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How to Become a Server (Server Training Program)


Becoming a server in a restaurant can be both challenging and rewarding. Navigating the hustle and bustle of the dining room, ensuring customer satisfaction, and mastering the art of service is no small feat.

Fortunately, our team, backed by over a decade of experience in the restaurant industry, has put together an in-depth server training program to guide aspiring servers. Let’s see how to become a server.

Step 1: Explore Server Education Requirements

To become a server, one doesn’t necessarily need a formal degree. However, there are certain educational paths that can benefit those looking to excel in the role:

  • High School Diploma or Equivalent: This is often a baseline requirement, and it provides essential skills in mathematics, communication, and more.
  • Vocational Training: There are vocational schools and programs that offer courses in hospitality and service, which can be a plus for potential servers.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality or Related Field: While not required, having this degree can be a strong advantage, especially for those looking to grow into managerial roles.

How long does it take to become a server?

Typically, becoming a server doesn’t require extended education or training. One can start as an entry-level server after a few weeks of on-the-job training.

Do I need experience to become a server?

While having experience is beneficial, many restaurants are willing to train new servers from scratch, especially if they demonstrate a passion for service and a willingness to learn.

Step 2: Start To Develop Server Skills (Server Requirements)

As you prepare to step into the role, understanding the essential skills of a server is vital.

Server skills & requirements

  • Customer Service: Ability to keep customers happy and handle complaints gracefully.
  • Memory Retention: Remembering orders and customer preferences.
  • Physical Stamina: Being on your feet for long periods.
  • Salesmanship: Promoting special menu items or upselling.
  • Multitasking: Handling multiple tables and tasks simultaneously.
  • Communication: Clear interaction with customers and the kitchen staff.
  • Teamwork: Collaborating efficiently with other staff members.
  • Time Management: Ensuring timely service for all customers.
  • Knowledge of Menu: Familiarity with the dishes, ingredients, and possible allergens.
  • Basic Math: For handling bills and calculating tips.

Server Duties And Responsibilities

  • Order Taking: Accurately recording customer orders.
  • Food & Beverage Serving: Delivering orders to the table efficiently.
  • Table Setting: Preparing tables for meals, including setting up items like napkins, utensils, and glasses.
  • Customer Interaction: Engaging with customers, answering questions, and providing recommendations.
  • Cleaning & Resetting: Ensuring the dining area and tables are clean for the next customers.
  • Handling Payments: Accurately processing payments, giving change, and managing tips.
  • Collaborating with Kitchen: Communicating with the kitchen about customer preferences or special requests.
  • Upselling: Promoting daily specials or premium menu items to guests.
  • Feedback Collection: Gathering feedback from customers to improve service.
  • Staying Updated: Being aware of menu changes, promotions, or restaurant events.

Step 3: Complete Relevant Server Training

Types of Training:

  • On-the-Job Training: Hands-on experience working alongside experienced servers.
  • Online Server Courses: Various platforms offer courses that cover the basics of being a server.
  • Workshops: Often hosted by hospitality institutions or restaurants to enhance specific service skills.
  • Server Training Manuals: Comprehensive guides that outline the duties and best practices for servers.

Server training template

For a comprehensive training experience, here’s a sample 5-day server training agenda that can be adopted:

Day 1: Introduction to Restaurant Operations: Understanding the flow and roles.

Day 2: Menu Mastery: Detailed walkthrough of the menu, ingredients, and common customer queries.

Day 3: Role-Play & Simulation: Practice order-taking, serving, and handling difficult situations.

Day 4: Shadowing Senior Servers: Observing and assisting experienced servers during live service.

Day 5: Feedback & Assessment: Review of the training and identifying areas of improvement.

Best Server Training Programs and Courses

Formal Education:

  • The Culinary Institute of America’s Hospitality Management program 
  • Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration 

Workshop Training:

  • National Restaurant Association’s Service Workshop 
  • Restaurant Server Training Workshop by Hospitality Training Center 

Online Training:

  • Udemy’s Comprehensive Server Training Course
  • Coursera’s Basics of Food & Beverage Service 
  • WaiterAcademy’s Online Server Training Program

How to Train a Server

From a trainer’s perspective, ensuring a comprehensive and hands-on training experience is crucial.

