Salary Survey


$ For Better or Worse (Than Last Year)

$ Where You Live

$ Who You Are

$ Years in the Business and Job Satisfaction

$ Are the High Costs of Culinary School Worth It?

$ The Age Old Assumption

$ Health and Wealth

$ On the Job


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Results of 2005 Salary Survey

By Miriam Marcus

To see our most recent Salary Survey results, click here

From tracking Rising Stars to the hottest new food and wine trends, strives to keep professionals on the pulse of the restaurant industry — and our 2005 Salary Survey, sponsored by Pernod, has given us even more exciting information to share. 2,000 industry professionals from all restaurant sectors, and from virtually every position in the front and back of the house, have responded to our online survey. Data collected from the 2005 Salary Survey reveals extensive information about the food industry, and about’s professional readership. Industry salary averages are just one aspect of our findings—age, education, gender, ethnicity, and geographic location are among the many factors that comprise the complexity of salary distribution in the trade.


For Better or Worse (Than Last Year)
Across the board salaries were higher in 2005 than in 2004, according to the results of the Industry Salary Survey. In some categories the pay increase was significant; such is the case with Line Cooks and Managers/Restaurant Managers. In other categories however, such as with Sous Chefs and Food and Beverage Managers, the national average for wages may have risen from the previous year, but the increase is almost negligible at less than 1%.

Executive Chefs make more money than most other positions in the industry. Of our survey respondents who live in the US, Executive Chefs reported an average salary of $75,596 in 2005, up 1.2% from our 2004 survey results. 15% of Executive Chefs in fine dining establishments, and 12% of all Executive Chefs, earned over $100,000. In 2004, only 7% of Executive Chefs made such high wages. Line Cooks tend to work for hourly wages; the 16% who do work for a yearly salary earned an average of $30,454 in 2005. The 20% of Sous Chefs who work for hourly wages averaged $14.55.

The 59% of Pastry Chefs who earn a yearly salary averaged $50,581 in 2005. The 41% of Pastry Chefs who earn hourly wages averaged $15.81. Pastry Cooks, who primarily work for hourly wages, averaged $12.06. Bakers reported an average hourly wage of $11.62 in 2005.

Sommeliers reported a wide range of survey responses about their salaries. They earned between $35,000 and $149,000, with an average of $68,125 in 2005. 33% earn hourly wages, ranging from $7.99 for part-time workers to $17.99 for full-time. A smaller number of people specified their job title as Wine Director; they averaged $85,416 in 2005.

Waitstaff/Servers overwhelmingly work for hourly wages, and averaged $6.36 per hour. The gamut is wide, ranging from less than $3.00 to $19.99 per hour. Fine dining establishments tend to pay slightly higher wages than more casual restaurants, though they largely reflect individual states’ minimums for tipped employees.

90% of Managers/Restaurant Managers work for salary with an average of $49,634; they enjoyed one of the larger percentages of increased incomes in 2005, as compared to other job title categories in the industry. Just 10% of Managers/Restaurant Managers work for hourly wages; those who do averaged $12.50 in 2005.

— Salary: 2004 vs. 2005 —

Job Title
% Increase
Executive Chef
General Manager
Executive Sous Chef
Food and Beverage Manager
Pastry Chef
Manager/Restaurant Manager
Sous Chef
Line Cook


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Where You Live

Most of our survey respondents hail from in or around large cities. Certain states and regions tend to offer higher wages, while others compensate towards the bottom of the pay-scale. According to our survey respondents, the highest incomes earned by Executive Chefs were in California ($87,651) and New York ($86,666). Among the lowest paid Executive Chefs were those in Boston ($60,666) and Philadelphia ($61,527). The highest paid Line Cooks were in Las Vegas ($14.00), Washington State ($13.14), New York ($13.50), and Chicago ($12.50). Among the lowest paid line cooks were those in Texas ($10.62) and North Carolina ($9.00).

Wages for Pastry Chefs are reportedly highest in Las Vegas ($69,999), while among the lowest are those in Florida ($44,900) and Virginia ($42,500). Pastry Cooks get the longer end of the stick in Chicago ($13.00), with California ($12.54) trailing closely behind. Among the lowest wages for Pastry Cooks are those in Florida ($12.06) and New York ($11.75). Sous Chefs bring home the largest pay checks in Florida ($43,928), while their colleagues in Massachusetts ($36,250) and the Pacific Northwest ($30,416) are not as well compensated. Broken down by geographic location, Managers/Restaurant Managers in New York ($57,500) are among the highest paid; the lowest paid in this job title category are those in Chicago ($37,500). Our survey results tell us that General Managers earn the highest salaries in California ($63,000). Among the lowest paid General Managers were in the South, with an average of $48,333.

— Regional Salary Data


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Who You Are
The food industry draws people from all walks of life. At first glance it seems that gender and ethnicity hold no prejudice in the kitchen. However, as in many other industries, factors such as gender and ethnicity do play a role in who moves up the chain of command and how quickly. According to our survey respondents, 81% of higher ranking positions (Sous Chef and higher) are held by Caucasians, while the next largest ethnic block is Hispanic and Latinos, making up 5% of these positions—the same as’s survey results in 2004. African-Americans hold 4% of these positions — also the same as our results last year. Sommeliers and Wine Directors are 67% Caucasian. There is a wider gender disparity in these job title categories; 75% of Sommeliers and 84% of Wine Directors are male.

