On the Job
Counter attendants work at counters in coffee shops and small restaurants. They also work in cafeterias.
There is a famous episode of the hit TV show "Seinfeld" where each character becomes obsessed with a certain restaurant's soup. It seems the whole city lined up to get a bowl of the bisque to go. Yet, the counter attendant and chef had very strict rules about talking and ordering. If you didn't follow them precisely, you heard the dreaded words: "No soup for you!" Thankfully, in real life it's a little less stressful to order your favorite soup, sandwich, or iced coffee drink.Counter attendants greet customers and write down meal orders on tickets. If coffee or other beverages are ordered, counter attendants pour and serve them. They take or call food orders to the kitchen. They may prepare sandwiches, salads, and other items from the menu. If necessary, they add garnishes, such as fruit, to the plate. After the food is prepared, counter attendants serve it to customers. In some restaurants, they call out customers' names so they know to pick up their orders. Sometimes counter attendants wrap food so customers can take it with them.
Counter attendants take food out of storage and place it in serving displays. Sometimes they cook or reheat food. Counter attendants refill beverages such as water, coffee, or soda. They brew coffee and prepare desserts for customers. When the meal is finished, counter attendants compute bills and give them to customers. They may also operate cash registers, receive payment, and make change. At the end of the day, they balance the cash register and keep records of the day's receipts.
Counter attendants clean counter tops and food-serving areas. They sweep floors and clean equipment. When containers of salt, pepper, and sugar are running low, attendants restock them. They order items such as napkins when supplies are low.
In cafeterias, counter attendants make sure food-serving containers are full. They notify kitchen workers when food is running low or if special orders are necessary. Sometimes they carve and serve meat. They ladle soup and serve other items to customers.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Compute bill, receive payment, and provide change when necessary.
- Write down customer orders and take to cooks.
- Serve food to customers.
- Prepare and serve sandwiches, salads, and some items on the menu.
- Wrap food for customers to take out.
- Clean serving areas and equipment.
- Prepare and serve drinks.
- Add relish or garnish to plates.
- Order supplies such as napkins to replenish stock.
- Select food items from storage areas and place them in serving areas.
- Carve meat.
- Notify kitchen workers of shortages or special orders.
- Restock food at serving stations.
- Keep records and balance cash register at end of shift.
- Decorate and set tables and serving areas.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Work with the public.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Teach others.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Inspect equipment or materials.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Convince others to buy goods or change their minds or actions.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Coach others.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Process information.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social interaction with customers and coworkers.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of others. They must follow safe food handling rules.
- Are responsible for the work outcomes of others.
- Are sometimes placed in conflict situations where customers might become unpleasant or angry.
- Work as part of a team that serves customers.
- Talk face-to-face with customers daily.
- Often use the telephone to take customer's orders.
- Usually work indoors. Sometimes prepare and serve food outdoors.
- Sometimes wear a special uniform.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous situations when working in the kitchen. They may work near stoves, ovens, and hot grease. They may use knives and slicing machines.
- Are sometimes exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting and uncomfortable.
- Work very near other people and have little space between self and others.
- Must be exact in taking orders and packaging food. Mistakes result in unhappy customers.
- Must sometimes meet strict deadlines.
- Can make some decisions and set some tasks without talking to a supervisor.
- Make decisions that affect others on a weekly basis.
- Make decisions that strongly impact the image of their employer.
- Often work part time, but may work full time.
- May work days, evenings, or weekends.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Stand for long periods of time.
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Walk for long periods of time when serving customers.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Be physically active and use muscles for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.