How to become a food runner (with skills and duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Food runners are restaurant employees who take food from the kitchens to customers' tables. They may work alongside waiting staff in larger restaurants. If you're interested in a career in the restaurant industry, working as a food runner can be an excellent first step. In this article, we explain what a food runner is, how to become a food runner, their main duties, necessary skills and answer some common questions about the role.

What is a food runner?

A food runner works alongside waiting staff to transport food from a restaurant's kitchen to customers' tables. Generally, food runners focus solely on giving customers food, although they may also answer customer queries and transport drinks too. In busier times, they may also adopt some of the roles of waiting staff, such as taking orders.

How to become a food runner

Here are some steps to take if you're thinking about how to become a food runner:

1. Complete secondary school

While there's no required qualifications for being a food runner, employers tend to look for somebody who has at least completed their GCSEs and is at least 16 years old. Restaurants may hire 16- to 18-year-olds as food runners on a part-time basis, as teenagers of these ages are usually still in education. A restaurant may only hire food runners who are over the age of 18 if the position involves serving alcohol.

2. Gain experience in the food industry

Some restaurants prefer to hire candidates who have experience in the food industry. You could gain this by working at a variety of food establishments, including volunteering at a cafe or working at a fast-food restaurant. Alternatively, you could arrange some unpaid work experience. You could also develop an interest in food and dining itself, as many restaurants favour candidates who have a passion for good food.

3. Acquire food runner skills

The next step is to work on the skills which are typically required to become a food runner. Communication and teamwork skills are usually important so you could consider how to use your current work, education or social life to acquire them. For example, you could take part in group projects at school or college or resolve problems in your household. If you can give examples of when you have used these skills, you may interview more impressively.

4. Consider hospitality education

If you'd like a career in hospitality, consider studying it at college or university and working as a food runner at the same time. You could study culinary arts or hospitality management which may help you to develop your understanding of the industry. While this is seldom a requirement for working as a food runner, it can demonstrate your passion for the industry and desire to progress in your career. It could also give you an advantage in the interview process.

5. Search for jobs and consider the area

You can use the Indeed job board to find local jobs. Depending on where you live, you may broaden your search to include different areas. If you live in the countryside, think about whether you could travel to a nearby city where there may be a wider range of large restaurants. Or, you could consider an area that's popular with tourists where a lot of the work may be seasonal.

Related: How to write a waiter/waitress CV (with example)

6. Attend interviews and trials

Once you have applied for jobs, restaurants may invite you for interview. The interviews usually cover your work experience, knowledge of the food industry, enthusiasm for the job and availability. You can prepare by looking up interview questions and making a note of why you think you're well-suited to certain roles. The restaurant could also ask you to work a trial shift, which may demonstrate your abilities to the management team.

Food runner main duties

The primary duties of a food runner include:

  • transporting food from the restaurant's kitchens to the customers' tables

  • answering any customer queries about the food

  • asking for advice from a chef or a member of the waiting staff if they're unsure of the answers to customer queries

  • carrying drinks from the bar to customers' tables

  • occasionally taking orders and performing other waiting staff duties

Related: Roles and duties of the front of house in a restaurant

A food runner's skills

Below are some of the primary skills of a food runner:

Communication

Communication is one of the most important parts of being a food runner. Food runners communicate with customers, waiting staff, chefs and managers to ensure that they're bringing the right meals and drinks to customers' tables. You can practice this skill by considering how you communicate in school and college projects and working out if you could make any messages clearer.

Related: 10 communication skills to add to your CV (with definitions)

Teamwork

Food runners typically work as part of a larger team. Working as a team means listening to other people and doing things that benefit the business rather than personal tasks alone. You can work on your teamwork skills by taking part in as many group projects as possible in school and college. You could even try a group leader role in which you think about everyone's strengths and work out how best to use them .

Customer service

An important part of being a food runner is customer service. As food running is a forward-facing role, you may speak to customers a lot. Food runners could be the people who customers associate with the restaurant or brand, so it's important to be smiley, friendly and helpful. This may help you to leave a good impression, which can increase the likelihood of a customer recommending the restaurant to friends or returning themselves. You can work on your customer service skills by helping family and friends with housework or homework and thinking about how you communicate when helping.

Related: Top 13 skills for waiters (with examples)

Organisation

Organisation can be an important skill for a food runner. During busy periods, when there are lots of orders at once, you may prioritise meals that have been waiting for a while. Having good organisation skills can help you remember which customers have been waiting the longest for the food they ordered. You can work on your organisation skills by writing lists of errands and school work and ensuring that you complete them in the most time-effective manner.

Memory

Food runners may require good memory skills. These can enable them to remember who has eaten and who's waiting for their order. This may ultimately offer the customers a more pleasant dining experience. You can work on your memory skills by playing memory games, many of which are available online.

Physical fitness

As food runners typically spend all day on their feet, employers often desire employees with physical fitness skills. Food runners generally walk around for shifts of four to 12 hours carrying plates and drinks, which can be heavy. If you want to work on your physical fitness, you could practice running and walking or go to the gym and lift some weights.

Maths

While food runners may not use maths skills every day at work, if they want to progress to being waiting staff, maths skills could be useful. Basic maths skills can help waiting staff work out if a receipt is correct and whether change is required. Maths skills can also be helpful when working at large tables with big orders, as multiple people may order the same dishes. You can practice your maths skills throughout school or by playing maths games on the internet.

Food runner FAQ

Here are some common FAQs about being a food runner:

Where does a food runner work?

Food runners typically work in larger restaurants. In small restaurants, food running may be a part of the waiting staff's duties, which means that one person may take food orders, run food to tables, answer any questions and take payment at the end. As bigger establishments typically hire more people, the jobs may be separate.

Related: Restaurant management: duties, salary and essential skills

What is the possible career advancement of a food runner?

Being a food runner is often the first step to a career in restaurants and hospitality. After gaining some experience, candidates could progress to working as waiting staff, restaurant managers or chefs. With food running experience, it's typically easier for candidates to advance to these roles, and it's possible to use connections within the same company or with related companies to find promotions. Some food runners even seek other jobs in the culinary industry, including marketing and sales for food brands or being food critics.

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