Restaurant and Food Service Skills

Waitress serving a group of friends at a restaurant
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Working in food service can be an invaluable experience. Food service jobs are often available and often well paid. Additionally, they can be opportunities to develop further skills that you can apply to many other settings. 

Restaurant workers must often be artists, communicators, managers, and sometimes arbitrators (conflict and issue resolution can be surprisingly important). Not everyone can do this type of work, but some of those who can make a career of it.

How to Use Skills Lists

Although in some respects food service jobs are very similar from restaurant to restaurant, each place is also unique. There are also many different roles within restaurant work, and establishments vary in how they divide up responsibilities. Small restaurants might ask everybody to do a little bit of everything, while others are more specialized. 

When you apply, you will have to read the job description carefully. Visiting the restaurant and getting a sense of how the place runs could help.

Once you know what your prospective employer wants, you can showcase those skills in your application materials and your interview. Be prepared to give specific examples. The following discussion should help you learn what to focus on as you begin your job search.

Top Skills for Restaurant Jobs

"Back of house" restaurant employees prepare and present food or clean dishes, while "front of house" workers welcome and interact with customers.

Everyone works together as a team to create a memorable, pleasant experience for all patrons. There are certain skills that all foodservice jobs require, while others are distinct to the front of the house or are unique to one particular role. 

A chef does not necessarily have to know how to wait tables, while a server need not know how to cook (though knowing how to talk about food might be essential).

Although the type of restaurant does matter (proper behavior for wait staff is very different in a formal dining room versus a greasy-spoon-style diner), skills can usually be transferred from one venue to another, across styles and types of establishment. 

Customer Service

Although customer service skills are most obviously necessary for the front of the house, a strong service ethic is critical for everyone on the team, including those who never see patrons. The host or hostess and the wait staff must make diners feel welcome and cared for. Managers sometimes need to calm angry customers by explaining policies or addressing problems. Line cooks and dishwashers have invisible but critical roles in customer happiness and health and must take that responsibility seriously.

Physical Speed and Strength

Servers need to carry awkward and sometimes heavy loads without spilling. Dishwashers need to load and unload machines quickly without chipping plates or cutting themselves with knives. Side tasks, such as refilling salt shakers, must be done quickly and efficiently. The ability to move at a fast, steady pace, without distraction, is critical.

Safety Consciousness

Restaurants can be dangerous places.

Improperly handled food could sicken, or actually kill, customers. Mishandled cleaning products can cause chemical burns. Walking behind a busy line cook without remembering to say “behind you” could result in serious thermal burns or accidents with knives. Millions of people enter and leave restaurants every day without horrific accident because restaurant staffs work together to keep themselves and their customers safe.

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is closely related to safely. Servers must remember which diner ordered the special without mint and whether there might be flecks of pepper in the dressing because some people have serious and unusual allergies or preferences that must be met. Cooks must keep their tools and workstations scrupulously clean, or food poisoning might result.

Even when nothing direr than an unhappy diner is at stake, keeping track of the needs of multiple tables in a noisy, chaotic environment is grueling work.

Communication Skills

The ability to communicate lies at the heart of both customer service and teamwork. From describing the specials to putting in orders to reminding co-workers that the floor near the salad bar is slippery, restaurant workers must be able to communicate effectively.

List of Restaurant and Food Service Skills

  • Ability to Learn Quickly
  • Assisting the Cook
  • Bartending
  • Beverage Orders
  • Budgeting
  • Bussing
  • Cashing Out Customers
  • Cleaning Tables
  • Clearing Food
  • Communication
  • Customer Service
  • Cooking
  • Customer Relations
  • Detail Oriented
  • Directing Customers
  • Dishwashing
  • Employee Relations
  • Engage with Public
  • Enter Orders
  • Enthusiastic
  • Fast Worker
  • Flexible
  • Food Expediting
  • Food Knowledge
  • Food Preparation
  • Follow Food Safety Procedures
  • Friendly
  • Handle Cash and Credit Transactions
  • Handling Money
  • Hiring
  • Hostessing
  • Ingratiating Customers
  • Interpersonal
  • Interviewing
  • Inventory
  • Make Correct Change
  • Maintain Workstation
  • Maintain Restaurant
  • Maintain Table Appearance
  • Management
  • Math
  • Multitasking
  • Networking
  • Operate Fryer
  • Operate Grill
  • Operate Oven
  • Operate Sandwich Maker
  • Ordering Supplies
  • Patient
  • People Skills
  • Place Orders
  • Point of Sale Systems
  • Positive Attitude
  • Punctuality
  • Prepping Food
  • Presenting Menus
  • Public Relations
  • Receive and Process Phone Orders
  • Refilling Condiments
  • Register Operation
  • Reservation Scheduling
  • Resolve Guest Concerns
  • Sanitation Procedures
  • Service Oriented
  • Taking Orders
  • Team Building
  • Team Player
  • Teamwork
  • Technical Skills
  • Upbeat
  • Verbal Communication
  • Willing to Learn
  • Working Quickly
  • Serving
  • Short Order Cooking
  • Supervising
  • Waiting on Tables