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Kaitiaki Tēpu Kai

Alternative titles for this job

Waiters/waitresses serve food and drinks in restaurants, hotels, clubs and other eating places.


Waiters/waitresses usually earn

$21-$22 per hour

Source: Restaurant Assn of NZ, 2018.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a waiter/waitress are good due to a shortage of workers.


Waiters/waitresses usually earn between minimum wage and a little above.

They may also receive tips from customers, but the cafe/restaurant manager decides if the tips are kept by individuals or divided equally among staff.

Source: Restaurant Association of New Zealand, '2018 Remuneration Survey', 2018.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Waiters/waitresses may do some or all of the following:

  • serve food and drinks
  • set and prepare tables for customers
  • hand out menus and wine lists
  • answer questions about the menu and take orders
  • clear tables and clean the restaurant
  • clean and polish cutlery and glasses
  • restock food and drinks.

Skills and knowledge

Waiters/waitresses need to have:

  • knowledge about menu items and wine
  • food and drink service skills
  • knowledge of food health and safety
  • selling skills.

Working conditions


  • work full or part-time hours, and may work evenings and weekends
  • work in the dining areas of restaurants, hotels, clubs and other places where food and drink is served
  • spend a lot of time on their feet, in environments that can be noisy and stressful.

What's the job really like?

catalina de mendoza

Catalina De Mendoza


What is your waitress shift like?

"When you open the restaurant you have to set up the bar area and set up all the tables in the restaurant. It takes about an hour to prepare everything. Front of house is divided into hosting, bar and restaurant. Hosting is welcoming people, sitting them at the table, and talking to them about the menu. The bar is preparing all the drinks, and the restaurant is taking orders, putting the orders through."

What do you learn on the job?

"All the things you can learn are amazing. Learning how to make coffees and drinks. Coffee is really important here in New Zealand! And they give us training about different wines and beers.

"There are some things that you don't know at the beginning – like the difference between a flat white, a latte and a cappuccino or a macchiato or chai. There's a lot of information, so you have to process that, and understand what the difference is.

"You have to learn to manage pressure. I never imagined how difficult a waitress job could be. You have to learn how to manage difficult customers. If there's a mistake you talk to the customers and the manager, and try to work out how to find a solution."

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements for waiters/waitresses as training is done on the job.

Waiters/waitresses can also study towards a New Zealand Certificate in Hospitality (Food and Beverage) (Level 3) while working.

You can also train to be a steward (similar to waiter/waitress) with the Defence Force.

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but home economics (food and nutrition) and English to at least NCEA Level 1 are useful.

Personal requirements

Waiters/waitresses need to be:

  • friendly, helpful and polite
  • good at serving people
  • good at remembering things
  • able to work well under pressure
  • quick, efficient and organised
  • reliable and punctual
  • able to communicate and work well in a team.

It’s really, really important to be organised. You have to prioritise the things you have to do first.

Photo: Catalina De Mendoza

Catalina De Mendoza


Useful experience

Useful experience for waiters/waitresses includes:

  • restaurant, cafe or catering work
  • work involving customer service
  • retail work.

Physical requirements

Waiters/waitresses need:

  • to have a clean and tidy appearance
  • to be reasonably fit and healthy as they are on their feet all day.

Find out more about training

Hospitality New Zealand
(04) 385 1369 - -
Restaurant Association of New Zealand
0800 737 827 - -
0800 863 693 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Strong demand for waiters/waitresses

Job opportunities for waiters/waitresses are good because low unemployment and an increase in job vacancies means there is a shortage of people available to do this role.

According to the Census, 21,171 waiters/waitresses worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Types of employers varied

Waiters/waitresses can work for:

  • cafes
  • restaurants
  • bars and pubs
  • catering companies
  • hotels.


  • Bamber, I, special projects manager, Wellington Hospitality Group, interview, July 2018.
  • Clearwater, M, senior adviser, Service IQ – Workforce Development, interview, June 2020.
  • Reed, C, 'High-flying Auckland Restaurants Battle to Get Visas for Best Staff', 3 November 2018, (
  • Restaurant Association of New Zealand, '2018 Hospitality Report', September 2018, (
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Waldren, N, general manager, Restaurant Association of New Zealand, interview, September 2018.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Waiters/waitresses may progress to senior roles, such as cafe/restaurant manager or maitre d'hotel.

A waitress takes orders from three customers in a restaurant

Waiters and waitresses take food and drink orders from customers in restaurants

Last updated 17 March 2023