Career Development

What Does a Head Server Do?

Find out what a Head Server does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Head Server.

The Head Server role stands as the linchpin in the seamless operation of a dining establishment, ensuring that guests’ dining experiences exceed their expectations. This position involves a blend of leadership and coordination, as it requires overseeing the service team while also maintaining a direct line of communication with the kitchen and management. By setting the standard for service excellence, the Head Server not only trains and mentors staff but also handles the more complex aspects of guest interaction, from special requests to resolving any issues that may arise. Their adeptness at balancing operational efficiency with customer satisfaction plays a significant role in shaping the dining atmosphere, ultimately contributing to the restaurant’s reputation and success.

Head Server Job Duties

  • Oversee the dining area, ensuring all tables are properly set, clean, and ready for guests, including managing the layout to accommodate reservations and walk-ins efficiently.
  • Train new servers on restaurant protocols, menu items, and customer service standards to maintain a high level of service.
  • Coordinate with the kitchen staff to ensure timely preparation and delivery of food, addressing any delays or issues that arise.
  • Handle customer complaints and concerns with diplomacy and professionalism, working to resolve issues to the guest’s satisfaction.
  • Manage the scheduling of server shifts, taking into account peak dining times and staff availability, to ensure adequate coverage.
  • Perform opening and closing duties, such as balancing the cash register, checking inventory levels, and securing the establishment.
  • Lead by example, demonstrating exemplary service practices and encouraging teamwork among staff members.
  • Organize and oversee special events or private parties, coordinating with both the kitchen and service teams to ensure a seamless experience.

Head Server Salary & Outlook

Factors influencing a Head Server’s salary include the type of establishment (fine dining vs. casual), size and revenue of the venue, years of experience in the service industry, leadership skills, ability to manage high-pressure situations, and proficiency in customer service and conflict resolution. Upselling skills also significantly impact earnings through tips.

  • Median Annual Salary: $65,625 ($31.55/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $100,000 ($48.08/hour)

The employment of head servers is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing consumer spending in dining out, expansion of high-end restaurants, and a greater emphasis on customer service excellence, necessitating skilled Head Servers to manage dining room operations, train staff, and ensure an exceptional dining experience.

Head Server Job Requirements

Education: A Head Server typically holds a high school diploma, with education in hospitality management or culinary arts being advantageous. Courses in communication, leadership, and customer service are beneficial, enhancing the ability to manage dining staff and ensure exceptional guest experiences. Advanced classes in food safety and restaurant management further prepare individuals for the complexities of overseeing restaurant operations. While formal education beyond high school isn’t mandatory, it can provide a competitive edge in understanding the nuances of the hospitality industry.

Experience: Head Servers typically enter the role with a mix of backgrounds, including those new to the field and those with some experience in hospitality or restaurant service. Successful candidates often have a foundation in customer service, with on-the-job training playing a crucial role in skill development. Training programs may cover leadership, conflict resolution, and operational management, equipping Head Servers with the tools to oversee dining room activities, mentor staff, and ensure guest satisfaction. Experience in team coordination and a deep understanding of restaurant workflow are valuable.

Certifications & Licenses: Head Server positions typically do not require specific certifications or licenses. However, depending on the location, a Food Handler’s Permit or Alcohol Server Certification (e.g., TIPS, ServSafe Alcohol) may be necessary for compliance with local health and safety regulations.

Head Server Skills

Menu Knowledge: Familiarity with every ingredient, preparation method, and potential allergen in each dish enables a Head Server to confidently address guest inquiries and offer personalized recommendations. Such comprehensive knowledge enhances the dining experience, ensuring the safety and satisfaction of patrons and bolstering the establishment’s reputation for attentive service.

Wine Pairing: Matching the nuanced flavors of the menu’s offerings with the ideal wine elevates the dining experience, improving both the enjoyment of the meal and the establishment’s standing. This expertise hinges on a thorough understanding of wine varietals, regions, and vintages, as well as culinary tastes and textures, allowing the head server to guide guests through a curated gastronomic journey.

Tableside Service: Precision, timing, and personable communication are essential for executing flawless presentation and interaction at the guest’s table. These skills enable the Head Server to transform dining into an art form, combining culinary excellence with impeccable service.

Conflict Resolution: Addressing customer complaints and staff tensions with diplomacy and tact ensures a harmonious dining environment. The ability to quickly evaluate situations, communicate effectively, and find solutions that satisfy everyone involved is crucial for maintaining the establishment’s reputation for excellent service.

Staff Training: Conveying restaurant protocols and customer service expectations to new hires is critical for their seamless integration into the team. By creating an engaging training environment that encourages questions, a Head Server fosters a culture of continuous improvement among staff.

Reservation Management: Coordinating dining room bookings and managing customer expectations are key to a seamless dining experience, impacting the restaurant’s reputation and revenue. A meticulous approach to scheduling, the foresight to anticipate peak times, and the flexibility to adjust as needed are essential for ensuring guest satisfaction and optimal restaurant operation.

Head Server Work Environment

A Head Server operates in the bustling environment of a restaurant, where the physical setting is both dynamic and demanding. Their workspace is the dining area, where they navigate between tables, the kitchen, and the bar, equipped with essential tools like order pads, pens, and sometimes tablets for digital orders. The attire is usually uniform, reflecting the restaurant’s branding and ensuring a professional appearance.

Work hours can extend to late evenings, weekends, and holidays, highlighting the need for flexibility. This role demands constant interaction with both staff and patrons, requiring excellent communication skills and a high level of emotional intelligence to manage diverse personalities and occasional customer service challenges.

The pace is fast, with little room for error during peak dining times, making stress management crucial. Despite the demanding environment, opportunities for professional growth are abundant, with the potential to influence restaurant operations and mentor junior staff. Technology plays a significant role in streamlining tasks and enhancing customer service, underscoring the importance of adaptability in this role.

Advancement Prospects

A Head Server can advance to a Restaurant Manager or General Manager position, overseeing the entire restaurant operations. This progression requires a deep understanding of both front and back of house operations, along with exceptional leadership and customer service skills.

To achieve this, a Head Server should focus on mastering inventory management, staff scheduling, and financial reporting. Gaining experience in resolving customer complaints and improving dining experience is crucial.

Additionally, understanding the latest trends in the food and beverage industry can position a Head Server for opportunities in restaurant consultancy or opening their own establishment. Success in these roles is often predicated on a comprehensive grasp of market demands and operational efficiency.


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