Counter Attendant

Job Duties

Counter attendants work in cafeterias, coffeeshops, and carryout dining facilities. They are responsible for taking orders from customers and serving food to those same customers. Those who work in coffeeshops usually take orders from customers who are sitting at a counter, relay the order to the kitchen, and hand off the order to the customer when it is ready. They may refill orders of coffee, soda, or other types of beverages. Some may create milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. Those who work in cafeterias mostly serve food that is already on display, such as that on steam tables. They may also carve meat, serve vegetables, ladle sauces and soups, and pour beverages.

Counter attendants take orders from customers who want to take food with them. Attendants may wrap up items and put them in carryout containers. They often wipe down counters, create checks, and accept payments. Some make sandwiches, salads, and other short-order items. Some work at drive-through windows at fast-food restaurants taking orders from customers on the go.

Job Skills

Those interested in counter attendant positions should have a good memory so they can remember customers’ orders. They should have a neat and well-groomed appearance. They need to have a courteous and pleasant personality. Their customer relations skills must be of the highest caliber, and they should be able to function calmly in situations where stress is extremely high.


In 2002, counter attendants earned a median hourly wage (including tips) of $7.32. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $5.87, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $10.39. Most counter attendants earn more because they acquire higher tips, rather than a higher hourly wage.

Training and Education

There are no specific educational requirements for counter attendant positions, although many employer prefer applicants who have graduated from high school. Many employees acquire these jobs because they have an immediate need for income, rather than a long-term interest in the profession. Many are in their late teens or early twenties and have little or no job experience. Some are full-time college or high school students. Hotels and restaurants with higher-class standards prefer applicants who have experience in the occupation. These establishments also offer higher wages. Most counter attendants learn their skills by observing more experienced waiters. Some employers train their employees using audio/video materials, and some employees receive restaurant training from vocational schools, restaurant associations, and large restaurant chains.


In 2002, counter attendants held about 467,000 jobs.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of counter attendants is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Some employment growth will result from new job openings, but the vast majority of job openings will be due to the extremely high turnover rate in this occupation. Keen competition is predicted for positions in fine dining establishments and popular restaurants.

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