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How To Get A Serving Job With No Experience

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Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

So you’re looking to get a new job as a server? Welcome to the team! 

A serving job can bring you lifelong skills and relationships. You will gain strong multitasking abilities, communication skills, and lots of patience to work in the food service industry.

It’s a common misconception that finding a waitstaff job at a restaurant is easier than finding a corporate job or a trade job. However, waiting tables is not as easy as it may seem, and most restaurants are looking for candidates with several years of serving experience. But there’s no need to worry, we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll break down the steps you need to take to get a service job even if you don’t have any experience.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Why become a restaurant server?

There are many reasons you should consider a job serving. 

Here are some common reasons why someone might choose to become a restaurant server:

  1. Flexibility - The restaurant industry often offers flexible work hours, you don’t usually have to work 9-5. This can be appealing to individuals with other commitments, such as students, parents, or those pursuing additional interests or part-time work.

  2. Income - Servers often have the opportunity to earn tips, which can significantly boost their income. When you need more income you can simply work more hours. The busier shifts you work, the more money you can make.

  3. Social interaction - If you enjoy meeting new people and engaging in conversations, serving in a restaurant provides a platform for regular social interaction.

  4. Fast-paced atmosphere -The fast-paced nature of restaurant work can be appealing if you thrive in dynamic environments. There is a lot less standing around compared to slower jobs, which can make your shift go by faster.

  5. Transferable skills - Especially if this is your first job, there are so many valuable skills you can gain working in a restaurant. Some skills include time management, communication, teamwork, and customer service experience.

Beyond these examples, being a part of a restaurant team is something special. Not only do you host people’s best nights but you build relationships along the way. Working alongside co-workers during chaotic shifts is a bonding experience unlike any other. In this industry, you get the opportunity to work with people of different ages, backgrounds, goals, and so much more. A restaurant has a unique work environment worth exploring.

How to find a serving job with no experience 

Now let’s get into it – how do you actually find a serving position? It may take patience and persistence, but we’ve included good tips for you below.

Here are some important steps to landing a server job:

1. Write your resume

A restaurant resume including all your past restaurant experience is essential. Include all restaurant experience: were you a busser? Food runner? Host? A well-rounded restaurant team member makes for a better hire than someone who can only wait tables. Also, make sure to include any experience you have using a point of sale. Even if the restaurant uses a different POS system than what you’re familiar with, it’s still a useful skill.

However, if this is your first restaurant job, that’s okay too! Create a resume as best you can with any work you’ve done previously. For example, if you’ve worked in retail you have experience in customer service. Did you babysit? Congrats, you’ve worked with a wide range of ages and showed flexibility and punctuality. 

If you’re in high school or have zero work experience to add to your resume, don’t panic. The restaurant industry is constantly fighting staffing issues and everyone starts somewhere. Just know, it may be difficult to start at a server position at most restaurants. Management might want you to start as a host and work your way up – and that’s okay! It’s important to work in different roles to best understand how the restaurant flows.

A pro tip to help is to get your food handlers card and be TIPS certified in your city.

Need some help crafting your resume? No worries, check out our article on How to Create a Server Resume (Skills, Examples) here.

2. Decide on a location

Once your resume is ready to go it’s time to decide where you want to work. First, decide on a location. What city or neighborhoods are most convenient for you? It’s important to consider your daily commute and how you will get to work each day.

Once you have your location down, narrow your search to restaurants you want to work at. Make a list of your favorites. If this is your first restaurant job, consider a neighborhood joint that doesn’t get too chaotic. To find a restaurant that’s more high volume, and will make you the most tips, Google restaurants in that area that are “most popular”, “new restaurants”, “best restaurants” or are simply restaurants you love. 

If you’re more interested in a smaller restaurant that’s less chaotic, Google restaurants that are “small businesses”, “wine bars”, “bistros”, or “hole-in-the-wall restaurants”. TikTok is a great resource to use for a visual of different restaurant types.

3. Go door to door

You may not like this step, but it’s essential. Take your resume and go door to door to the restaurants you included on your list. Actually going in person shows initiative that you want to work, and you’re willing to hustle. Make sure you look up the restaurants’ hours, but showing up between 2 - 4 pm and asking for a manager tends to work well. Don’t show up to a restaurant on a Friday at 7 pm asking for a manager – you’ll want to time your visit for off-peak hours. 

