Employee Wages and Benefits


Restaurant Employee Wages

Wages and benefits vary slightly from restaurant to restaurant, even for the same position. If you are a manager hiring people for the first time, or simply assessing wages in order to make changes to your current payroll, check out the average national statistics.

Median Wages for Restaurant Employees

Restaurant worker wages are different depending on the type of restaurant, the geographical location, and the worker responsibilities. The chart below illustrates several restaurant workers’ average hourly and annual wages, as well as the highest and lowest percentile wage estimates for the jobs, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Employee PositionHourly WageAnnual Wage
AverageLowest – highest percentileAverageLowest – highest percentile
Food Service Managers:$23.39$13.58 – $35.61$48,660$28,240 – $74,060
Restaurant Cooks:$10.56$7.27 – $14.55$21,960$15,120 – $30,270
Fast Food Cooks:$8.11$6.34 – $10.34$16,860$13,180 – $21,510
Restaurant dishwashers:$8.20$6.56 – $10.38$17,060$13,640 – $21,580
Bartenders:$9.49$6.66 – $14.50$19,740$13,850 – $30,170
Restaurant Hosts/Hostesses:$8.54$6.54 – $11.34$17,770$13,610 – $23,580
Waiters and Waitresses:$8.93$6.31 – $13.55
(with tips)
$18,570$13,120 – $28,180

Minimum Wage

Minimum wage is the lowest rate businesses can legally pay their employees. In the restaurant industry, employees’ salaries are often determined by assessing the national minimum wage and raising it accordingly. As of July 24, 2008, the minimum wage is $6.55 per hour. Minimum wages increase every year.


Tips are considered a benefit of working in a restaurant, but many servers and bartenders would most likely consider it part of their income. These restaurant workers usually work for a pay rate of less than minimum wage, but take home a good deal more based on their tip income. Tips are sometimes distributed among kitchen staff and bussers as well. Unlike other restaurant benefits, tips are given by guests, not restaurant owners. » Learn More About Tip Distribution and Tip Reporting

Meal Benefits

Restaurants often offer daily employee meal benefits to their workers. These usually involves one discounted or free meal from the restaurant menu per employee per shift. However, each restaurant meal policy is different, depending on corporate rules, food type and budget. » Learn More About Managing Employee Meals in the Restaurant

Paid Time Off

Restaurant managers may receive a certain number of paid sick days and vacation days, depending on the restaurant’s policies. Hourly workers typically need to request time off in advance and do not get paid for vacation days or sick days.


Restaurant managers and other supervising positions are often entitled to insurance benefits in the restaurant. Sometimes these benefits are even extended to hourly workers, but this depends on the company. Insurance benefits typically include the following:

  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Life
  • Disability


A 401K is a tax-deferred retirement savings investment plan sponsored by an employer. Employees who are offered a 401K plan transfer a portion of their income to the 401K account each month and plan to withdraw it after retirement. Much like insurance, 401K plans are not offered by all employers, and when they are, they are mainly offered to managers and assistant managers. Since many restaurant workers are youths who may not be fulfilling their careers in the restaurant, 401K benefits are not quite as common for these hourly workers.

Stock Options

Stock options are a rare benefit, and one that almost exclusively offered to restaurant managers or partners, if ever. However, in 2000, the United States House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill amending the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This bill allows restaurants owners to offer stock option bonuses to hourly restaurant employees. According to the National Restaurant Association, the passage of the bill was a major step in improving restaurant employer-employee relationships. Stock options are often seen as a way the employee can make money in the stock market. Thus, a benefit like this may improve recruiting results and employee retention in the restaurant.


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