Food Preparation Workers picture    Food Preparation Workers image

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

Job Characteristics

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.

Employment Outlook

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.


Major Employers

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.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Food Preparation Workers

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Food Preparation Workers jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 40,020 $24,700
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 17,580 $27,730
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 17,180 $20,610
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 16,370 $21,650
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 16,300 $23,430
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 15,770 $22,300
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue 12,560 $28,300
San Diego-Carlsbad 10,450 $24,210
Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise 9,970 $26,210
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn 9,120 $24,260

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to food preparation workers

Most Popular Industries for
Food Preparation Workers

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Restaurant 458,490 52% $17,830
Grocery Stores 142,460 16% $19,440
Education 67,850 7% $21,660
Nursing And Residential Care 66,480 7% $18,860
Hospital 37,330 4% $20,820
Hotel And Accomodation 19,660 2% $20,510
Government 16,670 1% $19,860
Amusement Gambling And Recreation 12,390 1% $19,800
Gas Stations 9,990 1% $16,500
Social Service 9,900 1% $18,390
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Food Preparation Workers.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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