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).
It's been dubbed the glass floor by some, and accepted as a reality of the American economy by many: tipping often makes up the bulk of pay for employees in the food service and hospitality industries. In fact, in many states, it's legal to pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 an hour, the federal tipped minimum wage. As a result, servers have to rely on customers' good graces to make up their paycheck – a situation that often leaves tipped workers vulnerable to sexual harassment.
Carlo Chalisea served Don Lucho's first sandwich off the grill himself in August of 2013. Now, two years later, the 30-year-old Seattle-based chef and entrepreneur is slanging his imaginative Rococo and Aji Amarillo-smothered Chicharron and Lomo Saltado creations to sandwich-loving Seattleites all over town as many as five days a week, and has trouble keeping up with demand even after hiring multiple employees. As one of the only authentic Peruvian food options in an area where the South American country’s cuisine is still largely unknown, the mobile sandwichera, which is named after Chalisea's father, has been growing apace with the local food truck scene as a whole, which exploded following the Seattle City Council’s unanimous vote to allow mobile food vendors to sell on public streets in 2011 (the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012 couldn’t have hurt things, either). At least some of the sandwich truck’s growth is the result of carving out a unique niche within the city’s larger mobile food community by way of standing gigs at local breweries, which have, like the trucks, been cropping up like wildfire in recent years. Along with this fortuitous strategy, the majority of his savings, and good old fashioned hard work, Chalisea credits Don Lucho’s success to innovative takes on his mom's family recipes, and a passionate dream to bring his Peruvian culture and cuisine to his hometown.
There's a reason the great Tina Fey once said that her job producing, writing, and starring in 30 Rock was less stressful than "managing a Chili's on a Friday night." The job is set up to encourage stress: everything you have to do needed to happen five minutes ago, it's a multitasking nightmare, and you're dealing with the public. Often, the public is hungry. Always, the public seems to have gone out to eat because they're not allowed to abuse their families at home. You get the idea: food service is stressful.
High stress. Low pay. Little to no job security. There's a reason that many of the food service occupations PayScale examined for its recent Restaurant Report rate poorly for job satisfaction or job meaning, or both. But that doesn't mean that everyone who works in the restaurant business hates their jobs. Here, we examine some of the job titles that reported being happier at work.
When it comes to food service jobs, where you live can be almost as important as where you work. While waiters at Chez Fancypants will almost always outearn counter staff at FastBurger, working in certain metro areas will give you a decided pay advantage. PayScale's Restaurant Report breaks down the highest (and lowest) earning locations for food service workers.
An HR manager once told me that he preferred to hire workers who had at least some food service experience on their CV. "No one knows how to work harder than a person who has worked for tips," he told me. But does that hard work translate into a decent salary? PayScale's Restaurant Report shows that the answer is often no.
Fast food workers took to the streets yesterday with chants such as "Hey, hey, ho, ho, poverty wages have got to go!" But who is paying more attention to the plight of the low wage worker? Lawmakers, or the customers buying cheap lattes and Big Macs?
Meet Anastasia Cassidy, recent graduate of Le Cordon Bleu of Boston. She has kindly agreed to answer some questions for PayScale in the hopes of giving students considering culinary education information to make a wise decision.