By Bridget Quigg

Plenty of people start their working lives wearing a visor and asking, “Would you like fries with that?” Most then move on to higher paying gigs in other industries. While it’s true that many fast food jobs don’t pay the big bucks, if you stay in the industry, there’s potential to make up to $88,000/year or more, depending on your location.

Are you ready to move up the fast food chain? See our list of the most common fast food jobs and what you can earn as you enter management. Also, get a special look at which fast food chains typically have the highest wages.

1. Pizza Delivery Driver

Wage: $7.25 per hour plus tips
Approx. Annual Salary: $15,000 plus tips
Job Description: Drive vehicle over established routes or within an established territory to deliver pizza, beverages and other take-out items. Collect payment.

“Pizza delivery!” Who doesn’t love to hear those words when the doorbell rings? Through wind, rain, sleet and snow, pizza delivery drivers must be brave enough to go to strange homes and strong-willed enough to ensure they get paid. Pizza delivery folks rely on tips for a good portion of their income, so remember to tip them.

2. Fast Food Worker

Wage: $7.85 per hour plus tips
Approx. Annual Salary: $16,300 plus tips
Job Description: Perform a variety of food preparation duties other than cooking, such as brewing coffee or slicing vegetables, and also do light-duty cleaning.

They chop potatoes, slice lettuce, and place strawberry ice cream in the freezer for your favorite milkshake. They may also clear tables, take out the trash and keep paper towels stocked in the bathroom. There are no specific educational requirements for this job which is why one fifth of food service workers in the U.S. are between 16 and 19 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The BLS also says that the job outlook for this gig is great, with a 13 percent increase in openings through 2016.

3. Cook, Fast Food

Wage: $7.97 per hour plus tips
Approx. Annual Salary: $16,600 plus tips
Job Description: Prepare and cook food in a fast food restaurant with a limited menu. This job normally involves operating large-volume, single-purpose cooking equipment.

Most cooks work fast and at high volumes, but fast food cooks really have to move. The whole point of fast food is that the customer doesn’t wait, right? While the speed these cooks work at is pretty standard, their pay isn’t.  Depending on where they work they’ll earn more or less. The BLS says the highest paying state for this job is the District of Columbia and the highest paying city is Atlantic City, New Jersey.

4. Cashier

Wage: $8.52 per hour plus tips
Approx. Annual Salary: $17,700 plus tips
Job Description: Process sales, bag merchandise and collect money. Close and balance cash drawers.

Somebody has to make sure that customers are paying for their 99 cent burgers and extra large fries. Cashiers mostly rely on their cash registers to run the numbers, but being able to do some quick, mental arithmetic is a useful skill when you’re handling money. The overall number of jobs in this area is expected to decline, according to the BLS. But, because people often move on from being a cashier, it can be a good place to find a first job and start working. You can often be trained on the job.

5. Barista

Wage: $9.61 per hour plus tips
Approx. Annual Salary: $20,000 plus tips
Job Description: Prepare coffee drinks, run cash register, clean facility and serve a limited food menu.

It may be a little fancier than grilling a cheeseburger or blending a milkshake, but slinging fancy coffee drinks is, essentially, fast food work. Plus, many baristas do some food preparation as well – like warming up breakfast sandwiches or pressing paninis. The big difference? Barista pay is generally more per hour than their burger-cooking counterparts. So, while it isn’t your typical fast food job, being a barista still requires serving hungry, decaffeinated customers in a rush to refuel.

6. Assistant Manager, Fast Food

Annual Salary: $33,300 per year
Job Description: Plan, direct, or coordinate activities of an organization or department that serves food and beverages.

This is the person who has to listen as employees beg for the night off or an angry customer complains that their burger is too salty. The assistant manager is in the trenches of the food preparation, customer service and employee management areas of the business. They are on the scene to ensure that everything really does run smoothly. And, with an annual salary of $33,000, they’re making approximately $16.00 an hour, about double what their front-line workers are making. The BLS expects this job position to grow as more people seek convenient and low cost food options.

7. Manager, Fast Food

Annual Salary: $34,200 per year
Job Description: Responsible for the daily operations of restaurants and other establishments that prepare and serve meals and beverages to customers.  Oversee the inventory and ordering of food. Responsible for all of the administrative and human-resource functions.

The job description of the manager of a fast food outlet could go on and on. It’s a hands-on job. They recruit, hire, train and monitor the performance of all the employees at the restaurant. They maintain a relationship with the larger company, if they are part of a franchise. They wear a lot of hats as they perform their daily duties. Because most restaurants are small, opportunities for promotion to managerial levels are limited, according to the BLS. If you’ve made it to the top of the heap, you’re among a select few. In fact, according to a restaurant manager job posting on McDonald’s career site, McDonald’s restaurant management curriculum has been recognized by the American Council on Education (ACE) and can earn those who complete it up to 46 college credits toward a two or four-year degree.

8. District Operations Manager, Fast Food

Annual salary: $65,400 per year
Job Description:  Plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of the company for a particular geographical area. Formulate policies, manage daily operations, and plan the use of materials and human resources.

By the time you arrive at the district operation manager level, you’re not likely prepping any food but you probably know how to in a pinch. Your job is to keep a bird’s eye view of the operations of all the restaurants in a particular region. It’s up to you to ensure that the restaurants you’re in charge of run efficiently and according to any rules laid down by the company. Are the employee’s wages fair for your area? Should you close early the day before Thanksgiving? Is your lease almost up on a particular space and should you renew it? Competition is tough to get to this high-paying fast food job, but knowing the business from the bottom up is likely a plus for getting hired.

9. Director, Fast Food Operations

Wage: $88,000 per year
Job Description: Plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of company overall.  Formulate policies, manage daily operations, and plan the use of materials and human resources.

The director of fast food operations is responsible for efficient restaurant operations, overall customer satisfaction, high sales, high profits and developing new leaders for the company. They also must know every aspect of the business but are balancing even bigger budgets than the district operations managers. Could buying from a different lettuce producer save millions annually? This person needs to know the answer and make a smart decision. While a hefty paycheck may appeal, the stress that comes with making sure the company is successful, overall, can be less savory.

10. Fast Food Company Comparisons: Who Pays Best?

Where will you earn more per hour, McDonald’s or Burger King? Below are some statistics on how some popular fast food chains pay their employees, and also what their overall median hourly wage is. Who pays the most? It’s not Ronald or the King. It’s the cowboy hat folks: Arby’s.

National Median Hourly Wage by Chain

1. Arby’s: $8.33 per hour
2. Burger King: $7.99 per hour
Tied for 3. McDonald’s: $7.94 per hour
Tied for 3. Taco Bell: $7.94 per hour
4. KFC: $7.82 per hour


1. McDonald’s: $7.83 per hour
2. Arby’s: $7.81 per hour
3. Taco Bell: $7.68 per hour
4. KFC: $7.24 per hour
5. Burger King: $7.19 per hour

Fast Food Worker

1. Arby’s: $7.51 per hour
2. Burger King: $7.46 per hour
3. KFC: $7.38 per hour
4. Taco Bell: $7.29 per hour

Cook, Fast Food

1. Arby’s: $7.86 per hour
2. Taco Bell: $7.74 per hour
3. KFC: $7.54 per hour
4. Burger King: $7.35 per hour

Assistant Manager, Fast Food

1. Arby’s: $10.34 per hour
2. KFC: $9.93 per hour
3. Burger King: $9.64 per hour
4. McDonald’s: $9.06 per hour

February 17, 2010