Important Restaurant and Food Service Job 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 almost always available and often well paid. Additionally, they can be opportunities to develop further skills that you can apply to many other professions. 

When most people think of restaurant and food service jobs, waiters and cooks usually come to mind. However, food services include food prep, table prep, event planning, cleaning, reception, and everything in between. Food services is often seen as a sub-industry within hospitality.

What Are Restaurant and Food Service Skills?

"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.

Although in some respects food service jobs are very similar from restaurant to restaurant, each business is unique.

There are 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 place their staff in more specialized roles. 

Restaurant workers might have to be artists, communicators, managers, or sometimes arbitrators (conflict and issue resolution is important in hospitality work). Not everyone can handle this type of work, but those who can often make a career of it.

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, or even across one role to the next. 

Types of Restaurant and Food Services Skills

Customer Service

Although customer service skills are 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/hostess and wait staff must nurture a welcome atmosphere. 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 their responsibilities seriously.

  • Customer Relations
  • Detail Oriented
  • Directing Customers
  • Engage with Public
  • Friendly
  • Ingratiating Customers
  • Interpersonal
  • Patient
  • People Skills
  • Verbal Communication
  • Service Oriented

Physical Speed and Strength

Servers need to carry awkward and sometimes heavy loads without stumbling or 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.

  • Ability to Learn Quickly
  • Enthusiastic
  • Fast Worker
  • Flexible
  • Multitasking
  • Working Quickly
  • Serving
  • Short Order Cooking

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 safely every day because restaurant staff members work together to keep themselves and their customers safe.

  • Compliance
  • Risk Assessment
  • Follow Food Safety Procedures
  • Safety
  • Conscientious

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 an unhappy diner might be less of a priority under rigorous demands of greater emergencies, keeping track of the needs of multiple tables in a noisy, chaotic environment is grueling work.

  • Attentive
  • Active Listening
  • Situational Awareness
  • Compliance
  • Cashing Out Customers
  • Cleaning Tables
  • Clearing Food
  • Enter Orders
  • Food Expediting
  • Food Allergies
  • Handling Money
  • Receive and Process Phone Orders
  • Resolve Guest Concerns
  • Waiting on Tables

Communication

The ability to communicate lies at the heart of both customer service and teamwork. From promoting 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.

  • Oral Communication
  • Written Communication
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Active Listening
  • Positive Attitude

More Restaurant and Food Services Skills

  • Assisting the Cook
  • Bartending
  • Bussing
  • Cooking
  • Dishwashing
  • Employee Relations
  • Food Knowledge
  • Hiring
  • Interviewing
  • Inventory Management
  • Maintain Workstation
  • Maintain Table Appearance
  • Management
  • Math
  • Operate Fryer
  • Operate Grill
  • Operate Oven
  • Ordering Supplies
  • Point of Sale Systems
  • Prepping Food
  • Presenting Menus
  • Refilling Condiments
  • Register Operation
  • Reservation Scheduling
  • Sanitation Procedures
  • Taking Orders
  • Team Building
  • Teamwork
  • Willing to Learn
  • Supervising

Review a Resume Highlighting Food Service Skills

This is a sample resume written for a food industry position. You may simply read the sample below or download the Word template by clicking on the link.

Restaurant Resume Example (Text Version)

Eaton Serviss
789 Pioneer Court
Anchorage, AK 99501
(123) 456-7890
eaton.serviss@email.com

HOST / SERVER

Charismatic and customer-centric Host / Server with five years’ experience ensuring smooth and efficient front-of-house operations. Leverage excellent teamwork and patron relations aptitude to provide memorable dining experiences.

Core Competencies:

  • Provide consummately professional and attentive service to restaurant patrons.
  • Flawless accuracy in all cash-handling and credit processing responsibilities.
  • Display tact and sensitivity in responding to customer concerns and swiftly resolving issues.
  • Adept in use of Microsoft Office Suite, POS, and restaurant management software.

Professional Experience

GLACIER GRILL, Anchorage, AK
Host, May 2016–Present
Greet, seat, and take orders from patrons of one of Anchorage’s premier fine dining establishments. Describe daily specials, recommending wine and beverage pairings. Proactively monitor tables to assess customer satisfaction levels and resolve potential issues in formative stages.

  • Frequently requested by returning customers to serve as their host based on engaging and upbeat communications skills.
  • Meticulously maintained cleanliness of front-of-house tables and walkways.
  • Earned frequent commendations and performance awards from senior management for positive teamwork and service excellence.

THE SEASIDE BREWHOUSE, Anchorage, AK
Server, March 2014–April 2016
Concurrent with education, honed aptitude in customer service and front-of-house operations. Scope of responsibility included welcoming customers, taking orders, and serving food and drinks to tables.

  • Demonstrated superb short-term memory skills by immediately and accurately memorizing customer orders for beverage and menu items.
  • Easily juggled serving responsibilities for multiple tables within fast-paced service environment.

Education & Certification

Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Administration (2016)
University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK

SafeServ Certification

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Add Relevant Skills to Your Resume: When you apply, you will have to read the job description carefully. Visiting the restaurant and getting a sense of how the place runs is not a bad idea, either.

Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: Depending on the amount of management required in the open position, you may or may not need a cover letter. If you do provide one, you should highlight the commonalities between what the job posting asks for and the skills you’ve used well in the past.

Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview Be prepared to give specific examples of when you used the skills listed above. It is not necessary for you to have used those skills strictly in a restaurant for them to be valuable in discussions during your interview.