Most fast food workers spend their time in either the kitchen area, preparing food for customers, or clerking and distributing food at the counter or drive-through window. With experience, clerks or kitchen workers can advance into supervisory positions. Outside of management positions, this is one of the lowest-paying industries in the American economy, and many fast food workers move on to higher-paying jobs when they have the opportunity. Because of this high turnover rate, fast food jobs are usually readily available.
Average Pay Statistics
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 4,101,790 Americans worked at limited-service eating places, commonly referred to as fast food restaurants, in 2011. The average wage of these workers was $9.71 per hour, which worked out to an average annual income of $20,210. Because pay for fast food workers is so closely tied to the minimum wage, and this is the rate of pay at which most fast food workers start, those in states with a high minimum wage are likely to have higher incomes. As of 2013, federal law guarantees a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The highest state minimum wage, $9.19 an hour, is in Washington.
Pay for Kitchen Workers
As of 2011, fast food cooks reported an average wage of $8.94 per hour to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Annually, fast food cooks earned an average of $18,590. Supervisors of cooks and food preparation workers in fast food establishments earned an average of $13.87 an hour and $28,850 per year.
Pay for Counter Workers
Fast food cashiers made an average of $8.77 per hour in 2011, according to the BLS, and reported average earnings of $18,240 a year. As in the kitchen, their supervisors reported substantially higher earnings: first-line supervisors of fast food cashiers made an average of $15.06 an hour and $31,330 per year.
Pay for Management
Not surprisingly, management positions at fast food restaurants paid far better than kitchen, counter or supervisory positions. Food service managers, who typically work on-site, address customer concerns and make sure that the restaurant runs smoothly. These workers earned an average of $22.34 per hour and $46,480 per year. General and operations managers make decisions regarding the overall direction, and may oversee more than one restaurant. As of 2011, general managers averaged $33.12 per hour and $68,900 per year.