A food service worker can perform many duties. His or her job description and the general requirements may be different depending upon the employer. The area in which one works may also make a difference, as some areas have more stringent requirements.
As a waiter, waitress, or bartender in a restaurant, one may not need a food service worker certificate or license, while in other areas certification is necessary even for bussers and dishwashers. A food service professional employed by a hospital, nursing home, school, or other institution may also require further education as well as documentation.
The waitress, waiter, or bartender is generally responsible for serving food or drinks as his or her main duty. Additional duties are also typical, including “side work” which may include refilling condiments and other supplies, cleaning work stations, collecting the bill, and making change. In higher end restaurants and lounges, choosing wine, explaining food preparation, proper table setting, and even napkin folding may be required.
A busser is generally responsible for clearing tables but may also be required to reset them. Cleaning work stations and emptying trash may also be included in the busser’s duties. Dishwashers are charged with keeping dishes, utensils, pots, pans, and other containers or tools clean, sanitized, and returned to their proper places.
The food service worker employed by an institution, such as a school, is likely to be required to have some education in sanitation and nutrition. In many areas, there are very specific guidelines for school meals that must be followed. Certain amounts of foods from each of the food groups must be included, so significant planning goes into each menu long before food preparation begins.
Food must be handled appropriately as well. Unwrapped food must be handled only while wearing gloves. Cold foods and hot foods must be kept at appropriate temperatures. Food storage is also important, as uncooked meat should never be stored above or near ready-to-eat food to avoid contamination. Proper serving and clean up are also essential.
The above guidelines apply to the food service professional in other institutional settings as well, since improper sanitation or handling of food can lead to food related illness. There are many regulations as well as common sense guidelines, which must be followed to ensure quality food service. Food poisoning and similar issues are huge liabilities. In hospitals or nursing homes, even prisons, the food service worker may need to plan and prepare menus to meet special dietary needs as well.