Food preparation workers perform a variety of tasks such as preparing vegetables and meats, making salads, weighing and measuring ingredients and stirring sauces. They also arrange the food on serving dishes. Providing pots and pans for chefs and cooks is often part of the job. Those working in cafeterias and large restaurants often work in an assembly line. Also, they're responsible for cleaning work areas and equipment. Food preparation workers are employed in restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores and specialty food stores. They're supervised by chefs and cooks.
- Prepare various types of food including meats and vegetables
- Assist cooks and kitchen staff with a variety of tasks
- Arrange food on serving dishes
- Load and run dishwashers
- Stock shelves and refrigerators
- Take care of salad bars and buffets
- Remove trash
- Prepare beverages
- Prepare salad dressings and sauces
- Distribute food to waitresses and waiters
- Weigh or measure ingredients
- Package take-out foods
- Store food
- Clean equipment, work areas and utensils
- Inform supervisors when supplies are low
- Inform supervisors when equipment is not working properly
Some restaurants and grocery stores, with food preparation facilities, include modern equipment, air conditioning and spacious work areas. Some restaurants, particularly those located in older buildings, often have small work areas and do not offer the quality work environment provided in newer restaurants. The quality of the work environment in restaurants may vary by the quality and the type of food being served.
They must work quickly, be efficient and work well as part of a team. Good manual dexterity is also important. Food preparers often deal with pressure during busy periods. Standing for long periods of time is also part of the job. In addition, part-time and full-time positions are provided. Variable work schedules are typically available.
In 2006 there were approximately 902,000 food preparation jobs and about 44% of the employees worked part-time. Two-thirds of food preparation workers, cooks and chefs worked in restaurants and other food services and drinking establishments. The number of positions for food preparation workers is projected to be plentiful due to the continued growth of the food services industry. The employment of food preparation workers is expected to grow faster than the average of all occupations.
The growth in employment in the industry will occur due to a growing population and the convenience of eating at restaurants and purchasing carry-out meals from a variety of places. Also, a large number of workers leave the occupation and have to be replaced.
Seasonal employment is provided by resorts. Those employed in upscale restaurants typically work more hours per day due to the amount of time required to prepare the ingredients in advance.
The demand for food preparation workers in the meals-to-go business, including meals prepared for grocery stores and specialty food stores is projected to growth faster than average. There has also been an increase in demand for healthier, made-from-scratch meals. However, during economic recessions, people usually eat at restaurants less often which decreases the demand for food preparation employees.
The median annual earnings for food preparation workers in 2006 was $17,410. Those that work full-time often receive benefits. In addition, in some large restaurants and hotels, kitchen workers are members of a union.
Food Preparation Worker Training, Certification, and Licensing
A high school diploma is usually not required. Most food preparation employees receive on-the-job training. The training includes food handling and preparation, basic sanitation and workplace safety. A number of high school and vocational schools provide courses in food safety and food handling procedures. Some school districts, in partnerships with state departments of education offer on-the-job training and summer workshops for cafeteria workers who desire to become cooks. In addition, those that show skills and leadership abilities may advance into supervisory positions. Some also advance into jobs as cook assistants or line cook positions.
The primary employers for food preparation workers are grocery stores with food preparation facilities, full-service restaurants and limited-service eating venues.
Schools for Food Preparation Workers are listed in the Browse Schools Section.