Food Preparation Workers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 food preparation worker Jobs

  • Food Service Worker - Community Psychiatric Clinic - Seattle, WA

    We have some excellent and exciting career opportunities available. CPC is seeking a Food Service Worker that will provide cooking and light kitchen

  • Culinary Line Cook Level 2 Aerie Lounge (FT) - Grand Traverse Resort and Spa - Acme, MI

    Estimates food consumption, and requisitions or purchases foodstuffs • Receives and examines foodstuffs and supplies to ensure quality and

  • Food Preparation Worker - B2S Food, Inc - Addison, TX

    The Dallas Morning News

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What Food Preparation Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers. Food preparation workers prepare cold foods, slice meat, peel and cut vegetables, brew coffee or tea, and perform many other food service tasks.

Duties of Food Preparation Workers

Food preparation workers typically do the following:

  • Clean and sanitize work areas, equipment, utensils, and dishes
  • Weigh or measure ingredients, such as meats and liquids
  • Prepare fruit and vegetables for cooking
  • Cut meats, poultry, and seafood and prepare them for cooking
  • Mix ingredients for salads
  • Store food in designated containers and storage areas to prevent spoilage
  • Take and record the temperature of food and food storage areas
  • Place food trays over food warmers for immediate service

Food preparation workers perform routine, repetitive tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers. To help cooks and other kitchen staff, they prepare ingredients for dishes by slicing and dicing vegetables and by making salads and cold food items. Other common duties include keeping salad bars and buffet tables stocked and clean.

Food preparation workers retrieve pots and pans, clean and store kitchen equipment, and unload and store food supplies. When needed, they retrieve food and equipment for cooks and chefs. In some kitchens, food preparation workers use a variety of commercial kitchen equipment, such as commercial dishwashers, blenders, slicers, or grinders.

In restaurants, workers stock and use soda machines, coffeemakers, and espresso machines to prepare beverages for customers. In fast-food restaurants, food preparation workers may take customer orders and process payments.

Work Environment for Food Preparation Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Food preparation workers hold about 873,900 jobs. The industries that employ the most food preparation workers are as follows:

Restaurants and other eating places 49%
Grocery stores 16
Special food services 6
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 5

Food preparation workers are employed in restaurants, hotels, and other places where food is served, such as grocery stores, schools, hospitals, and cafeterias.

The work is often strenuous. Food preparation workers may stand for hours at a time while cleaning or preparing ingredients. Some may be required to lift and carry heavy pots or unload heavy food supplies.

The fast-paced environment in kitchens can be hectic and stressful, especially during peak dining hours. Therefore, food preparation workers must work well with cooks and other kitchen staff so that dishes are prepared properly and on time.

Injuries and Illnesses

Food preparation areas in kitchens often have potential safety hazards, such as hot ovens and slippery floors. As a result, food preparation workers have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. The most common hazards include slips, falls, cuts, and burns, but these injuries are seldom serious. To reduce risks, workers often wear gloves, aprons, and nonslip shoes.

Food Preparation Worker Work Schedules

About 1 in 2 food preparation workers are employed part time. Because many restaurants are open extended hours, working early mornings, late evenings, weekends, or holidays is common. Those who work in school cafeterias may have hours that are more regular and may work only during the school year, usually for 9 or 10 months. Some resorts offer seasonal employment.

How to Become a Food Preparation Worker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Food Preparation Workers near you!

Food preparation workers typically learn their skills through on-the-job training. No formal education or previous work experience is required.

Food Preparation Worker Education

There are no formal education requirements for becoming a food preparation worker.

Food Preparation Worker Training

Most food preparation workers learn their skills through short-term on-the-job training, usually lasting several weeks. Trainees typically start by working under the supervision of an experienced worker, who teaches them basic kitchen duties. Training also may include basic sanitation and workplace safety regulations, as well as instructions on how to handle and prepare food.

Important Qualities for Food Preparation Workers

Dexterity. Food preparation workers chop vegetables, cut meat, and perform many other tasks with sharp knives. They must have the ability to work quickly and safely with sharp objects.

Listening skills. Food preparation workers must understand customers’ orders and follow directions from cooks, chefs, or food service managers.

Physical stamina. Food preparation workers stand on their feet for long periods while they prepare food, clean work areas, or lift heavy pots from the stove.

Physical strength. Food preparation workers should be strong enough to lift and carry heavy food supply boxes, which often can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Advancement for Food Preparation Workers

Advancement opportunities for food preparation workers depend on their training and work experience. Many food preparation workers advance to assistant or line cook positions as they learn basic cooking skills.

Food Preparation Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median hourly wage for food preparation workers is $9.70. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.20, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $14.43.

The median hourly wages for food preparation workers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $11.46
Special food services 10.37
Grocery stores 10.11
Restaurants and other eating places 9.42

Pay for food preparation workers varies by employer and region. Pay is usually highest for workers in elementary and secondary schools and in major metropolitan and resort areas.

About 1 in 2 food preparation workers are employed part time. Because many restaurants are open for long periods each day, working early mornings, late evenings, weekends, or holidays is common. Those who work in school cafeterias may have hours that are more regular and may work only during the school year, usually for 9 or 10 months. Some resorts offer seasonal employment.

Job Outlook for Food Preparation Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of food preparation workers is projected to grow 6 percent through 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Population and income growth are expected to result in greater consumer demand for food at a variety of dining places, including restaurants and grocery stores. In response, more restaurants and food establishments are expected to open. Many of these establishments, including nursing and residential care facilities, will require food preparation workers to wash and cut ingredients, clean work areas, and store and retrieve supplies. In addition, consumers continue to prefer fresh meals made from scratch, and chefs and cooks in various food service venues will require the assistance of food preparation workers to prepare these more labor-intensive meals.

Some restaurants and cafeterias customize their food orders from wholesalers and distributors in an effort to lower costs. For example, they may order pre-washed, -cut, or -seasoned ingredients, such as meat or vegetables. Employment growth of food preparation workers will be moderated at these dining establishments.

Food Preparation Workers Job Prospects

Job opportunities for food preparation workers should be very good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year.

Jobseekers with related work experience should find opportunities at upscale restaurants. However, individuals seeking full-time positions at these restaurants will face strong competition because the number of job applicants often exceeds the number of job openings.

Employment projections data for Food Preparation Workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Food preparation workers 873,900 928,800 6 54,800


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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