Short order cooks prepare foods in restaurants, diners, coffee shops and other eateries that focus on fast service and quickly prepared meals. They're also employed at hospitals, schools and other institutions. Most of the time they're responsible for cooking several orders at the same time.

Typically, short order cooks prepare simple items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled sandwiches, eggs, bacon and other breakfast foods. They focus on foods that only require a short amount of time to prepare. In addition, small restaurants and eateries sometimes require short order cooks to perform other duties such as washing plates, utensils and equipment, taking food orders from customers and working with the cash register.


  • Prepare food items for cooking
  • Cook, grill and fry foods
  • Cook several orders at a time without allowing food to burn or get over cooked
  • Coordinate the completion time of foods which are served together
  • Keep track of meal orders
  • Stock kitchen with clean pans, pots and utensils
  • Keep the kitchen area and equipment clean
  • Carve meats and prepare sandwiches
  • Stock the kitchen with food items and various ingredients

Job Characteristics

Some restaurants include modern equipment, air conditioning and good ventilation. However, often kitchens become quite warm. Some restaurants, particularly those located in older buildings, often include smaller work areas and do not offer the quality work environment provided in newer restaurants.

Short order cooks need to be precise with their work, meet deadlines, be proficient at organizing and be able to work effectively under pressure during the busy periods. They must also keep track of the orders placed by waitresses and be effective with time management. Working quickly is a major part of the occupation. A good sense of taste is also important in the profession. They must also be able to stand on their feet for long periods of time.

Short order cooks typically work at least forty hours per week, however there are part-time positions. Evening, day and morning shifts are available. Many short order cooks have rotating shifts. Sometimes working on weekends and holidays is required.

Employment Outlook

Many short order cooks begin their careers in small restaurants in order to gain experience before applying for positions at larger establishments. After acquiring experience, some operate their own restaurant. Some short order cooks acquire additional training at technical schools, community colleges or culinary institutes and become cooks or chefs at upscale restaurants.

The rate of growth for short order cook positions is expected to grow at the average rate for all other occupations through 2014. Employment opportunities are expected due to the popularity of fast service restaurants and the high turnover rate in the occupation.

In 2006, there were 195,495 short order cook jobs in the nation. The median salary for short order cooks in 2006 was $17,880. The middle 50 percent earned from $14,960 to $21,820. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12,930 and the highest paid 10 percent earned over $26,110. Benefits are often provided to full-time cooks, however benefits vary by employer. In addition, the majority of cooks are provided with free meals.

Short Order Cook Training

Short order cook positions typically require little education or training. However, some employers prefer to hire cooks that have a high school diploma. Training in cooking procedures at vocational schools increases the chances for employment. In addition, most states ask for a certificate of health which asserts the employee does not have any communicable diseases.

Typically, short order cooks begin their employment in restaurants as dishwashers, dining room attendants or kitchen helpers. They're training is provided on-the-job. The training includes various types of cooking procedures, the fundamentals of sanitation and workplace safety as well as food handling and preparation. Those with experience and skills have opportunities to advance in their career and acquire a position that includes complicated cooking techniques or obtain a supervisory job.


Major Employers

The major employers include restaurant chains, coffee shops, hospitals and schools.

Schools for Short Order Cooks are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Short Order Cooks

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Short Order Cooks jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 7,690 $24,810
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 6,210 $23,020
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 4,500 $22,030
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 4,250 $24,780
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin 2,730 $20,310
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue 2,480 $26,980
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario 2,320 $25,300
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 2,310 $29,530
Austin-Round Rock 2,080 $22,560
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson 2,010 $23,060

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to short order cooks

Most Popular Industries for
Short Order Cooks

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

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Restaurant 128,520 76% $19,200
Amusement Gambling And Recreation 10,160 6% $18,840
Grocery Stores 7,970 4% $19,690
Hotel And Accomodation 5,970 3% $23,410
Gas Stations 5,930 3% $16,000
Nursing And Residential Care 2,600 1% $21,520
Non-profit 2,180 1% $19,070
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