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Top jobs at a restaurant: How to find, onboard, and keep restaurant employees

The demand for restaurant talent is on the rise, and it’s an exciting time for restaurant owners to bring in new employees — from chefs and line cooks to waitstaff and bartenders. But what are the top jobs at a restaurant you should prioritize in the hiring process? And how do you find, onboard, and keep excellent restaurant employees for the long haul?

With 78% of restaurant owners reporting they don’t have enough staff to meet customer demand —and the current cost of replacing a restaurant worker being almost $6,000 — you’ll want to make sure you bring in the right people and create the right culture so you don’t have to worry about the high cost of turnover.

To help, we’ve created an in-depth list of the most important restaurant jobs to suit your restaurant’s specific size, style, cuisine, and menu. And, we’ve also peppered in a few best practices and tips for onboarding and retaining a solid restaurant staff. So, let’s dig in if you’re ready to learn about the wide variety of jobs at a restaurant.

What types of jobs do restaurant owners need to hire for?

There are many factors that determine what kinds of jobs your restaurant will need — including restaurant size, menu complexity, service style, price point, and whether or not you have a bar — but the jobs that every restaurant owner typically has to hire for are:

  • An executive chef
  • A sous chef
  • A general manager
  • A server
  • A host or hostess
  • A bartender
  • A food and beverage manager
  • A dishwasher

The most common restaurant jobs and descriptions

We know that not every restaurateur needs a bartender, a fry cook, a sauce chef, or a pastry chef. But we wanted to make our list of common restaurant jobs as thorough as possible so you don’t have to research far and wide to learn about the unique kinds of positions in the industry.

Restaurant manager

A restaurant manager oversees daily operations, leads the front of house and back of house staff, and manages the relationship between restaurant owners and their employees.

  • Restaurant managers can make about $40,000 to $90,000 a year in large cities like New York and about $30,000 to $80,000 in smaller cities.
  • You’ll probably need around five years of experience in the restaurant industry to be considered for this role, although you don’t necessarily need a formal degree or certification.
  • Restaurant managers should have excellent communication and leadership skills. And, they should also be comfortable with inventory management and budgeting as well as the human resources aspects — like hiring and onboarding — of running a restaurant.

Assistant restaurant manager

An assistant restaurant manager works closely with the restaurant manager and helps make sure that the customer experience and daily staff operations are running smoothly.

  • Assistant managers can make a range of $30,000 to $70,000 a year across the U.S.
  • This role typically requires around three years of restaurant industry experience, but you don’t need any formal education or certification.
  • Assistant managers should also be comfortable with customer service, leading teams, and communicating with both staff and leadership.

Food and beverage manager

A food and beverage (F&B) manager handles the budgeting and inventory side of drink and menu planning for a restaurant. They’re essential in making sure menus stay cost-effective.

  • On average, a food and beverage manager can make a range of $40,000 to $90,000 a year in big cities and around $30,000 to $70,000 in smaller cities.
  • Most restaurants require F&B managers to have at least three or four years of related experience.
  • Food and beverage managers should have experience with managing inventory, budgeting, planning menus, and working alongside chefs, managers, and owners to keep restaurant operations under control.

Kitchen manager

A kitchen manager oversees kitchen operations and makes sure that food preparation and cooking, inventory, safety, and cleanliness are all up to restaurant standards as well as local and state codes.

  • A kitchen manager can expect to make around $50,000 to $80,000 a year in a larger city but might make around $30,000 to $60,000 in a smaller city.
  • You’ll likely need at least three years of experience working in a restaurant — particularly as an assistant kitchen manager or line cook — before getting this role.
  • A good kitchen manager should be ready and willing to work in a fast-paced and sometimes stressful environment. It also helps to have a good understanding of the food, safety, and cleaning policies that a restaurant needs to stay compliant with local health codes.

Executive chef

In the French brigade kitchen framework — or brigade de cuisine — you see in fine dining, restaurateurs hire and organize their kitchen employees in a way that maximizes efficiency and organization.

