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Which Pay Best? Jobs in Food Service and Retail

By Susan Johnston
In 2011, the retail industry is expected to grow by over five percent, creating half a million new jobs, according to industry researchers. The food and beverage industry is also expected to grow, though not as dramatically. As the economy rebounds and consumers start spending again, new job opportunities will appear in the food and retail industries. Which industry will pay their new hires best?

It looks like employers in retail pay better overall. That said, the two industries have a lot in common from an employee’s perspective. For example, Tony Frey, senior vice president at the Carlisle Group, a Pennsylvania recruitment firm, has over a decade of experience recruiting for both industries and points out that these jobs tend to require flexibility outside of the typical 9-to-5 schedule.

And, in better news, there are often opportunities to move up in an organization and work in a variety of roles, certified human resources professional, recruiter, and coach Katherine Duffy adds.

Below, we compare median (typical) hourly rates and salaries for five job positions, according to online salary database PayScale.com, as well as offer insights into what each job entails.

1. Cashier

Food Service: $7.60 per hour
Retail: $8.20 per hour

Cashiers in both food service and retail are expected to project a positive, friendly image of the company and communicate with other associates. But, Duffy says, the most important thing is their ability to process sales accurately and quickly.

2. Marketing Coordinator

Food Service: $15.50 per hour
Retail: $17.70 per hour

A marketing coordinator’s job can include traditional public relations activities, social media marketing, and research and analysis, according to Duffy. The marketing coordinator is especially important in retail ecommerce companies, because tracking click-throughs and customer activity helps these retailers boost sales in the competitive online environment.

3. Operations Director

Food Service: $66,900 per year
Retail: $79,900 per year

In the retail industry, an operations director would typically oversee a unit covering several different stores, according to Frey. In food service, such as a catering company, an operations director might manage a particular account. “[Employers are] looking for someone who has experience running that type of unit,” says Frey. “In retail, they’re’ typically looking for multi-location experience.”

4. Human Resources (HR) Manager

Food Services: $55,600 per year
Retail: $56,300 per year

Although Frey says skills like knowledge of HR law would transfer from HR positions in other industries, HR managers in food service potentially face added challenges, like ensuring that employees are trained in food safety and understanding the guidelines on union and non-union workers. He adds that HR managers in retail and food are typically involved in talent acquisition and associate relations so experience in those areas is attractive to employers.

5. Full Charge Bookkeeper

Food Service: $31,100 per year
Retail: $40,100 per year

Duffy says a bookkeeper’s responsibilities might include processing purchase orders, providing monthly financial orders, and maintaining other records. While she notes a preference for those with food or retail experience, she says many of the same skills transfer from bookkeeping positions in other industries. “An accounting degree would definitely be a preference but sometimes people will get a certificate instead,” she adds.
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