants will do.
  • Prepare questions you want to ask to help identify job fit and demonstrate enthusiasm.
  • Share your scheduling needs. State what you need in a schedule to thrive to prevent any scheduling issues, e.g., having advance notice of shift changes so you can manage your time.

What are the most common restaurant job interview questions you'll come across in the service industry and what's the best way to answer them? Read our blog post to find out: 12 Restaurant Job Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Step 4: Get Ready for a Trial Shift

A trial shift will usually follow a successful interview. This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm, willingness to learn, and ability to work hard. You’ll be told when to arrive and what to bring.

The only thing left to do is knock the trial out the park! Here's how:

  • Listen to what the manager asks you to do
  • Ask questions if you’re unclear on any of your tasks
  • Maintain clear lines of communication with your team
  • Remain busy and be willing to help–find sidework that needs doing and do it!

And finally, remember, it's a trial shift, it's ok to make mistakes. That’s okay. The key is not to dwell or exaggerate the mistakes impact on your shift. Speak up, ask what you can do differently next time, and take it as a lesson. Smile, remain positive, and get back into your flow. Most managers will be understanding about mistakes, especially if you have little to no prior experience.

After your trial shift is over, thank your manager and the rest of the crew, and go home or do something relaxing. The hard part is done, and the decision is out of your hands.

A Final Few Words on Working in a Restaurant

Working in a restaurant is not kind of challenge that everyone is willing to take on. In fact, there are advantages (connecting with people, take home tips, and scheduling flexibility) and disadvantages (physical strain, long work hours and getting being in the weeds), that you need to consider and accept before deciding to join the industry.

If, however, you choose to pursue restaurant work, know that you now have all the tools to get started. You know how to:

  • Choose a restaurant position that will be fulfilling for you
  • Select a restaurant with a culture that aligns with what you want
  • Get hired at a restaurant by following a four step process

The only remaining question is Are you ready to start your journey working in a restaurant?


Sources:

  1. Restaurant 2019: How to Correctly Share Tips (Tip Pooling Vs. No Tip Pooling) with Software
  2. National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates in the United States
  3. Rising Restaurant Minimum Wage: How to Deal with it in 2018
  4. What Is the Average Bartender Salary by State
  5. ZipRecruiter's Expeditor Annual Salary Report
  6. Free Values Clarification & Personal Development Program
  7. Sample Resume for A Restaurant Server
  8. Bartender Resume Example
  9. Chef Resume Sample

Restaurant Scheduling Software
for managers that want to stay in control

The easiest way to spend 80% less time scheduling your restaurant staff.

Try 7shifts for free.

Nick Darlington
Nick Darlington

Nick Darlington (www.nickdarlington.com) is a B2B writer who conceives, writes and produces engaging website copy, blog posts and lead magnets for technology companies.