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Food Runner vs. Waiter: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Food runners and waiters are both common positions in the food service industry. Though they share some similarities, there are several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the differences between food runners and waiters, and we provide additional food service professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Food Runner?

Food runners are responsible for delivering food from the kitchen to the guests in a restaurant. They work in a fast-paced environment and must be able to keep up with the pace of service. Food runners must be able to remember the details of each order and deliver the food to the correct table. They must also be able to keep track of multiple orders at one time. In some restaurants, food runners may also be responsible for stocking supplies and cleaning dishes.

What is a Waiter?

Waiters are responsible for taking orders and serving food and drinks to customers in restaurants. They must be familiar with the menu in order to answer any questions the customer might have. They take the order from the customer, input it into the computer system, and then relay it to the kitchen staff. Once the food is ready, they bring it to the customer’s table and make sure they are satisfied with their meal. In some cases, they might also be responsible for cleaning the table and resetting it for the next customer.

Food Runner vs. Waiter

Here are the main differences between a food runner and a waiter.

Job Duties

Food runners fulfill a support role, helping the kitchen staff prepare and serve food to customers. As such, their job duties involve performing tasks that make the dining experience more enjoyable for patrons. These professionals take orders from guests, transport them to the waiting staff and present them to the customers. Food runners may also refill tables’ condiments and water glasses and clean up after meals.

In contrast, waiters work directly with customers to provide excellent service. They greet diners when they arrive at the restaurant and introduce the menu. Waiters take orders from customers and communicate them to the kitchen staff. They then bring the ordered dishes to the table and offer extras like condiments and napkins.

Job Requirements

Food runners and waiters typically only need a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the workforce. However, some restaurants may prefer candidates with some experience in customer service or the food industry. Additionally, many restaurants provide on-the-job training for new employees to teach them about the menu, how to take orders and other essential skills they need to succeed in their role.

Work Environment

Food runners and waiters work in different environments. Food runners typically work in fast-paced, high-volume restaurants that serve a variety of food options. They may also work at events or parties where they set up tables and chairs for guests to enjoy their meal.

Waiters work in more formal settings, such as upscale restaurants with white tablecloths and fine china. They often work during dinner hours when the restaurant is busiest. Waiters can also work in bars and clubs where they provide drinks to customers.


Both food runners and waiters need to have excellent customer service skills. This includes being able to take orders accurately, efficiently and politely. They also both need to be able to handle customer complaints in a professional manner.

Food runners need to be able to multitask and have good organizational skills. This is because they are responsible for getting the food from the kitchen to the table in a timely manner. They also need to be able to keep track of multiple orders at one time. Waiters need to be able to upsell customers on menu items and drinks. They also need to be able to calculate bills quickly and accurately.


Food runners and waiters both work in the food service industry. Food runners earn an average salary of $29,922 per year, while waiters earn an average salary of $34,524 per year. Both positions may see their salaries vary depending on the type of restaurant they work in, their location and their experience level.


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