In this system, an executive chef oversees and leads a team of chefs, works with the restaurateur to plan and build menus, and trains cooks and kitchen staff. While they usually don’t do much cooking, they’re heavily involved in all the daily kitchen operations.

  • An executive chef in New York City could expect to make anywhere from $90,000 to $100,000 a year, but the range drops down to around $70,000 to $90,000 in other cities across the U.S.
  • Because it’s such an essential role for a top restaurant, you’ll typically need an average of eight years of experience in the culinary industry with a focus on managing kitchen operations and other chefs for executive chef roles.
  • Keep in mind that most executive chefs attend culinary schools or programs to gain more specialized, industry-specific knowledge and experience.

Sous chef

The sous — or ‘under’ — chef is the executive chef’s second-in-command. They act as another kind of kitchen manager that takes care of day-to-day meal preparation and cooking. Their job is usually much more hands-on than the executive chef’s.

  • A sous chef in New York City can make anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 a year, while they might make less in smaller cities.
  • Most restaurant employers expect a sous chef to come in with two to five years of experience working in a kitchen environment.
  • A good sous chef should have experience managing or working in every stage of food preparation. While they don’t necessarily need formal qualifications, many sous chefs have some culinary training and are working to eventually become executive chefs.

Pastry chef

A pastry chef, or pâtissiere, works with the other heads of the kitchen to plan dessert menus that perfectly complement the entrees. Outside of working in restaurants, pastry chefs can also work in bakeries and cafes. And, they have specialized knowledge in a variety of confections — from candies to decorated cakes.

  • Depending on their pastry specialty, a pastry chef can make anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000 in large U.S. cities, while they may make $25,000 to $70,000 in less populated cities.
  • While not required, a certification in culinary arts or pastry-making — plus around two years of restaurant experience — can help you secure a pastry chef role.
  • While you don’t need any formal education to be a pastry chef, it helps to have some kind of specialized training in baking and ingredient sourcing to bolster your application.

Chef garde-manger

You’ll typically find a pantry chef — also called the chef garde-manger — in a large kitchen. They prepare cold foods like chilled soups, salads, pâtés, and sharing plates like charcuterie or cheese boards.

  • In large U.S. cities like New York or Los Angeles, garde-manger chefs can make a range of $40,000 to $65,000 a year, but they might make less in smaller cities.
  • Restaurant employers look for about two to four years of experience when hiring a chef garde-manger.
  • Although not strictly necessary, you can find culinary programs that offer garde-manger training or courses to help prepare you for a career in this specialty.

Line cook

A line cook — also called a chef de partie or station chef — manages dishes and prepares food in their specific station in the brigade system. Whether they’re frying, sauteing, baking, or grilling, they take orders and instructions from the executive chef or sous chef for a specific dish while keeping their station clean and workflow efficient in the process. Line cooks are often chefs-in-training who are hoping to gain experience and advance their culinary careers.

  • A line cook can make anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 a year in large cities, although they earn a range of $14,000 to $40,000 in smaller cities across the U.S.
  • Line cooks are often trained on the job, but having some culinary experience or a year or two of restaurant experience will help you land a job more quickly.
  • A good line cook should be ready to adapt to fast-paced and often crowded, hot kitchen environments. They should also prioritize the work values of efficiency, communication, and cleanliness.


In the brigade system, the saucier (sauce chef) is another kind of line cook who’s in charge of the sauce station and creates and cooks the restaurant’s sauces.

  • A saucier makes an average of $30,000 and requires a similar level of experience and skills to other line cooks.
  • A sauce chef should have a working knowledge of other stations but show expertise and innovation with methods of sauce preparation.

Fry cook

A fry cook takes charge of fried food preparation, which often involves working with deep fryers or the delicate and sometimes hazardous work of frying food in hot oil.

