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Waiters and Waitresses

California Occupational Guide Number 42
Interest Area 9

WAITERS and WAITRESSES work in a lot of other places besides restaurants.  
You could work in hotel or motel dining rooms, coffee shops, diners, or 
other places where food and drinks are served.

To be a Waiter or Waitress you have to be able to think fast and have a 
good memory and be good at arithmetic.  That's because in a lot of places 
the customers want their food right away, and you have to be able to 
remember their orders and write them down on the check correctly.

You have to add up the items on the check without making a mistake and be 
able to figure out the tax.

In fancier places the customers are not in so much of a rush, but that also 
means they expect extra courtesy and better service.  So, in these places 
you can relax a bit more, but you have to pay more attention to the 
customers.  They might want you to explain what goes into their meal and how 
it is cooked.  You might recommend what wine they'd like to drink or you 
might prepare simple items like salads at the table.

Some smaller restaurants might have you doing things other types of workers 
are usually expected to do, like showing customers to their tables, or 
cleaning and setting up tables, or refilling salt and pepper shakers and 
making sure the mustard and ketchup bottles are full.


Working conditions are generally nice.  You work in clean, comfortable 
places, but there can be a lot of stress because you often have to work very 
fast under pressure during busy hours.  Waiters and Waitresses have to do a 
lot of bending, carrying, lifting, reaching, standing, and stretching.  The 
job has some dangers.  It's possible to get burned by hot liquids or slip on 
food on the floor or to get hit by swinging doors.


The California Projections of Employment, published by the Labor Market 
Information Division of the Employment Development Department, estimates 
that the number of Waiters and Waitresses in California will reach 323,240 
by 2005, an increase in new jobs of 109,830 over the number there was in 

There will also be an estimated 140,670 job openings due to people retiring 
or leaving the occupation.  Added to the 109,830 new jobs expected, this 
makes for an estimated total of 150,500 job opportunities through 2005.

(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)

Over the next ten years, there will be more job opportunities for Waiters 
and Waitresses than for any other kind of job in California.


Although some very few are paid as much as $12.25 per hour, Waiters and 
Waitresses are usually paid minimum wage, plus tips.  The amount of money 
you earn depends on the type of restaurant where you work.  The bigger the 
restaurant the more tips you get; the more expensive the restaurant the 
bigger the tips you get.  Waiters and Waitresses generally work a 40-hour, 
five-day workweek.

The employer usually provides one or two free meals per shift, depending on 
the length of the shift.  Some employers provide life insurance and health 
and dental insurance.  These benefits often are tied to and dependent upon 
the number of hours worked per week.  In some work places, uniforms are 
provided for Waiters and Waitresses and sometimes the employer takes 
responsibility for uniform laundering.

Some Waiters and Waitresses in California belong to the Hotel and Restaurant 
Employees and Bartenders International Union (AFL-CIO).


Waiters and Waitresses in restaurants that serve liquor must be at least 21 
years old to serve alcohol.  In some counties you have to pass a Food 
Handler course, which costs between $12.00 to $15.00, before being hired.  
Contact your county health department for a list of authorized schools that 
give the course.

In some Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc., restaurants knowing how to speak 
the language is a plus and sometimes necessary.


A few Waiters and Waitresses advance to supervisory jobs, like Head Waiter, 
Dining Room Supervisor, or Restaurant Manager. 


If you're interested in getting work as a Waiter or Waitress, you should 
contact employers directly or file an application with the California 
Employment Development Department.  You should also contact the local 
unions or read the newspaper want ads. 


The National Restaurant Association
150 Michigan Ave., Suite 2000
Chicago, IL  60601
(312) 853-2525

American Hotel and Motel Association
1201 New York Ave., NW  Suite 600
Washington, DC  20005-3931
(202) 289-3100


Bartenders                             No. 498


DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1)
Waiter/Waitress, Formal            311.477-026
Waiter/Waitress, Informal          311.477-030

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System
Waiter/Waitress                         650080

Source:  State of California, Employment Development Department,
         Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
         (916) 262-2162.

Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides

California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides