Room For Growth: Restaurant Positions, Their Requirements and Salaries
It’s no surprise to anyone that the wage for restaurant workers usually falls far behind the minimum. In a decision by the government, the minimum wage for those who work as a server or bartender can legally be far below that of the one set in place for everyone else. To get right down to numbers, the national sub-minimum wage (the one for waitstaff) is a whopping $2.13/hour compared to say, the minimum wage in Illinois which currently stands at $8.25/hour. In large part, this is because of the amount in tips one would receive for the services, often making up for the large salary gap. A recent story in the news revealed that as inflation has greatly increased the cost of living, the wage for those who work in the restaurant industry has yet to move in about 20 years. That’s not for all restaurants, where some have made
it a point to increase their workers wage. But in large part, this statement still weighs to be true. The rise in cost of food often makes up for the loss in hourly wage. That’s just general economics. If the product costs more then the gratuity should be larger, in a normal business situation. For anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry, we know that sometimes this is true and sometimes it isn’t. It’s just the nature of the job. Tips also vary greatly depending on the restaurant or bar, its location and its reputation. If you’re working in a swanky café in a major city, you’re probably going to get tipped more than the person who works in a small town diner. If all this information makes you feel hopeless, don’t worry. There is a bright side.
There is a huge world of jobs out there in the restaurant industry, all with varying levels of education, expertise and experience requirements. If food is your passion and a serving position is your way of getting a foot in the door, we have really good news for you. It gets way better after this. With the right education, like an online culinary school, it is often seen that people increase their job position and in turn their salary. We’ve provided a few examples of potential food careers and their comparative salaries to lay it all out for you.
Dishwasher: It may not be your ideal career position but washing dishes is nothing to cough at. As anyone who works in restaurants knows, every job is an integral part of the operation. It should also come as no surprise that quite a few very successful chefs started out as dishwashers like a certain John Dory. The range in pay for this job has a small range of about $7.50-$11 according to a Huffington Post article.
Server: Depending on the spot, a server could make $7/hour including tips all the way up to $150,000 per year, according to an article by New York Magazine. That’s quite a gap, to say the least. As the amount of low-end restaurants far outweighs the high, most of those who work as a server will unfortunately be far closer to the low end of that vast spectrum. But if working in high-end food is your passion, it’s good to know it pays! Taking culinary classes to learn more about the business and food can certainly help you get there.
Bartender: People often think that bartenders would come away looking a lot better than servers but the facts would surprise you. Their starting wage is almost identical of that of a server but their range doesn’t go as high. A bartender at an upscale restaurant, bar or lounge may top out around $70,000 a year for their salary, reaching about half of what an upscale server could. Still, there’s great potential for growth and the culinary world is definitely moving toward fancy drinks with fancy food. With cocktails on the rise, any bartending experience has the ability to put you in a good position to climb.
Restaurant Manager: This is an extremely hard job if you’re doing it right. Irregular and long hours as well as a mounting list of duties and responsibilities can often lead just about anyone down the path of a nervous breakdown. But still, there are people who not only do this and do it well but also love doing it. Let’s all take a bow for those ladies and gentlemen. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cookery manager makes about $52,000 annually but can make as much as $80,000 and beyond. They keyword in this job title is manager so either an education in that or a lot of experience will put you in the best light.
Sommelier: These experts of wine are used a lot more than one might think, often frequenting most restaurants who put a heavy hand on their wine lists. As there are different levels of this position, salaries definitely have some variance. An entry level sommelier will probably start out at around a $30,000, a normal number for a beginner’s salary. However, a Master Sommelier, can make upwards of $160,000 annually. A whopping number compared to the first. But don’t hold out for that one just yet. In order to become a Master Sommelier, many expensive and difficult courses and tests have to be completed on top of 10 years of professional experience.
Sous Chef: The name and title can really mean a lot. It can mean chef, cook, manager, expert, and all of the above. The sous-chef has become one of the more interpretive and flexible job positions in the food industry. This could include all cook time or never spending more than a minute in front of the stove. The salary for such a position averages around $41,000, according to a 2010 survey by Starchefs.com.
Pastry Chef: Even though crack of dawn work hours in a hot, steamy environment doesn’t sound like much fun to most people, it’s the kind of place a pastry chef loves. But with all that sweating, and kneading and mixing, a pastry chef makes just barely above what a sous chef does at $47,000 according to the same StarChefs.com 2010 survey. As will be revealed in the next one, it’s nearly half of what an executive chef makes on average, with an obvious wide range. Why do pastry chefs have it so rough?
Executive Chef: The big guy. Like a sous chef, an executive chef can mean many, many different things. Sometimes they’ll spend the entire time creating over their stove and sometimes they’ll act as more of a coach. And as much as their position details might vary so do the salaries. At $74,800, an executive chef has the highest average compared to someone who wears the hats of chef/owner/CEO. In some restaurants that salary could be tripled and the same goes for a place that is far from 5-Star. Either way, that’s a pretty hefty salary to strive for with much growth potential.
And the best part is that online courses, education or any type of enhancement of your knowledge can help increase salary, incite a promotion or a career change. There is a huge culinary world out there just waiting for you to take a bite out of it. For any owner, you can very much increase productivity with professional restaurant staff training from an institution like Escoffier Online Culinary Academy. For the older chefs, even if you just want to brush up on some more modern approaches, there are online culinary courses that can help with that and also work around your busy work schedule.