  • A fry cook can make around $20,000 to $35,000 a year in larger cities, while pay can drop down to $15,000 across the U.S.
  • It helps to have at least a year of experience in a kitchen environment to get a job as a fry cook, but you can often receive training on the job.
  • Because frying food can pose certain safety risks, it helps to have some background knowledge or training with frying and, when necessary, a food handler’s card.

Prep cook

A prep cook’s job is essential to keep kitchen operations as efficient as possible. Their primary job is preparing everything that the line cooks need for their dishes. Prep cooks might chop and slice produce, portion out meat and fish, and make sure things are properly labeled, stocked, and ready to cook.

  • Prep cooks can make an average of $20,000 to $40,000 in larger cities, although they tend to make less outside urban centers.
  • While it helps to have some culinary training and at least a year of work experience, prep cooks can also receive on-the-job training if they don’t have prior experience.
  • Successful prep cooks can think ahead and anticipate the needs of line cooks to keep kitchen workflows running smoothly.

Short-order cook

In a restaurant or cafe that focuses on fast food or quick service, a short-order cook’s job is to prepare anything that requires little preparation time. For example, they might be responsible for cooking eggs at a diner or manning the french fry station at a burger joint.

  • A short-order cook can make around $20,000 to $30,000 a year across the U.S.
  • While it helps to have at least a couple of years of kitchen experience, short-order cooks can be trained on the job as long as they’re adaptable and willing to learn.
  • Like fry cooks, short-order cooks need to pay extra attention to cleanliness and food safety when working with hot oils and deep fryers.


You’ll typically find a sommelier — or wine steward — working in an upscale restaurant with a focus on fine dining and drinks. In a restaurant role, they’re responsible for creating wine lists, suggesting wine and food pairings, and overseeing wine service to customers.

  • The pay range for sommeliers can be quite broad and averages between $40,000 and $100,000 depending on the city and the specific restaurant they’re working in.
  • Sommeliers typically need an official sommelier certification and at least two years of restaurant experience to get a role in an upscale restaurant.
  • An excellent sommelier should have extensive background knowledge on wine and demonstrate a continual willingness to learn about and taste new wines. They should also have a firm grasp of top-notch customer service and know how to educate customers about wine.

Entry-level restaurant positions

There are many restaurant positions that involve on-the-job training —and that means that you can find candidates in a variety of places with lots of different levels of work experience. Here are some entry-level roles typical in restaurants, bars, and cafes:

  • Bartender
  • Barista
  • Barback
  • Waitstaff
  • Food runner
  • Busser
  • Host or hostess
  • Dishwasher
  • Cashier
  • Drive-thru manager
  • Fast food cook

Best practices for restaurant onboarding

Employee turnover is high in the food service industry, which makes it even more necessary to have great onboarding practices.

Send onboarding paperwork before new employees start

One common onboarding mistake restaurant owners make is waiting until a new staff member’s first day on the job to fill out paperwork and go over information they could have reviewed on their own.

We suggest you simplify your onboarding by sending new hires welcome packets and required forms to read and sign as soon as you make them a job offer. Then, ask them to e-sign and return the documents before they even show up for their first day of training.

Offer continuous training

Even if a job is entry-level, it can take months of training and practice for a new hire to feel fully confident and capable in their role.

Make it clear to your new restaurant team member during onboarding that, while you expect them to learn and adapt as quickly as possible, ongoing training and continuous development is part of the job.

Combat new hire overwhelm by setting up a regular routine of restaurant team training workshops that everyone participates in, not just the newest team members.

Don’t forget feedback and praise

In their article about onboarding new employees, Homebase customers and Scentcerely Yours owners Rob and Susi Brucato emphasize the importance of explaining why you provide continuous feedback to new hires. Tell them you do it because you care about their development and want to make sure they get settled in their new position as quickly as possible.

They also recommend saying thank you at the beginning and end of shifts to help maintain a positive work environment and company culture.

In the often-stressful restaurant industry, prioritizing regular feedback, great rapport, and praise goes a long way in making new hires feel like they’re part of the team.

