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Short Order Cook Career

Career Description

Short Order Cooks prepare and cook to order a variety of foods that require only a short preparation time. May take orders from customers and serve patrons at counters or tables.

Common Work Tasks

  • Prepare foods in restaurants and coffee shops that emphasize fast service and quick food preparation
  • Grill and garnish hamburgers, prepare sandwiches, fry eggs, and cook French fries, often working on several orders at the same time
  • Clean food preparation equipment, work areas,  and counters or tables
  • Plan work on orders so that items served together are finished at the same time
  • Complete orders from steam tables, placing food on plates and serving customers at tables or counters
  • Perform simple food preparation tasks such as making sandwiches, carving meats, and brewing coffee
  • Order supplies and stock them on shelves
  • Accept payments, and make change or write charge slips as necessary
  • Wash, peel, cut, and seed fruits and vegetables to prepare them for consumption
  • Estimate expected food consumption, requisition or purchase supplies, or procure food from storage

Other Job Titles

Short Order Cooks are also known by other titles, including:

  • Cooks
  • Waiters and Waitresses
  • Chefs
  • Servers

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Most 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.

      Short order 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 short order staff, vendors, and the short order’s clientele.


The median annual salary for a Short Order Cook is $19,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $27,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $14,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of short order cooks are:

  • Full-Service Restaurants- $19,710
  • Limited-Service Eating Places - $18,580
  • Drinking Places - $19,650
  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries - $18,840
  • Gasoline Stations - $16,970

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  5%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 9,500
  • Employment 2006 : 195,000
  • Employment 2016:  205,000
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