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Food Preparation And Serving Workers Career

Career Description

Food Preparation and Serving Workers perform duties which combine both food preparation and food service.

Common Work Tasks

  • Perform routine, repetitive tasks under the direction of chefs and cooks
  • Ready the ingredients for complex dishes by slicing and dicing vegetables, and composing salads and cold items
  • Weigh and measure ingredients, go after pots and pans, and stir and strain soups and sauces
  • Cut and grind meats, poultry, and seafood in preparation for cooking
  • Clean work areas, equipment, utensils, dishes,  and silverware
  • Accept payment from customers, and make change as necessary
  • Request and record customer orders, and compute bills using cash registers, multicounting machines, or pencil and paper
  • Clean and organize eating and service areas
  • Serve customers in eating places that specialize in fast service and inexpensive carry-out food
  • Prepare and serve cold drinks, or frozen milk drinks or desserts, using drink-dispensing, milkshake, or frozen custard machines

Other Job Titles

Food Preparation and Serving Workers 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 and food preparation workers 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.

      Food preparation workers 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 Food Preparation and Serving Worker 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 food preparation and serving workers are:

  • Limited-Service Eating Places- $15,870
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools - $19,820
  • Full-Service Restaurants - $16,280
  • Grocery Stores - $20,160
  • Special Food Services - $19,570

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  15%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 138,000
  • Employment 2006 : 902,000
  • Employment 2016:  1,040,000
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