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Many people enjoy dining out regularly which makes the restaurant business a popular industry to get into. For the past two years, the restaurant industry has continued to grow significantly with several new jobs becoming available each month.
Whether you’re looking to start your career as a server or cook or own and operate a local restaurant, there are plenty of profitable opportunities to consider.
How Many Jobs Are Available in the Restaurant Industry?
At least 12.1 million Americans are currently working in the restaurant industry. The demand for restaurants has always been high, but since the global pandemic in 2020, some restaurant owners have experienced staffing shortages.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 62% of restaurant owners say they need to hire more employees to keep up with the workflow. At least 8 to 10 full-service and quick-service restaurants are currently advertising open positions they need to fill.
Some of the most common restaurant positions that are often hiring include serving, cooking, and clearing tables.
Is the Restaurant Industry Growing?
For several years, the restaurant business has been growing but reached its peak in summer 2021 when more than 152,000 jobs were added in just one month alone. Since then, the number of restaurant positions has been growing at a steady pace and thousands of jobs are still being made available each month.
For 2023 and beyond, most restaurant owners say they plan to continue hiring new qualified staff for various positions. The fact that the restaurant industry is growing and seems very stable makes it well worth considering if you’re an entrepreneur looking to own a restaurant.
While opening a franchise or a family-owned restaurant is a lot of work, there is still room for growth depending on your market and size of the restaurant.
What’s the Most Common Position in the Restaurant Industry?
Serving is the most common position if you’re looking to work at a restaurant. Servers are responsible for taking orders and getting people their food promptly. For quick-service or fast-food chain restaurants, servers aren’t needed but cashiers or front-end workers who can place orders and collect payments are often needed.
What Are the Requirements to Work in the Restaurant Industry?
The requirements needed to work in the restaurant industry depend on the type of position you’re looking for. Generally, positions are split up into two categories: front-end and back-end workers.
The front-end workers typically work with customers face-to-face so more communication skills are required. If you’re looking to become a cashier, you’ll need to be organized and able to count money accurately.
Back-end workers typically need cooking or food prep skills along with the ability to multitask and lift boxes full of supplies.
Managers need leadership skills along with the ability to train others and provide exceptional customer service.
What’s the Average Pay for Restaurant Jobs?
Restaurant jobs include part-time and full-time positions so the income you make can vary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average restaurant worker earns $18.99 per hour.
Servers in particular, may have a low hourly rate but can earn tips and bonuses which make up the bulk of their pay. On average, restaurant workers earn $33,576 per year. Managers and regional managers for franchise restaurants may earn more since these are higher paying positions.
What Jobs Can You Get in a Restaurant?
Several different positions are required to help keep restaurants running. This is why prioritizing a team mindset is so important. People must rely on each other heavily in order to service customers and maintain a good.
Below are some of the various jobs in the restaurant industry, the tasks that are required and the average pay.
"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."— Stephen King, author
Restaurant Staff List
The general manager is one of the most important positions in a restaurant. General managers are in charge of overseeing and helping run operations for the entire restaurant. They handle tasks such as hiring or firing employees, training new hires, checking inventory, communicating with owners, and implementing other processes to help serve customers and meet goals.
Hourly Wage: $24 - $30
Assistant managers report to the general manager and fill in with tasks the manager doesn’t have time to handle. Assistant managers have many of the same job responsibilities as the general manager and they may also be in charge of scheduling employees to work during the week.
Hourly Wage: $22
Servers are responsible for taking customer’s orders and delivering food and drinks to their table. Servers must have good communication skills and also be great at multitasking. In the U.S., it’s customary to tip servers around 20% of the check amount, but they must also focus on customer service and maximize tips and keep customers happy.
Hourly Wage: $3.50 - $12 + tips
Like servers, the hostess is the face of the restaurant and often the first face a customer sees when they walk in. The hostess helps guests get seated and oversees the flow of the dining room. If they’re aren’t any tables available, the hostess will manage a waiting list and try to get guests seated as soon as possible.
Hourly Wage: $8 - $11
Every restaurant needs a cook, but most places hire multiple kitchen staff to help prepare and prep meals. Cooks are under pressure to prepare the meal quickly but also to keep up with quality and sanitation standards. Fast food cooks may even prepare some of the menu items in advance to keep warm during the day.
