How to Become a Server With No Previous Experience

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over two million people in the United States worked as servers in 2017. And this likely won’t change any time soon — the foodservice and hospitality industries will always have a need for qualified, reliable and certified servers.

A majority of businesses that employ servers are looking for workers with experience — but what happens if you don’t have any? In this post, we’ll cover steps that will get you ready to land the serving job you want.

STEP 1: Land a different job in hospitality 

If you’ve never worked in a restaurant or foodservice setting, get your foot in the door by taking another job in the industry. Other positions require different experience such as working as a hostess or cashier. In working these jobs you’ll learn skills relevant to working as a server, like how to use a POS (point-of-sale) system or how to read a seating chart. When finding work using Shiftgig, the more experience you have, the more opportunities you are qualified for, so soak up as much knowledge as you can.

Plus, restaurants prefer to promote from within so starting in a different role can accelerate you toward getting the job you want.

STEP 2: Complete necessary certifications
Most states require food and alcohol certifications to ensure you understand how to responsibly serve customers. While a majority of these certifications aren’t free, it shows great initiative if you already have these documents when applying for a job. Plus, they can be used in other hospitality positions as well. Click here to find food and alcohol certifications for your state.

STEP 3: Be outgoing

Having great people skills, patience and an outgoing demeanor make a huge difference when working in a customer-facing role such as serving. You can show off your can-do attitude by being a good listener, looking people in the eye or even just smiling. Those around you will take note and think of you as someone who would work well in more interactive customer-facing role such as serving.

STEP 4: Learn from those around you

If you’re already working in a restaurant, ask how the servers or managers got started in their roles, take notice of how they treat customers and learn from how they go about their daily tasks. When you’re out to eat, try to imagine yourself in your server’s shoes and how you would handle taking someone’s order or a guest complaint. Reach out to friends who have worked as servers and ask what they enjoy about the job or what they find challenging. Gathering this information can prepare you for a multitude of situations in the future.

STEP 5: Familiarize yourself with the industry

Working in foodservice and hospitality isn’t as easy as it looks. Knowledge is key so the more you know, the better prepared you’ll feel. Begin by getting familiar with restaurant lingo, that way when you first start you’ll be “talking the talk.” Next, practice walking with objects balanced on your hands to mimic tray service. (Here is a great article with tips for carrying a tray).

It’s also beneficial to learn about different types of service. At Shiftgig, our Specialists have the opportunity to work shifts that utilize various serving styles such as banquet, Russian, French or sit down/menu service. For that reason, it doesn’t hurt to learn how to set a banquet table or how to open a bottle of wine.

STEP 6: Look the part

Uniforms can differ depending on what company you work for or what type of events you’re serving at. Regardless, all great servers should have these uniform pieces:

  • Non-slip shoes
  • An apron
  • Small notebook
  • A few trusty pens
  • Plain black or white button up shirts
  • Work pants

(We put together a great list of where to find affordable uniform pieces you should check out.)

STEP 7: You’re ready to apply!

Now that you look and act the part, have gained knowledge from those around you and have some hospitality experience, you’re ready to apply for a position as a server. Whether you’re working at a restaurant or claiming server shifts through the Shiftgig app, make sure you put your best foot forward.


Want to work serving shifts on your own schedule? Download the Shiftgig app (on your iPhone or Android) to apply.

About The Author

Cat is the Marketing Manager at Shiftgig, primarily focused on content marketing and social media. She’s passionate about helping transform the way people work and empowering our Specialists be successful. In her spare time, Cat does stand-up comedy at Chicago’s own Second City!