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Wages for Food Service Workers Finally See Some Growth

Nobody takes a job in food service expecting a huge salary – unless they’ve watched too many episodes of Top Chef. If you work in food service, it’s either because you have a passion for it or you’re biding time until you move into a different career (you know, like movie star).

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For those who fall into the passionate category, the unfortunate truth is that your determination and talent will likely be rewarded with long hours, high stress and low pay. And, in recent years, the low pay has been even lower than normal with a big drop in food service worker wages during the recession and little to no wage growth since. However, the two most recent quarters this year (Q2 and Q3) show some signs of life in food service worker wage growth.

Quarterly Compensation Trends for Food Service & Restaurant Jobs
The PayScale Index uses 2006 average total cash compensation as a baseline.
Food Service & Restaurant Jobs

According to The PayScale Index, wages for food service workers were up 2.3 percent in Q3 2012 from 2006 wage levels (the baseline for The PayScale Index). That’s the highest they’ve been since Q3 2008 and nearly at the all-time high for food service worker wage growth of 3 percent, achieved in Q2 2008.

Of course, compared to national wage growth, the picture isn’t quite as rosy (though food service wage growth has always trailed national trends.) In Q3 2012, national wages were up 7.8 percent from their 2006 wage levels, showing more than three times the growth of food service wages.

Quarterly Compensation Trends for Food Service & Restaurant Jobs
The PayScale Index uses 2006 average total cash compensation as a baseline.
Food Service & Restaurant Jobs
National (US)

So, what does this mean for talented chefs, servers and other food workers? If you haven’t seen a bump in your paycheck in the last year or two, now might be the time to ask for a pay increase. But, if you’re hoping for a significant jump in your wages in the near future, the answer is probably in another career path. Ever thought about a job in technology?

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(Photo credit: Lynn Friedman/flickr)

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