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The 5 Most Stressful Food Service Jobs

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.

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.

chef 

(Photo Credit: Sarah Ackerman/Flickr)

Even the lowest stress job titles in PayScale’s recent Restaurant Report were not exactly stress-free. At best, 50 percent of respondents for any occupation reported low stress. (Those positions were host/hostess and restaurant supervisor, for the record — but given that those occupations typically pay $10-12 an hour and don’t necessarily work a 40-hour week, financial stress might more than make up for the relatively easy-going work environment.)

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Some job titles, however, were extremely unlikely to characterize their occupation as “low stress.” These included:

1. Pizza Cook

Low Stress: 22 percent

High Job Satisfaction: 52 percent

Typical Pay: $9.30/hour, median of 34.1 hours per week

2. Food Service Worker

Low Stress: 24 percent

High Job Satisfaction: 47 percent

Typical Pay: $9.60/hour, median of 32.4 hours per week

3. Sous Chef

Low Stress: 24 percent

High Job Satisfaction: 66 percent

Typical Pay: $14.10/hour, median of 40 hours per week

4. Banquet Captain

Low Stress: 25 percent

High Job Satisfaction: 71 percent

Typical Pay: $20.90/hour, median of 39.5 hours per week

5. Head Chef

Low Stress: 25 percent

High Job Satisfaction: 62 percent

Typical Pay: $13.50/hour, 39.8 hours per week

What can we learn from this? Well, for one thing, lower responsibility can equal lower stress, even with the added burdens of interacting with the public. The chef might not have to explain to the customer why his dinner was cold, but ultimately, the buck stops with him or her, not the waitstaff.

On the other hand, higher stress doesn’t necessarily guarantee a living wage. Only one title on our list — banquet captain — surpassed the $20 an hour mark for typical pay, and two out of three of the job titles clocked in at under 40 hours a week (or thereabouts). The bottom line is that food service is hard, stressful work, and it doesn’t offer a lot in the way of job security. Keep that in mind, the next time you calculate that tip.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the most stressful job you ever had? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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