Although food service covers a wide variety of occupations, food service workers generally are considered as those who are counter attendants at cafeterias in schools, businesses and hospitals, as well as those who do food preparation and set-up. Food service workers also are employed at concession stands, fast food restaurants and food court areas in grocery stores, department stores and malls. Additionally, counter attendants at coffee shops who do limited table-waiting are considered food service workers. Many of these jobs are part time and salaries generally are low.
Median starting salary for food service workers in 2009, according to the PayScale salary survey Web site, ranges between about $7.60 to $8.90 per hour. Those with at least five years' experience can expect to make between $8.30 and $11 per hour. Those employed for more than 20 years are making top salaries of about $13.40 per hour.
Fast Food Workers
PayScale shows fast-food workers, in particular, as earning between $6.80 and $7.90 per hour starting wages, with very little increase for experience. A fast-food worker with nearly 20 years of experience typically is making around only $9 per hour.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, the average hourly wage for food service workers in 2008 was between about $8.40 to $8.90, or between $17,500 and $18,500 annually if employed full time. This includes counter attendants and food prep workers in cafeterias, food concessions, coffee shops, fast-food restaurants and take-out places. A total of 90 percent of these workers were earning between $6.60 and $11.80 per hour.
Some particular types of employers pay food service workers higher than average, although opportunities may be limited because not as many jobs are offered by these companies. Rail transportation services, for instance, pay food service workers an average salary of about $15.50 per hour or over $32,000 per year. However, railroad companies only employ about 160 food service workers total, compared with companies classified by the BLS as limited-service eating places, which employ over 2 million of these workers. The U.S. government employs about 8,200 food service workers and pays them an average of $14.15 per hour. General merchandise stores employ about the same number, paying about $12.50 per hour on average.
Limited-service eating places, defined as food services where customers typically order or select items and pay before eating, were paying an average between $8.00 and $8.50 on average in 2008. Additional opportunities are available at grocery stores, which pay about $9.90 on average, and elementary and secondary schools, paying between $9.80 to $10.30 on average. Food service workers employed by special services such as caterers made an average of about $9.70. Those working at movie theater concession stands were making about $8.20 per hour in 2008.
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