A head waiter is the main woman on the serving floor. This physically demanding position might have a high rank, but it doesn’t carry a high pay rate. But, if you’re good at what you do, you might just work your way up the ranks even further. As a head waiter you’ll take on two important roles: management and customer service.
A head waiter reports to the restaurant manager, maître d’ and executive chef. She’s responsible for all serving staff -- including bussers -- on the dining room floor. She’ll make sure customers are served on time and that tables are cleared. She also coordinates service with the maître d’. Larger dining establishments, such as banquet halls, hotels or high-end restaurants, typically have more than one head waiter on staff at a time. Smaller restaurants and dining establishments may only have one on duty per shift. If you’re working with another head waiter, it’s likely you’ll split the dining room and you’ll each have your own service staff and tables to monitor.
You might be in charge of your service staff, but you still serve food to your customers. In addition to serving customers, you’ll monitor how your team serves customers. It’s your job to make sure customers are accommodated, any complaints are addressed and resolved quickly and customers leave your establishment satisfied. You may fill in for the maître d’ by greeting customers and explaining specials. You and your servers are responsible for taking orders, relaying them to kitchen staff and preparing garnishes. In a high-end establishment you may not serve customers, but instead you’ll inspect each plate before it is presented to the customer.
As a head waiter, you take a few management duties from the restaurant manager. You might coordinate employee schedules, assign servers to tables and call in additional help when necessary. It’s likely you’ll handle hiring and training for service staff too. At the end of the night, you might be responsible for the cash drawer -- counting cash at the end of the shift, filling out reports for upper management and distributing tips from the tip pool.
Before service begins, it’s your duty to meet with kitchen staff and management to discuss the menu and specials offered for the day and review all ingredients. From there, you relay that information to service staff -- especially pointing out trigger ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction. In a fine dining establishment you might also coordinate with the sommelier -- the in-house wine specialist -- for a list of wine pairings that go with the menu offerings so you can relay that to your service staff.
2016 Salary Information for Waiters and Waitresses
Waiters and waitresses earned a median annual salary of $19,990 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, waiters and waitresses earned a 25th percentile salary of $18,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $26,590, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,600,500 people were employed in the U.S. as waiters and waitresses.
Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.