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Career profile Food Service Assistant

Also known as Cafe Server, Cafeteria Server, Cafeteria Worker, Deli Worker (Delicatessen Worker), Food Server, Food Service Assistant, Food Service Worker, Prep Cook (Preparation Cook), School Cafeteria Cook, Server

Food Service Assistant

Also known as Cafe Server, Cafeteria Server, Cafeteria Worker

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Social
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$17,940 - $31,960 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Service Orientation
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Food Production
  • Sales and Marketing
Core tasks
  • Communicate with customers regarding orders, comments, and complaints.
  • Scrub and polish counters, steam tables, and other equipment, and clean glasses, dishes, and fountain equipment.
  • Accept payment from customers, and make change as necessary.
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What does a Food Service Assistant do?

Food Service Assistants perform duties such as taking orders and serving food and beverages.

In addition, Food Service Assistants

  • serve customers at counter or from a steam table,
  • may take payment,
  • may prepare food and beverages.

What kind of tasks does a Food Service Assistant perform regularly?

Food Service Assistants are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Communicate with customers regarding orders, comments, and complaints.
  • Scrub and polish counters, steam tables, and other equipment, and clean glasses, dishes, and fountain equipment.
  • Accept payment from customers, and make change as necessary.
  • Perform cleaning duties such as sweeping, mopping, and washing dishes, to keep equipment and facilities sanitary.
  • Request and record customer orders, and compute bills using cash registers, multi counting machines, or pencil and paper.
  • Balance receipts and payments in cash registers.
  • Clean and organize eating, service, and kitchen areas.
  • Serve food, beverages, or desserts to customers in such settings as take-out counters of restaurants or lunchrooms, business or industrial establishments, hotel rooms, and cars.
  • Prepare daily food items, and cook simple foods and beverages, such as sandwiches, salads, soups, pizza, or coffee, using proper safety precautions and sanitary measures.
  • Monitor and order supplies or food items and restock as necessary to maintain inventory.
  • Brew coffee and tea, and fill containers with requested beverages.
  • Serve customers in eating places that specialize in fast service and inexpensive carry-out food.
  • Wash dishes, glassware, and silverware after meals.
  • Collect and return dirty dishes to the kitchen for washing.
  • Wrap menu item such as sandwiches, hot entrees, and desserts for serving or for takeout.
  • Notify kitchen personnel of shortages or special orders.
  • Prepare and serve cold drinks, or frozen milk drinks or desserts, using drink-dispensing, milkshake, or frozen custard machines.
  • Select food items from serving or storage areas and place them in dishes, on serving trays, or in take-out bags.
  • Replenish foods at serving stations.
  • Perform personnel activities such as supervising and training employees.

The above responsibilities are specific to Food Service Assistants. More generally, Food Service Assistants are involved in several broader types of activities:

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials
Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.

What is a Food Service Assistant salary?

The median salary for a Food Service Assistant is $23,860, and the average salary is $24,540. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Food Service Assistant salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Food Service Assistants earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Food Service Assistants earn less than $17,940 per year, 25% earn less than $19,800, 75% earn less than $27,920, and 90% earn less than $31,960.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Food Service Assistants is expected to change by 15.0%, and there should be roughly 804,600 open positions for Food Service Assistants every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$17,940 - $31,960
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Food Service Assistants?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Food Service Assistant are usually higher in their Realistic, Social, and Conventional interests.

Food Service Assistants typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Also, Food Service Assistants typically have moderate Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Lastly, Food Service Assistants typically have moderate Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Food Service Assistant tend to value Relationships, Support, and Working Conditions.

Most importantly, Food Service Assistants moderately value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Food Service Assistants moderately value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Lastly, Food Service Assistants very slightly value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Food Service Assistants must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, self-control, and stress tolerance.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Food Service Assistants, ranked by importance:

Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.

What education and training do Food Service Assistants need?

Working as a Food Service Assistant may require a high school diploma or GED certificate.

Food Service Assistants need anywhere from a few days to a few months of training. Usually, an experienced worker could show you how to do the job.

Educational degrees among Food Service Assistants

  • 14.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 38.0% completed high school or secondary school
  • 25.8% completed some college coursework
  • 7.9% earned a Associate's degree
  • 11.2% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 1.9% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.4% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Food Service Assistants

Food Service Assistants may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as customer and personal service, food production, or sales and marketing knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Food Service Assistants might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Food Production
Knowledge of techniques and equipment for planting, growing, and harvesting food products (both plant and animal) for consumption, including storage/handling techniques.
Sales and Marketing
Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.

Important Abilities needed by Food Service Assistants

Food Service Assistants must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Food Service Assistants need abilities such as oral comprehension, speech recognition, and oral expression in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Food Service Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Speech Recognition
The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Speech Clarity
The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

Critical Skills needed by Food Service Assistants

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Food Service Assistants frequently use skills like active listening, service orientation, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Food Service Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Service Orientation
Actively looking for ways to help people.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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