  1. Introduction to the Restaurant: Familiarize trainees with the establishment, its ethos, and the team.
  2. Menu Deep Dive: Cover the entire menu, discussing ingredients, cooking methods, and potential allergens.
  3. Soft Skills Training: Role-playing to simulate interactions with different types of customers.
  4. Sales and Upselling Techniques: Strategies to enhance restaurant revenue.
  5. Emergency Procedures: What to do in case of fires, health emergencies, or other unforeseen incidents.
  6. Bill Processing and POS System Training: Understanding the billing system, including handling cash and electronic payments.
  7. Feedback and Evaluation: Continuous assessment and feedback sessions to gauge the trainee’s progress.

Server training checklist

training checklist ensures no stone is left unturned.

  • Kitchen Orientation: Check if the trainee is familiar with the kitchen layout.
  • Safety Protocols: Check if safety guidelines are being followed.
  • Knife Skills: Assess the trainee’s proficiency with knife techniques.
  • Cooking Techniques: Gauge the trainee’s versatility with cooking methods.
  • Time Management: Monitor the trainee’s efficiency during service.
  • Collaboration: Evaluate the trainee’s teamwork skills.

Step 4: Get Additional Server Certifications

Pursuing additional certifications can bolster a server’s credentials, making them more valuable to employers.

Most common certifications for a server:

  • TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures): For alcohol service.
  • Food Handler’s Certificate: Certifying knowledge of safe food handling practices.
  • Customer Service Certification: Offered by various institutions to enhance service skills.

Does a server need certifications?

While not always mandatory, certifications like the Food Handler’s Certificate can be a requirement in certain establishments or states.

Server certification cost

The cost of certifications varies. For instance, the TIPS certification can range between $40-$50, while a Food Handler’s Certificate might cost $15-$20. It’s essential to research local requirements and costs.

Step 5: Prepare Your Server Resume

Crafting a compelling resume is your ticket to grabbing the attention of potential employers. Begin by listing your relevant work experience, placing emphasis on any server or hospitality roles.

Highlight key skills such as customer service, multitasking, and knowledge of POS systems. Always tailor your resume to the specific server job you’re applying for, underscoring any unique qualities or experiences that make you the ideal candidate.

Step 6: Apply For Server Jobs

  • Research: Before applying, research restaurants or establishments you’re interested in. This gives you insight into their values, customer base, and menu offerings.
  • Online Applications: Utilize job portals and websites to submit your resume. Ensure you follow the application instructions precisely.
  • In-Person Applications: Some establishments prefer walk-in applications. Dress appropriately and visit during non-peak hours.
  • Follow Up: After submitting your application, it’s good practice to follow up after a week to express your continued interest.

5 Most Popular Job Services for Servers

  • Indeed: A general job search platform with numerous server listings.
  • Glassdoor: Offers job listings along with company reviews.
  • Craigslist: Local listings often include server positions in the “Jobs” section.
  • Hospitality Online: Specific to the hospitality industry, this portal often lists server jobs.
  • Poached Jobs: A niche site for the restaurant industry.

Key Takeaways

  • Crafting a tailored resume is crucial in catching the attention of potential employers.
  • Servers can find job opportunities both online and by walking into establishments.
  • Certifications like Food Handler’s and TIPS can bolster a server’s credentials.
  • On-the-job training and continuous learning are invaluable for a server’s career growth.
  • Networking and leveraging relationships can be advantageous in finding server positions.
  • The restaurant industry offers ample room for career advancement for dedicated servers.
  • The role of a server demands excellent customer service skills, multitasking, and teamwork.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Entry-Level Server
  2. Head Server or Lead Server
  3. Maître d’ or Host/Hostess
  4. Restaurant Manager
  5. Sommelier
  6. Training and Development Specialist

Yes, many servers start their careers without formal education in the field, relying instead on on-the-job training and experience.

One can become a server without prior experience by starting in an entry-level position, showcasing a strong desire to learn, and capitalizing on on-the-job training opportunities.

The highest position a server can achieve, with experience and dedication, is a Restaurant Manager or even an owner, overseeing the entire operations of an establishment.

Personality plays a significant role in a server’s job, as interpersonal skills, patience, and a positive attitude greatly influence customer satisfaction.

Servers often grapple with long hours, demanding customers, multitasking during peak hours, and coordinating seamlessly with the kitchen and other staff.

Dominik Bartoszek

Dominik Bartoszek

8+ years Digital Marketer driven by data & AI. Helping restaurants grow more through online orders.

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