Meanwhile, other restaurants only prepare once it’s been ordered. Larger sit down restaurants hire line cooks to handle various tasks to streamline the workflow of everyone in the kitchen.
- Fast food cook - $9 - $11
- Short-order cook - $12 - $16
An executive chef comes up with menu items for a restaurant and should have culinary experience or a degree in this field. This role also involves determining how the food will be prepared and presented to guests who dine at the restaurant.
Hourly Wage: $36 - $48
Sous chefs hold the second most important position in the kitchen after the executive chef. Sous chefs need similar culinary experience and are responsible for assisting the executive chef in running the kitchen and delegating tasks.
Hourly Wage: $25 - $29
Runners work in both the front and back end of busy restaurants. They bring meals out when they’re ready if the server is unable to. A runner’s main role is to move prepared food from the kitchen to help restaurant staff serve customers efficiently and streamline production.
Hourly Wage: $9 - 11
Dishwashing is an entry-level role but a necessity at restaurants. Dishwashers help clear dishes, run the washer cycle, and keep the kitchen clean. This role doesn’t require too many skills, but it can also open the door for you to advance to other positions in the restaurant as they become available.
Hourly Wage: $9 - $11
Once someone finishes eating and leaves their table, the bus person is responsible for clearing the table. This includes gathering all the cups, plates, and other utensils and bringing them to the kitchen for washing.
The bus person is also responsible for cleaning the table and wiping it down for the next guest. Like dishwashing, this is another entry-level restaurant job that can help you get started in this field and prepare you for other roles.
Hourly Wage: $10
Some restaurants are licensed to sell alcohol and need to hire bartenders. Bartenders should have solid experience with mixing and making drinks as well as excellent communication skills.
Bartenders also rely heavily on tips and some restaurants may even have servers split their tip amount with the bartenders that’s on staff during their shift. This makes sense if the customers order alcoholic drinks during their meal that the bartender has to prepare.
Hourly Wage: $9 - $12 + tips
What Are the Best-Paying Restaurant Jobs?
Some of the highest paying restaurant jobs include positions like general or assistant manager, executive chef, or sous chef. These positions often require either several years of restaurant experience or a degree and other hands-on training.
What’s It Like Working in the Restaurant Industry?
Working in a restaurant can be very fast-paced and somewhat stressful at times. Workers need to be extremely organized and communicative. There’s pressure to prepare good food and get it to the customers promptly.
Sometimes human error occurs and someone may get the wrong order. Restaurant workers try to limit this from happening, but if and when it does, it’s important to be courteous and offer to fix the issue to satisfy the customer.
Managers are responsible for helping things run smoothly and ordering inventory to ensure the restaurant doesn’t run out of important ingredients. If you’re a server or cashier, you’ll need to make sure you ring up orders accurately and be able to count cash.
Working at a restaurant could be very rewarding for the right person. Whether you enjoy cooking, interacting with people, or providing excellent service, you could thrive in the fast-paced environment.
How Much Do Restaurant Owners Make?
On average, restaurant owners make anywhere from $33,000 to $150,000 per year depending on a variety of factors. Some restaurants earn more than others depending on things like:
- The genre and popularity level of the food
- The local market including traffic and amenities in the area
- Price of menu items
- Seasonal changes (I.e. busier in the summertime)
How successful the restaurant is and its size can also directly impact an owner's earnings. For example, the owner of a huge 4-star restaurant on the Las Vegas strip might make more than someone running a family-owned diner in a small town.
During the first year, operating costs will be higher so you may not earn much profit. In general, most restaurant owners take less than 50% of the profit as a salary. Most entrepreneurs take advantage of restaurant business loans to get their business started.
Learn more about our 7 best business loan recommendations here.
"You are your greatest asset. Put your time, effort and money into training." — Tom Hopkins, sales leader
Working in the restaurant industry is not for everyone, but it could lead to a lasting career for the right person. There are several positions available in restaurants and with enough hands-on and management experience, you could even open a restaurant one day.
If you’re looking for a secure position, restaurants are always hiring and the more skills you have that contribute to the job, the more stable your income can be.