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Fast Food Cook Career

Career Description

Fast Food Cooks prepare a limited selection of menu items in fast-food restaurants. They cook and package batches of food, such as hamburgers and fried chicken, to be kept warm until served.

Common Work Tasks

  • Maintain sanitation, health, and safety standards in work areas
  • Clean food preparation areas, cooking surfaces,  and utensils
  • Operate large-volume cooking equipment such as grills, deep-fat fryers, or griddles
  • Verify that prepared food meets requirements for quality and quantity
  • Take food and drink orders and receive payment from customers
  • Accept payment from customers, and make change as necessary
  • Read food order slips or receive verbal instructions as to food required by patron, and prepare and cook food according to instructions
  • Wash, cut, and prepare foods designated for cooking
  • Measure ingredients required for specific food items being prepared
  • Cook the exact number of items ordered by each customer, working on several different orders simultaneously

Other Job Titles

Fast Food Cooks are also known by other titles, including:

  • Cooks
  • Waiters and Waitresses
  • Chefs
  • Servers

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Most fast-food or short-order cooks require little education or training to start because most skills are learned on the job. Training generally starts with basic sanitation and workplace safety and continues with instruction on food handling, preparation, and cooking procedures. Training in food handling,  sanitation, and health and safety procedures are mandatory in most jurisdictions for all workers. Those who become proficient and who show an interest in learning complicated cooking techniques may advance to more demanding cooking positions or into supervisory positions.

      Fast food cooks must be efficient, quick, and work well as part of a team. Manual dexterity is helpful for cutting, chopping, and plating. These workers also need creativity and a keen sense of taste and smell. Personal cleanliness is essential because most States require health certificates indicating that workers are free from communicable diseases. Knowledge of a foreign language can be an asset because it may improve communication with other restaurant staff, vendors, and the restaurant’s clientele.


The median annual salary for a Fast Food Cook is $16,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $21,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $13,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of fast food cooks are:

  • Limited-Service Eating Places- $16,660
  • Full-Service Restaurants - $17,520
  • Gasoline Stations - $16,120
  • Grocery Stores - $20,710
  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries - $18,610

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  8%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 52,000
  • Employment 2006 : 629,000
  • Employment 2016:  681,000
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