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What is a Food Runner?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A food runner is a specialized type of food server that may work in a very busy restaurant, especially during peak restaurant hours. In small restaurants, a waitperson typically takes orders from guests and delivers their food. In larger restaurants, some companies employ runners who may be responsible for delivering meals ordered and for doing other things like getting drinks for guests. These people may also be called food attendants.

The work of the food runner helps free up the waitperson, so he or she can focus more on certain aspects of customer service. This could include discussing details of a menu, taking orders, and checking back with patrons to be sure their meal is enjoyable. A well-trained runner may also perform a little of this work, especially if a delivered order is not correct. Food runners could replace incorrect orders with appropriate ones if this is part of their work.

Restaurants may differ on how many runners, if any, they employ and the number of hours in which they employ them. During non-peak hours wait staff may both take orders and deliver food, but during extremely busy times, food runners can help serve diners more quickly. Improving efficiency of food delivery can help increase patron satisfaction and keep restaurants popular for years to come.

Most runners get an hourly wage and then a portion of the tips for any waitperson they work for. This team system of waiting can be extremely successful when the food runner is polite, efficient, and professional. Poorly performed jobs can diminish the tips of the waiters, which can create issues between runners and wait staff.

Since not all restaurants employ a food runner, this additional employee may sometimes confuse patrons. For instance, if a food order is incorrect, whom should the guest tell? There isn’t total consensus on this issue but many advise that the food runner should be informed if a guest notices an immediate problem with a dish, like the fact that the guest ordered something else entirely. On the other hand, if the problem with the food is more related to how it is prepared, the patron should speak to his/her waitperson, or a manager if necessary.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By WalrusTusk — On Sep 30, 2010

@leiliahrune - Actually, several restaurants I know specifically have a position that's a food runner job. Companies that know they are going to be successful or have show a steady increase in business over so long will develop this position because they know it will benefit service. Servers are often times overwhelmed with multiple tables and multiple people (6 guests at one table, 12 at another, etc), so it's easily understood why they employ this position.

By leiliahrune — On Sep 30, 2010

You will typically see a food runner in all the major restaurants in your area. Food runners are quick, efficient, but sometimes can get a little mixed up thanks to the chaos. Often times food runners are normally servers or newer recruits into the food industry.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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