Food Service Skills You Need to Succeed in 2021

photo of a food service delivery worker in a face mask, as per covid regulations in his state

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Being a restaurant worker is a demanding job, so you must have excellent food service skills to be successful.

For one thing, you can expect to be on your feet for hours at a time, rushing from place to place, carrying heavy loads. Also, a big part of your job is delivering excellent customer service, which requires having a great memory for taking orders and exhibiting diplomacy if issues arise. Furthermore, having the ability to interact positively with other personality types in a fast-paced setting is a must.

The upside to being a food service worker is that the position can be lucrative, fun, and rewarding. While servers often work for minimum wage, they can earn a lot more in tips if they’re good at their job.

Whether you’re working at a local diner or at a fine dining spot, the following food service skills are necessary and will impact your earning potential.

Necessary food service skills and helpful traits

If you’re a restaurant manager looking to hire staff, look for applicants who possess the following. It’s also a good idea to focus on the candidate’s customer service mindset.

Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions. The “Do you believe the customer is always right?” interview question is a good place to start.

Attention to detail

With large parties, food and drink orders can become quite complex. Forgetting a simple detail, like not leaving out the croutons for a customer with a gluten allergy, can upset them or even cause them harm. Having a high level of attention to detail will go a long way toward keeping customers happy.

It’s important to engage in active listening, be attentive, and to have full knowledge of menu items and meal ingredients.

Excellent communication

As a server, you must possess the ability to communicate effectively with both customers and co-workers. This includes speaking and addressing people clearly, taking the right notes, collaborating, and maintaining a sense of humor where appropriate.

You’ll also cut down on or eliminate ordering mistakes if you repeat each patron’s order as you take it. If you touch base with your coworkers throughout your shift, you’ll engender a more supportive workplace.


As a food handler, you will have to deal with people making demands. It is easy to become distracted by a persistent or loud customer.

On the other hand, having a chat with a friendly patron or co-worker could also lead to neglect of others. While speaking with co-workers, attending to requests, and being friendly are all part of the job, you must utilize good time management to provide an excellent dining experience to all.

As a server, remaining focused and having the ability to multitask is a plus. Being diligent, thorough, efficient, and approachable will result in a better visit for customers, as well.


A food service worker must always be friendly and cheerful regardless of stress, frustration, or fatigue. During any given shift, you could have 10 tables to manage at the same time, but you must ensure that the people at each table feel like they’re valued.

A pleasant and positive workplace attitude goes a long way in the restaurant industry. The best food handlers are enthusiastic, resilient, hospitable, and courteous. They must also possess a high level of stress tolerance. While these may sound more like traits than food service skills, they can be honed with practice.

Speed and stamina

You are constantly carrying heavy and awkward loads as a front of house (FOH) worker, meaning you have to be aware of what’s around you at all times. In the back of the house (BOH), dishwashers must quickly load and unload machines without cutting themselves on knives, burning their hands, or chipping plates.

Meanwhile, side tasks like refilling condiments and salt shakers must be done efficiently and quickly to ensure each table is properly supplied.

Having the ability to move fast, without distraction and at a steady pace, is critical to success. The most efficient food service employees are fast learners and can think on their feet.

Problem solving skills

One of the most important food service skills is the ability to solve problems, regardless of whose fault they are. A manager may not always be available to help with an upset customer, for example.

In these moments, you must be able to resolve conflicts fast and without assistance. If you are unable to fix a problem, then you must make the customer feel understood and heard. This could mean offering a free dessert or taking money off the bill.

Among food service workers, useful skills and qualities include thinking logically and being able to make quick decisions. Integrity and empathy are also strong traits for this line of work.

Safety first

Restaurants, bars, and cafes present many hazards. Such hazards range from food preparation and handling to chemical burns from industrial cleaning products. Not to mention, serious thermal burns while working in the kitchen.

Food service workers must be trained and certified in proper food handling techniques and other procedures. While on the job, you need to follow all food safety protocols and conduct on-the-spot risk assessments.

Being safety-focused has also been paramount in protecting employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This extends to wearing things like masks and gloves for entire shifts.

To work in food service, you must be comfortable with following these new rules and adhering to them at all times while on the clock. This also means staying home when you don’t feel well, in order to protect others.

Training ability

Food service workers with experience training other employees can be an asset to a business. If you know how to effectively train others, then you can relay the proper protocols to new hires in a way that they can understand and then act upon in their roles.

If you’re a restaurant manager, this is most likely where you come in. With your experience, you may have taken on the role of trainer in your establishment.

To save time, you may wish to delegate this task to other experienced staff members you trust, enabling you to focus on other aspects of running the business.


The restaurant industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many establishments have had to close down or alter their business practices. If you want to work in this industry, you must be adaptable to sudden changes.

If the location you have been working for suddenly had to cut your weekly hours in half, you need to be prepared to handle this. You need to be prepared to spend extra time washing your hands or fully cleaning and wiping down tables and chairs with disinfectant after each party.

If your workplace had to stop all indoor dining and become delivery-only or a “ghost kitchen,” you must be prepared for a change of duties. You may have worked as a server, but you’re now a delivery driver. Having the right attitude can help you weather these types of changes while waiting for things to get back to normal.

How to Highlight Your Food Service Skills in Your Resume

If you are applying to become a food service employee, you’ll want to write a striking resume that helps you differentiate from others. The resume must be quickly scannable and describe your best food service skills and main focus in a single sentence at the top. Beneath this line, list all your other food service skills from those mentioned above.

You also want to include related work experience and any volunteer work. It is always best to include a cover letter with your resume that incorporates food service job descriptions as well as any educational accomplishments.

The food service industry is not for the faint of heart. It requires extensive skills that range from excellent communication and attention to detail to being focused and adaptable. Restaurant managers must find those who are a good fit for the business and industry by focusing these skills. Asking the right interview questions can help.

For more information on how to save your restaurant time and money through effective labor management, contact TimeForge today!

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