How Much Money Can You Make in Food Service?

The food service industry includes a wide variety of roles and responsibilities, ranging from entry-level kitchen assistants and waiters to private chefs and everything in between. Even within each position, the amount you might expect to make can differ depending on experience, location, and how prestigious the restaurant is.

Before deciding whether or not a career in food service is for you, it is important to know the average salaries for some of the most prevalent roles and whether they will be enough to sustain your way of living.

However, it won’t matter what the position pays if you cannot secure the interview in the first place. To do that, you will need to make sure that you have a perfect food service resume that will garner the attention of hiring managers and recruiters and earn you a shot at achieving your dream role.

This article details a range of food service positions and what you could typically expect to make for each one.

Restaurant Workers

Restaurant workers, including waiters and cashiers, are popular roles for those starting on their career journeys. They are often easy roles to learn and ideal for young people looking to get a foot in the working world. As a result, most restaurants will not offer salaries for these positions, but will usually pay on an hourly basis via shift work. 

It is estimated that the average restaurant staff member will earn just over $13.00 an hour, which works out at just over $30,000 per year. As mentioned, this figure is dependent on the establishment, with some restaurant chains paying their waiters and waitresses up to $22.00 per hour.


Most kitchens in restaurants will have a hierarchy of chefs working for them. Larger restaurants will need a team of chefs to ensure that all orders are cooked properly. Assistant chefs will often work under the supervision of a sous chef, who works under the executive chef. All chef roles will have different salary expectations.

Assistant chef

Those who are just starting in the industry will usually be responsible for the bulk of the cooking in larger restaurants and chains. Salary expectations can vary depending on several factors, including years of experience, additional skills and responsibilities, and location.

An entry-level chef could expect a salary of just over $34,000, with the average salary coming in at just over $50,000.

Sous chef

The sous chef is often the second-in-command in the kitchen. They are often responsible for training new staff, supervising the day-to-day running of the kitchen, and maintaining the standards expected of the restaurant. 

The average base salary for a sous chef is estimated to be around $55,000. This is roughly the same as what a head chef at smaller restaurants and chains would typically earn. 

Executive chef

The most prestigious type of chef within a restaurant is usually the executive chef. They are often responsible for multiple kitchens within a chain. They will have a considerable say in the menu options and generally manage much of the operational costs of the kitchen.

Executive chefs earn an average salary of around $65,000.

Private chefs

Perhaps the highest paying food service role out there is the private chef. These individuals work exclusively for affluent individuals and take care of all aspects of their food. They may manage small teams and often travel with the client if necessary.

The average salary for a private chef is estimated to be just over $90,000.

Restaurant Owners

As a final entry, we have included restaurant owners. It isn’t easy to pinpoint an average salary for these individuals, as ultimately, it is down to you how successful your restaurant is and how much money you bring in.

If you have ever dreamed of owning a restaurant but don’t know where to start, check out this article on what you need to know when starting a small business.