Being a server at a restaurant is hard work, but it can also be fun. A busy restaurant at lunch or dinner might serve a hundred people or more at a time. While a server is always running around, the time goes by fast and a good server can make a lot of money. Before you decide to apply for a job as a restaurant server, go to a few of your favorite restaurants. Instead of just sitting back and enjoying your meal, watch the servers and the bussers (the people who clean the tables, bring water, that kind of thing). Familiarize yourself with the job. Watch how hard they work. Then decide if that is the kind of job for you. If you're a friendly go-getter, being a server might be just the right job.
There is a common misconception that anyone can be a server. That couldn't be further from the truth. Believe it or not, it takes a lot of skill and organization to be an effective server. In addition to being well-organized, you also have to be friendly and smiling all of the time while you do it.
Before you bring your resume into your favorite eatery or bar and grill, you should first look it over. If you don't have any experience as a server, you should make sure to highlight any experience you might have in food service. If you worked the concession stand for the local hockey team -- even as a volunteer -- that can help, because that shows you know how to work with people, and make change. Of course, all work experience is helpful, but be sure to focus on experiences where you had to perform customer service tasks, even if it was talking on the phone. Showing that you can maintain a friendly attitude under pressure is a key component to being a restaurant server.
As with any job application, you should look your best before going in. Different managers will look for different things, but always be neat. If you have long hair, tying it back can also help tidy your appearance.
When you go into apply for your job as a server, you should be friendly and smiling, right off the bat. Be the person, when you apply, that customers would want to see when they walk into the restaurant.
Note the time of day before you bring your resume into a restaurant. Most restaurants are busy or getting busy between 11am and 2pm if they serve lunch and from 5pm to 10pm or later for dinner. Your best bet is always to apply at a restaurant between 2pm and 4pm, unless they are strictly a breakfast restaurant. In the case of a breakfast only place, applying after 10am is probably best during the week, and never on Saturday or Sunday. If you're really unsure as to what time to stop in, call ahead and ask what their preference is. Showing that you understand restaurant hours can go a long way toward getting an interview, or even the job.
Once you're in the restaurant (always with pen in hand), make sure you are smiling at everyone. People in the restaurant will talk about you after you leave and if you were rude to anyone, everyone will know. If you get the chance to sit down with the manager or whoever is hiring right away, be sure to highlight any experience you have in serving, bartending, or bussing. If you don't have any, make sure you focus on your ability to multi-task, as this is a very important part of being a server. Also talk about how you like to work with people, how much you like to be busy and how well you work under pressure. These are very important skillsets for servers and managers look for them often.
The wonderful thing about working in restaurants is that, as far as hiring practices go, they are usually very liberal. Most restaurants, except for maybe corporate style restaurants, won't care if you have a minor criminal record or a spotty job history. In a restaurant, it's important to have hard working people who can do the job right now. People who know how to hustle and get things are done are required and other little things that might be a big deal in other jobs, usually don't matter in a busy restaurant.
However, you will have to prove yourself, especially if you don't have experience, so the best thing to have when you walk through the door of restaurant is a good attitude, a great work ethic, and a willingness to help out wherever it's needed. A person who can do that, will likely have a job in restaurant service for as long as they want one.