Important Waiter / Waitress Skills for Resumes & Cover Letters

Image by Maddy Price © The Balance 2019 

Being a waiter or waitress can be a challenging job. The work is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. You’re likely to spend hours on your feet, rushing about managing several tables of customers. While the potential for higher pay through tips, this work is not for everyone.

Waiters and waitresses are responsible for greeting patrons, seeing to their needs, and delivering prompt, accurate service.

Being a waiter requires specific hard and soft skills to succeed. They're required to take orders, stay attuned to the needs of the customer, and be effective communicators. Somewhat strenuous physical exertion is required of waiters and waitresses, like lifting heavy trays and moving quickly between the kitchen and dining room.

What Kind of Skills Do You Need to be a Waiter/Waitress?

Communication

Waiters and waitresses must be attentive listeners and engaging communicators. A good waiter or waitress should be able to remember the needs of their customers in order to communicate unique preferences clearly to the cooking staff. Additionally, they should also be able to remember and convey any messages, should the kitchen wish to communicate anything to the customer.

Customers may ask questions about menu items or other details, and a good waiter or waitress should be able to converse with the customer in such a way as to answer questions and meet their needs simply and thoroughly.

  • Active Listening
  • Memory
  • Greeting
  • Verbal Communication
  • Attentiveness
  • Positive Attitude

People Skills

Part of good customer service is maintaining a high level of interpersonal skill. Restaurant patrons can, at times, be demanding and even rude. A good waiter should be able to meet the needs of the customer, even when they’re not being entirely reasonable. A high energy and diplomatic comportment, even in the face of interpersonal conflict, could affect your tip-dependent income. 

Bearing

Being a waiter or waitress will often mean you need to hustle.Working at a fast pace is critical, but so is maintaining an appearance of assuredness and calm. A good waiter or waitress will move swiftly without appearing to run or rush. A high level of focus and attention makes working quickly easier, because when you’re honed in on the details of your respective patrons and tables, you’ll be meeting their needs quickly so that you do not waste time concluding service for one set of customers while receiving new ones.

  • Deliver Orders
  • Dining Room Set Up
  • Efficient
  • Energetic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Flexible
  • Motivation
  • Prioritizing
  • Waiting on Tables
  • High Energy
  • Stress Tolerance

Multitasking

Waiters are always managing several things at once. Sometimes one table will be ordering cocktails at the start of their meal while another meal has moved onto dessert. Each table moves through its own little life cycle from initial seating to paying the check, and it’s critical that waiters and waitresses remain attuned to the status of each table in a given moment.

  • Awareness
  • Bus Tables
  • Agility
  • Cleaning
  • Follow Instructions
  • Input Orders
  • Money Handling
  • Attention to Detail

Good Memory

Each customer is unique. Some may insist on a certain meal without a certain ingredient. Some want lemon in their diet soda, while others want Splenda for their unsweet tea. A pad and pen will come in handy, but nevertheless, a waiter or waitress must possess an innate ability to recollect all sorts of mundane details, again and again, over the course of a shift. A waiter will also be required to remember details about the menu, including seasonal or daily changes.

  • Order Accuracy
  • Menu Knowledge
  • Sensitivity to Food Allergies/Intolerance
  • Basic Math
  • Compliance

More Waiter/Waitress Skills

  • Presentation
  • Bartending
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Mild Sales
  • Thoroughness
  • Professionalism
  • Hospitality
  • Stamina
  • Teamwork
  • POS Systems
  • Confidence
  • Empathy
  • Bilingual
  • Fast Learner
  • Depth Perception
  • Adaptability
  • Conflict Management
  • Cash Registers
  • Dexterity
  • Management
  • Color Vision
  • Critical Thinking
  • Intuition
  • Initiative
  • Personal Ethics
  • Judgment

Review Resume and Cover Letter Examples

Review resume and cover letter samples and templates for waitstaff jobs.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Add Your Most Relevant Skills to Your Resume: You can use these skill words in your resume, both in the initial summary of qualifications and in your descriptions of your work history.

Highlight Your Skills in Your Cover Letter: You should also try to incorporate many of these keywords in your cover letter. Mention at least two or three of these skills in the body of your letter, providing specific examples of times when you demonstrated them at work. 

Use Skill Words During Job Interviews: Make sure, before you go into your interview, that you have at least one example of when you demonstrated each of the skills listed above.