How much do bartenders really make? Salaries of food service workers

Like employees in any industry, people who work in restaurants take home a wide range of salaries. 

From the person who greets you as you walk in the door to the guy who washes your dishes after you’re finished eating, everyone who works at a restaurant, be it hourly or full-time, earns a paycheck. What they make varies greatly, and we’ve tracked down the average salaries for a few restaurant industry jobs.

Nobody will ever tell you that working in a restaurant (in any capacity) will be easy. Salaries are notoriously low, especially for those who are just getting their feet in the door, and because servers and bartenders are largely dependent on tips for their income, a couple of bad nights can spell the difference between paying the rent on time and having to sleep on somebody's couch. On the other hand, waiters and waitresses at some of the country’s most expensive restaurants, where average bills can stretch into the hundreds of dollars, can make six figures.

Aside from the restaurant’s owner (who might be making bank or not even paying him- or herself a profit, depending on how the restaurant is doing), the executive chef is usually the highest-paid employee — and rightfully so. Executive chefs lead the kitchen, plan menus, control inventory, and make sure that everything coming out of the kitchen is up to snuff, and while it’s a job that can bring glory, it’s anything but easy. On the other end of the spectrum, dishwashers tend to be paid minimum wage, or slightly higher.

In order to gather data on average salaries, we consulted websites, including,, and, that pull their information from salaries reported by employees themselves as well as data collected from HR reportings.  So if you’re considering a career in restaurants (or are just curious about what the folks who work at your favorite local spot earn), read on to learn about the average annual salaries for common restaurant industry jobs.

  • 1. Bartender



    According to 967 reported salaries on Glassdoor, the national average for a bartender’s salary is $30,108.’s report is a bit less sunny, with a median salary of $18,318.

  • 2. Busser


    iStock reports that the national average busser salary is $14,000.

  • 3. Dishwasher



    lassdoor reports that hourly wages for dishwashers at chain restaurants, including Cracker Barrel, Chili’s, Friendly’s, and Red Lobster, range from $8.58 to a little over $10. According to Indeed, the average yearly salary of a dishwasher in the United States is $20,000.

  • 4. Executive Chef

    Executive Chef


    Executive chef salaries vary greatly; reports $67,240 as the national median, while Glassdoor’s 316 executive chef salaries average $59,396. According to Indeed’s calculations, the industry average is $49,000.

  • 5. Executive Pastry Chef

    Executive Pastry Chef


    This is another high-paying restaurant job, but it’s becoming rarer and rarer outside of fine dining establishments. Glassdoor averages the salary of Executive Pastry Chefs at about $67,000, and puts the median at about $62,000.

  • 6. Fast Food Cook

    Fast Food Cook


    According to Glassdoor, McDonald’s pays its cooks $8.90 hourly (which equals out to about $25,000 per  year), and Chipotle pays $9.81 per hour. According to, the median fast food cook salary is about $19,000.

    Find out more surprising food service job salaries.

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