What Is The Difference Between A Server And A Waiter?

We’ve all had a good meal turned into a memorable event with the right server or waiter. Sadly, you may have also had a meal ruined by poor service.

If you’re looking for a special night on the town, getting help from a high quality server is key.

But what is the difference between a server and a waiter?

server holding a meal

The Gender Thing

Technically, a waiter is male and a waitress is female. A server can be any gender. Marked terms such as waitress have been falling out of style for years, but waiter still has an implied male marking tag.

The trend toward gender-neutral terms for those in the service industry has been in the works for a while.

As a general rule, terms that are unmarked, linguistically speaking, use the base or normalized version of a word to encompass all genders.

Back when only females, preferably young and attractive, were allowed to serve those on airplanes, the term “stewardess” was a standardized term.

This is actually quite a rare instance, as the “-ess” also makes this a gender-marked term. When men were allowed to take on the role of a stewardess, the phrase “flight attendant” came into vogue.

flight attendant on plane

The Actual Work Roles

When you go to a restaurant with waiters, you May experience exposure to several different people. You may be

  • seated by the host or hostess
  • brought water and menus by someone who may or may not be your waiter
  • had your order taken by your waiter
  • get your food delivered by a food runner
  • get your water glasses filled and drinks delivered by your waiter
  • get empty plates picked up by a busser, food handler, floor manager, or your waiter
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Eating at a restaurant with waiters and the many other employees on the floor can lead to a great deal of bustle and new faces circling your space.

Often, this is not a problem and can provide you with more prompt service overall.

man and woman waiters

When You Want a More Restful Meal and Experience

A waiter has to have a basic knowledge of the menu and food offerings for the night.

A server can generally provide you with a more customized experience.

For example, they may be able to provide you with detailed information on the catch of the day, the house dressing or new wine offerings.

Often, servers are more highly trained and often better paid that waitstaff. For those who earn the majority of their money from tips, restful dining has to come second to cycling tables in and out.

If you hate to rush a meal, or just need a quiet dining experience, having a server to guide you through the offerings can turn a great meal into an amazing night.

waiter serving people at table


If you are at any risk of an allergic reaction, a server can actually save your life.

For example, nut allergies and shellfish allergies are fairly well-known concerns. If you’re at any risk of a bad reaction to either product, have a conversation with your server before you even look at the menu so they can check in with the chef.

While waiters may not be able to take the time to gather this information on your behalf, a server will be able to provide you with more detail.

They may even ask kitchen staff or the chef to come out and chat with you about your concerns.

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When reviewing the differences, it’s important to note that both servers and waiters have to work hard.

Whether you’re hustling to fill all the coffee cups during a breakfast rush at a diner or timing appetizers, salads, and entrées at a high end restaurant, you’re working hard.

The primary difference between a server and a waiter is the training required before you can start working and the time you can take with your guests.

food allergy sign with seafood and nuts

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