Gender imbalances lean towards men in almost every job category, according to our survey respondents. An overwhelming majority of the more experienced kitchen positions are held by men: 89% of Executive Chefs, 82% of Sous Chefs, 66% of Line Cooks, and 60% of Management positions surveyed are male. The only place in the kitchen where women hold a higher percentage of positions is in the pastry department. 80% of Bakers are female, 77% of Pastry Chefs surveyed are female, and 84% of the cooks that work in pastry beneath them are women as well. Women do hold a majority in one front-of-house job title category; 68% of Waitstaff/Servers are female.

Ethnicity and Gender


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Years in the Business and Job Satisfaction
It is expected that the longer one stays in a business, the higher up in the ranks one can climb. The responses from those surveyed by tell a similar story. 67% of Executive Chefs say they have at least 16 years of experience in the kitchen.

— Experience —

Job Title
Average Years of Experience
Executive Chef
Executive Sous Chef 10.2
Waitstaff/Server 9.6
General Manager 8.9
Sommelier 8.3
Sous Chef 7.9
Pastry Chef 7.8
Manager/Restaurant Manager 7.3
Line Cook 5.7
Pastry Cook 3.0 surveyed respondents to determine if the number of years put in on the job increased proportionally with salary. Based on our data, Executive Chefs concentrating in the hotel aspect of the food industry do enjoy higher salaries as a result of devoting many years to the business. The salaries of Executive Chefs in casual dining settings tend to remain relatively constant throughout their careers. The salaries of fine dining Executive Chefs seem to reach a high point in the 10-12 year range of experience, and then taper off.

— Executive Chef: Years of Experience vs. Annual Salary —

“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Experience alone does not necessarily mean job stability or likeability. To that affect, Waitstaff/Servers and Line Cooks have the highest turnover rates in the industry, according to survey respondents. They have changed jobs, on average, 2.9 and 2.8 times, respectively, in the past 5 years. They are followed close behind by Sous Chefs who have changed jobs 2.5 times in the past 5 years. These turnover rate findings reinforce the fact that industry management need to find more creative ways to retain employees, especially on the service side, while keeping in mind that many cooks are seeking a variety of learning environments to hone their skills.

— Turnover Rate in the Past 5 Years —


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The Age Old Assumption
One might venture a guess that age, along with years of experience, would play a role in salary distribution. It appears from our data, however, that industry salaries can sometimes plateau after a certain point, or as in the case with surveyed Executive Chefs, even drop a bit with old age.

Top salaries in the industries go to Executive Chefs working in fine dining establishments, averaging 34.9 years of age, with 10-12 years of experience.

— Age —

Job Title
Average Age
Executive Chef
General Manager 38.1
Pastry Chef 36.6
Executive Sous Chef 36.1
Manager/Restaurant Manager 35.9
Sommelier 35.0
Pastry Cook 31.8
Sous Chef 31.6
Line Cook 30.0

Age vs. Salary


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Are the High Costs of Culinary School Worth It?
Line Cooks and pastry professionals have the highest rates of culinary school graduation. According to our survey respondents, management position holders have the least amount of formal culinary training in the industry.

— % Attended Culinary School

Based on data, level of education does not affect the salary of Executive Chefs nor Sous Chefs in any significant way. The salaries of Pastry Chefs, Managers/Restaurant Managers and General Managers cluster around those who hold a culinary degree, however the salaries of Managers/Restaurant Managers increase over $10,000 for those who have earned a Master’s Degree of some kind.


— Education vs. Salary —



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Health and Wealth
Health insurance is an ongoing topic of controversy in American politics. Unlike our Canadian neighbors to the north, and many European nations, the US does not have socialized medicine. Those Americans with medical benefits at work are considered a lucky bunch. Individual and family health plans are costly, and when that cost is included in one’s salary, it can add up to more than $10,000 of one’s yearly income.
For back-of-house workers, Executive Chefs enjoy the highest percentage of full employer-paid health coverage; 51.8% pay nothing for their health plans. Line Cooks and Pastry Cooks are at the other end of that spectrum; only 19.4% of Line Cooks, 17.6% of Pastry Cooks, and just 16.3% of Waitstaff/Servers report total health coverage paid for by their employers.

— Health Insurance —

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On the Job
We asked survey respondents how many hours they work in a typical shift and in a typical work week. The standard American work week is 40 hours. According to our data, most positions in the food industry work well over that standard; Executive Chefs lead the pack, averaging almost 60 hours, with over 40% working over 60 hours per week. Executive Chefs also report the lowest instancejust 3%of monetary compensation for those extra hours on the clock.

— Hours Worked in a Day/Week —

— Overtime —

Job Title
% Who Work 61+ Hours in a Typical Week
% of Those Who Are Paid for Overtime
Executive Chef 40.3% 3.0%
Executive Sous Chef 36.9% 23.7%
Sommelier 36.8% 26.0%
Sous Chef 25.3% 26.0%
General Manager 25.0% 94.0%
Manager/Restaurant Manager 14.6% 20.0%
Pastry Chef 13.3% 39.5%
Line Cook 5.6% 76.0%
Pastry Cook 0.0% 94.0%
Waitstaff/Server 0.0% 80.0%


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   Published: February 2006