AskDefine | Define waitress

Dictionary Definition

waitress n : a woman waiter

User Contributed Dictionary



waiter + -ess


  1. A female attendant who serves customers in a restaurant, cafe, or similar.


female waiter

Related terms


  1. To work as a waitress.

Extensive Definition

Waiting staff, wait staff, or waitstaff are those who work at a restaurant or a bar attending customers — supplying them with food and drink as requested. Traditionally, a male waiting tables is called a "waiter" and a female a "waitress." Some people prefer to use gender-neutral language, using waiter indiscriminately for males and females, waitperson, server, or waitron, an Americanism coined in the 1980s.
Waiting staff may also be employed in (mainly, large) private households, but there such specialization is rarer, with the general domestic staff performing the function of waiting staff. Waiting on tables is (along with nursing and teaching) part of the service sector, and among the most common occupations in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, as of May 2005, there were over 2.2 million persons employed as servers in the U.S.
Many servers are required by their employers to wear a uniform.

Duties of waiting staff

The duties of waiting staff include preparing tables for a meal, taking customers' orders, serving drinks and food, and cleaning up before, after and during servings in a restaurant. Depending on the restaurant, other less common duties may be required, such as singing birthday songs to customers who are celebrating a birthday. A theme restaurant may even require servers to dance (e.g. Joe's Crab Shack). There are now event caterers that outsource waiting staff to events and specific functions. Most servers are also required to carry certain items such as a pad and pen for orders, a lighter for candles, or some form of corkscrew or sommelier knife.
Silver service staff are specially trained to serve at banquets or high-end restaurants. They follow specific rules of service and it is a skilled job. They generally wear black and white with a long, white apron (extending from the waist to ankle). The head server is in charge of the waiting staff, and is also frequently responsible for assigning seating. The functions of a head server can overlap to some degree with that of the maître d'hôtel. Some restaurants employ busboys or busgirls, increasingly referred to as bussers, to clear dirty dishes, set tables, and otherwise assist the waiting staff.


In the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, most other Western countries and the Middle East, it is customary for customers to pay a tip to a server after a meal. In many U.S. states, waiting staff, like other "tipped" employees, can be paid a lower minimum wage than other occupations. 20% is considered standard in the U.S., with a possible range from 15% to 25% depending on the level and quality of service. In some situations, a tip or "service charge" will be included on the restaurant bill in the U.S. Also called a gratuity, a "service charge" will be automatically applied, e.g. for large tables, parties of 4 or more, or other situations where the restaurant management imposes this to ensure that the servers working in such situations earn their usual tip income. Such service charges are usually around 18%; an additional voluntary tip is sometimes given. There is some debate in the U.S. whether a "minimum tip" exists as a convention; some argue that 15% or 20% is a minimum tip or that it is extremely rude to not leave at least $1, even if the service was not up to standard. These issues are regional, cultural, and very subjective.
In Germany and other Western countries, where minimum wages exist for servers and where tipping is not culturally entrenched, most tips take the form of rounding up to the nearest whole or half denomination of currency when the server is cashing a party out at their table.
By contrast, servers in Japan refuse tips because it isn't a Japanese custom.
Tipping is not customary in Asia, Australia and New Zealand and is not factored into wages of staff. However, tips are appreciated especially if the customer or party has been unusually difficult or has left a mess. For example, parents of small children may leave a small tip.
The Tax Free Tips Act of 2007 would exempt tips from federal income and payroll taxes.


waitress in German: Kellner
waitress in Spanish: Camarero
waitress in French: Serveur (restauration)
waitress in Croatian: Konobar
waitress in Hebrew: מלצר
waitress in Dutch: Kelner
waitress in Japanese: ウェイター
waitress in Norwegian: Servitør
waitress in Polish: Kelner
waitress in Portuguese: Garçom
waitress in Sicilian: Cammarera
waitress in Simple English: Waiter
waitress in Slovenian: Natakar
waitress in Finnish: Tarjoilija
waitress in Swedish: Serveringspersonal
waitress in Chinese: 侍應

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