Unusual skills you'll need as a waiter or waitress

The employment outlook for waiters and waitresses is heating up, and the best candidates can land a lucrative and satisfying position in this sizzling market.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 2.4 million servers will work for restaurants by 2024; the organization recently rated the sector's job outlook as "good", because "as the population grows and more people dine out, more new restaurants are expected to open." More restaurants mean more earning potential, and establishments will fight to hire the most competent servers, and maybe even lead to a management career, since restaurants tend to promote from within for management positions. The median hourly wage for servers is about $9.25, though top earners can bring in around $17 per hour. At an upscale establishment in a metropolitan area, skilled waiters and waitresses can work their way up to $45,000 annual salary.

Unusual Skills You'll Need as a Waiter or Waitress

Landing a server position requires more than just walking into a restaurant and signing up. Even if you don't have previous experience, you probably know that waiters and waitresses need an eye for detail as well as excellent customer service skills.

However, what you may not know is that in addition to these valuable skills, restaurant managers are looking for a few more unusual traits that you probably possess, but likely aren't listing on your application. You can make your resume stand out by highlighting these three skills:

1. Color Vision

This may seem obvious, but if you can see color (and especially if you can see color well), put it on your resume: restaurant managers may be looking for it. Waiting tables is a busy, fast-paced task, and an eye for color can help you recognize various types of beverages or dishes without examining them in detail—and even spot possible errors in a customer's order. An experienced server may even be able to distinguish between pale ale and lagers or various types of red wine, a valuable skill when it comes to keeping customers happy. Look for examples of past jobs or activities to back up your claims (e.g. art or graphic design experience, etc.).

2. Depth Perception

Waiters and waitresses carry precarious trays full of heavy items while navigating crowded aisles and making sharp turns; as such, delivering a customer's order from the kitchen to their table requires excellent depth perception and knowing precisely how close or far away a given object is from your position. A server with poor depth perception is more likely to misstep, tripping over items in his or her way. And spilled trays aren't just a waste of food (and money): they can also infuriate customers, especially if an accident causes their meal to be late (or all over their lap).

Highlighting depth perception on your resume may be easier than you think. Maybe one of your hobbies (e.g. knitting, sculpture, woodcarving, etc.) required excellent depth perception; additionally, if you've played sports like baseball, softball, or archery, including these activities on your resume will help get the point across. Don't be afraid to mention it outright, too: managers are looking for servers with depth perception, so it's up to you to communicate that you have it.

3. Heavy Lifting

If you've ever been to a restaurant and watched your server whisk away a tray loaded with dishes, glasses, pitchers, and platters, you probably understand why it's important that waiters and waitresses be able to lift and carry heavy objects with ease. Waiters and waitresses will hold up the kitchen, and their hungry customers, if they can only carry one or two things at a time. And it's not just food and drinks: waiters and waitresses may have to quickly arrange tables and chairs according to the needs of their customers.

Creative thinking will once again enable you to highlight your heavy lifting skills on your resume. As with depth perception, experience participating in certain sports (football, wrestling, cheerleading, etc.) can adequately convey your abilities, as can activities such as weight training at the gym or yoga classes (where balance, poise, and posture are key).

Because server positions require this specific set of unusual skills, color vision, heavy lifting, and depth perception the key to getting your foot in the door at a restaurant will require selling these skills on your resume and application.