Food Service Workers


Employment Prospects


There are more than 12.5 million food preparation and serving related workers employed in the United States. The food service industry is one of the largest and most active sectors of the nation's economy. Employers include small restaurants (such as grills, sandwich shops, tearooms, soda shops, and diners), larger restaurants, hotel dining rooms, ships, trains, hospitals, schools, factories, and many other establishments where food is served. 

Starting Out

People usually enter this field by applying in person for open positions. Job openings are frequently listed in newspaper advertisements, or they may be located through local offices of the state employment service or private employment agencies. The private agencies may charge a percentage fee for their placement services. In some areas where food service workers are unionized, potential employees may seek job placement assistance by contacting union offices.

Advancement Prospects

Employees may advance to better-paying jobs by transferring to larger and more formal restaurants. They also may gain better positions and higher pay as they obtain more training and experience.

In general, advancement in this field is limited. Nevertheless, waiters may earn promotions to positions as headwaiters, hosts or hostesses, captains, or other supervisors. A waiter may be promoted eventually to restaurant manager, depending on training, experience, and work performance record, as well as on the size and type of food establishment. Food counter workers can advance to cashiers, cooks, waiters, counter or fountain supervisors, or line supervisors in cafeterias. Large organizations, such as fast food or other restaurant chains, may have management training programs or less formal on-the-job training for dependable workers who have leadership ability. Promotion opportunities are much more limited for waiters' assistants and kitchen helpers. Some of them become waiters, cooks' assistants, or short-order cooks; these promotions are more likely to happen in large restaurants and institutions. Some of these higher positions require reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, which employees seeking promotion should keep in mind.

Advancement usually involves greater responsibilities and higher pay. In some cases, a promotion may mean that the employee has the chance to earn more in service tips than in actual salary increases, depending on the size, type, and location of the establishment.

Some individuals may aspire to owning their own businesses or to entering into business partnerships after they have earned and reserved some capital and gained the necessary training and experience. Knowledge of the restaurant and food service business from the inside can be a definite advantage to someone opening or buying a restaurant.

Tips for Entry

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:


Join UNITE HERE to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.

Become certified by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry.

Visit to learn more about career options in the restaurant industry.