Once inside, ask the host/bartender for the manager. If they say the manager is not in yet, politely ask what time they can expect them to come in. Avoid leaving your resume with any staff members other than management. When the manager greets you shake their hand, and tell them you’re interested in working at the restaurant. Offer them the resume, and ask if they’re hiring. Even if they say they’re not hiring, insist on leaving the resume just in case and for the future. And of course, make sure to thank them! Easy work!

4. Prepare to interview

Next comes the interview. Some managers will contact you after you give them your resume and some might interview you on the spot. So make sure you’re prepared for an interview at any moment. Dress to impress for your interview. This means wearing business casual attire.

If the restaurant provided a job description use it to your advantage. Read what qualifications they highlighted in the description and make sure to talk about them in your interview. For example, if a qualification is using a restaurant POS, talk about your experience and which POS you used. In fact, talk about your work experience in any capacity. Previous experience is key here is applicable. 

It’s also important to review menu items before an interview so you can come prepared with any questions and already have an understanding of what the restaurant serves.

Some common interview questions for servers are:

  • Why do you want to work at this restaurant?

  • Do you prefer to work with a team or independently?

  • What does hospitality mean to you?

  • How would you go about upselling a menu item?

  • What are your desired work hours and availability?

If this is your first interview, that’s exciting! Be yourself and explain why you want a job at their establishment. Explain your work ethic and give as much availability for scheduling as possible.

Need more interview prep? We got you covered! Check out this article on Interview Questions for Restaurant Server Candidates (Examples).

Lastly, make sure to get the email of the manager who interviewed you. A follow-up thank you email after your interview goes a long way. 

As soon as possible, write something like:

Dear (manager name),

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. It was a pleasure to meet you and learn more about (restaurant name). Please let me know if I can provide any further information. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely,

(your name)

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5. Attend a stage shift

The next step is typically to attend a stage shift. A stage shift has different meanings for different roles in a restaurant. However, for front of house, a stage shift is when you come in for a shift and see if you’re a good fit for the restaurant. This is an opportunity for you to see if you like this restaurant, and for the restaurant staff to make sure you’re the right person for the job. This way, you’re not wasting time on either side.

When preparing for a stage shift just remember to be yourself. Ask the manager about the dress code, and come prepared with an apron, pens and paper, and knowledge of the menu. Ask as many questions as you need and do the best you can. It’ll either be a natural fit or not. Regardless of how the stage shift goes, thank the staff that trained you and the manager.

From here you and the manager will decide whether or not to proceed with the hiring process. Typically after the shift you’ll either politely decline the job or start filling out your new hire paperwork. Make sure to bring 2 forms of ID to your stage shift just in case.

What to consider to get a job

There are a few things to consider when trying to find a serving job. These variables may affect how difficult it is to become employed.

  • Busy season - Understanding a restaurant’s busy season can help you know when to apply. This depends on a restaurant’s location and concept, but typically the early fall and late spring are great times for hiring.

  • Holidays - If you are applying for a job close to the holidays, managers may expect you to work over certain holidays. This is because you’re new to the business and don’t have tenure yet. Make sure you’re aware of this if you want to keep your job.

  • Personality - Be personable when speaking to management. Personality hires are a real thing, especially in an industry where you’re working face-to-face with customers every day. You can have all the experience in the world, but if you don’t come in with a good attitude, you may not get hired.

  • Employment resources - There are many apps and resources that can help you find a restaurant job. Check out Harri hire, Indeed, and Culinary Agents. We recommend you use these to find job listings but still apply in person.

Lastly, don’t work somewhere you wouldn’t dine at yourself. But at the same time, don’t work somewhere where they consider you a regular. Choose a restaurant with the right ambiance for you. It’s important to like where you work.

How to be a good server

Before you can start dazzling guests with your stellar customer service you need to master the basics. 

Part of that starts with being a good teammate, which means mastering your side work. From there, it's all about optimizing your interactions.

The following steps outline the foundational skills you need to be a good server.

  1. Study and memorize the steps of service.

  2. Know the menu inside out and backwards.

  3. Get comfortable with your POS system.

  4. Learn your restaurant’s allergy protocol.

  5. Complete any necessary certification courses (and always be learning.)

  6. Wear non-slip shoes.

  7. Get a checkbook for your receipts, tips, and orders.

  8. Buy a ton of pens. 

For more tips on how to be a good server (and make more tips!), check out this article.

Serving up jobs

You now know what it takes to get a server job. It’s up to you to go out there and find it. The restaurant industry can be a rewarding place to work- start your career today! Toast has plenty of server resources to help you along the way. Check out more server content below, and good luck with your job search!

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.