What Is a Cafeteria Attendant?

Cafeteria attendants can have a variety of job duties in the food service industry, and they can work in facilities like hospitals and schools. Find out what training will help you enter this profession, and see what salary you can expect to earn. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Cafeteria Attendant?

Cafeteria attendants are usually grouped with workers known as bus staff. Their primary responsibility is to clean and set tables in a cafeteria. This includes clearing away dirty dishes and stocking serving areas with supplies, such as trays, silverware and dishes. These attendants may also assist guests to their seats who are having trouble carrying their trays. Cafeteria attendants must be friendly to guests and help answer any questions that they may have. They typically work as part of a team to oversee the entire cafeteria. You can learn some additional information about this career in the table below:

Degree Required Not required
Key Responsibilities Prepare and serve food, stock tables with condiments, keep track of food supply, clean up spills and bus tables, handle customer service requests
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% (for all food and beverage serving and related workers)
Median Salary (2015)* $19,280 (for dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Duties of a Cafeteria Attendant?

As a cafeteria attendant, you'll usually prepare and serve a variety of food items or beverages to customers. In large cafeterias, you might need to make sure that adequate food supplies are available for patrons. Additional duties could include ensuring that dining tables are stocked with condiments, cleaning up accidental spills, bussing and cleaning tables and fulfilling customer service requests. You could also be responsible for linen stocking and cleaning.

What Education is Required?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that food and beverage servers, including cafeteria attendants, have no formal training requirements (www.bls.gov). You could even find part-time employment in a cafeteria if you're still in high school. Several dining establishments and institutions provide you with on-the-job training. However, classroom instruction might be offered by some restaurants. As a trainee, you'll learn tips and techniques for serving food and different types beverages, working with the public and safe handling of food according to regulations.

You can also enroll in food service courses as part of a 2-year associate's degree program. You'll study topics in meal service planning, food production, cooking and baking fundamentals, basic nutrition and food service management. Some programs also offer management training that prepares you for supervisory positions in cafeterias, dining rooms or restaurants. You could opt to pursue an associate's degree in food management that includes classes in healthy eating, hospitality leadership, marketing, safety measures and sanitation.

What are the Opportunities for Advancement?

There might be fewer opportunities for growth in smaller food service establishments. However, you could advance to supervisory positions in schools, nonprofit organizations or government agencies or become a bartender or member of the wait staff in restaurants, nursing care facilities and other dining institutions. With experience and some business training, you could qualify for management positions.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median salaries for dining room and cafeteria attendants was approximately $19,280 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that those employed in elementary and secondary schools made an average of $21,040 that year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related careers that require no formal education, including bartenders, food preparation workers and cashiers. Bartenders can work in various locations that serve alcohol and mixed drinks. They prepare the drinks and check to make sure customers are of legal age. Food preparation workers help prepare food in a kitchen of an eating establishment. They are usually supervised by a chef or cook. Cashiers can work in any place of business to handle the financial transactions for customers trying to buy a product or service.

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