Best practices for retaining restaurant employees

While not every employee you hire will be cut out for a long-term career in hospitality, there are things you can do to maximize retention rates and create a great place to work.

Employee scheduling

Scheduling your restaurant employees can be a full-time job, especially if you’re managing the abnormal hours of high school students who bus tables, college kids who work as servers, and salaried managers and executive chefs.

We recommend using a scheduling app that lets you automate the whole process. That way, you won’t have to rely on an Excel spreadsheet that can be time-consuming to create and difficult to update once you send it out to everyone.

Homebase can also help! Our free scheduling software lets you create and distribute employee schedules in minutes. You can also update them easily after you publish them, and once you do, confirm that all employees have seen the most recent version.

Restaurant staff payroll

For restaurant managers who tackle payroll manually, it can take up to a week to collect timesheets, run payroll, and wait for direct deposits to make it into employee accounts. And when manual systems make getting paid inefficient or inconsistent for employees, it can lead to people feeling annoyed and even looking for a new position elsewhere.

We suggest using a payroll software to reduce the time and labor cost it takes to run payroll. Using a dedicated feature for payroll — like Homebase payroll — takes the guesswork out of everything from taxes to PTO so you don’t have to worry about compliance issues.

Team culture

A solid team environment is important for employee happiness and retention. Of course, the nature of restaurant work can make creating a healthy culture challenging, especially considering that restaurants are divided into front-of-house and back-of-house teams.

For inspiration, we recommend taking a look at these 5 tips straight from small business employees.

Manage a great restaurant team with Homebase

The restaurant industry has so many distinctive challenges, and we know some owners feel that even the most innovative software solutions can’t fully equip their management and employees with the proper tools they need every day.

That’s why we built Homebase. Homebase was designed to help make work easier for small business owners and hourly workers. We’ve helped over 100,000 small businesses create a great place to work with our all-in-one tools for hiring, onboarding, scheduling, payroll, team communication, and HR and compliance.

Restaurant jobs FAQs

What are some of the skills you need for a job at a restaurant?

If you’re hoping to get a job at a restaurant, here are some of the basic hard and soft skills ‌to mention on your resume and in the application process:

  • Hard skills
    • Basic math
    • Waiting tables
    • Bussing
    • Simple bartending
    • Workstation maintenance
    • Taking orders
    • Inventory management
    • Point of sale (POS) experience
    • Customer service experience
  • Soft skills
    • Attention to detail
    • Active listening
    • Memorization
    • Consciousness of safety
    • Patience with customers
    • Ability to learn on the job

What roles do you need in a restaurant?

The roles you need in your restaurant depend on whether it’s a casual cafe or an upscale fine dining establishment, but here are a few of the roles most restaurants need:

  • An executive chef
  • A sous chef
  • Line cooks
  • Prep cook
  • A general manager
  • Servers
  • A host or hostess
  • Bussers
  • Bartenders
  • A food and beverage manager
  • Dishwashers

How do you schedule restaurant employees?

To schedule restaurant employees effectively,  we recommend using a tool like Homebase’s scheduling app that lets you build and instantly share the schedule with your restaurant employees.

Instead of using a time-consuming and difficult-to-update Excel spreadsheet, you can use the Homebase app to build the exact schedule you want — and even make and share changes on the fly — so you never have to wonder if your team has the latest version of the schedule. 

Simply publish your schedule and your team is instantly notified in text, email, and the app. You can even confirm that they’ve seen the most recent schedule.  

Where do you find restaurant employees to hire?

In addition to posting your restaurant’s job descriptions on sites like ZipRecruiter, Craigslist, or Indeed, these are a few good ways to find restaurant employees to hire:

  1. Post about job openings on your restaurant’s social media pages like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  2. Publish job openings on restaurant-specific hiring sites like Sirvo, Culintro, Poached, and Culinary Agents.
  3. Reach out to your local high school’s guidance counselor to find entry-level employees or partner with local vocational schools and culinary programs to find candidates who have culinary training.

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