Labor protests at fast-food restaurants swept the country this spring, with workers at McDonald's, Burger King and other national chains demanding a "living wage." The fast-food majors haven't budged, but other, newer, quick-service restaurants are popping up with markedly more generous attitudes toward the workers who staff their counters.
The latest is Moo Cluck Moo in Dearborn Heights, a Detroit suburb, which pays its "culinarians" a starting wage of $12 an hour, reports The Detroit News. That increases to $14 an hour after employees spend six months on the job, pass a health safety class and receive an internal baking certification. That's almost twice the average hourly wage of a McDonald's crew member, according to Glassdoor.
"We did this because, in our mind, it was the right thing to do," co-founder Harry Moorhouse told The Detroit News about the industry-bucking payscale. "This is too hard of a job to pay minimum wage. So far, we haven't lost any employees and we sleep well at night knowing that."
Burger-flipping used to be a job for teens: badly paid and a rite of passage. But it's increasingly become a job for older Americans, many of them women, and many with children at home to support. The median age of fast-food workers is now over 28, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and for the women who make up two-thirds of the industry, it's over 32.
Moo Cluck Moo culinairan Jennifer Aguilar (pictured above) represents the new face of fast-food workers. "I'm a single mom with four kids, so this job has been like a blessing," she told The Detroit News. "They have respect for us." In tribute to her employer, Aguilar and two other co-workers tattooed her wrist with the restaurant's cow logo.
The enormously popular burger chain Shake Shack, concentrated in New York City, has similarly strayed from the fast-food norm in the way it compensates workers. Employees receive a monthly bonus of up to 1 percent of total revenue; extra bonuses for good work; and medical benefits and a 401(k) for anyone working over 25 hours a week, CEO Randy Garutti told CNBC.com.
Mexican chain eatery Chipotle also has been widely lauded for its worker-friendly policies, including benefits and two weeks paid vacation for entry-level workers, and an intensive promote-from-within culture. The company's restauranteurs also enjoy an average salary of $60,000 a year.
These outfits may occupy just a tiny slice of the fast-food market, but they prove that working in it doesn't have to mean a "McJob." "And really," said Shake Shack CEO Garutti, "doesn't a burger just taste better when a kind and happy person served it to you?"
Fast Food Jobs and What They Pay
Fast-Food Restaurant Pays $12 An Hour To 'Culinarians'
By Bridget Quigg, Payscale.com
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, what they pay and what you can earn as you enter management. Also, get a special look at which fast food chains typically pay the most, according to online salary database, PayScale.com.
Who pays the most on a whole? 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/hour
2. Burger King: $7.99/hour
3. (Tie) McDonald's: $7.94/hour
3. (Tie) Taco Bell: $7.94/hour
4. KFC: $7.82/hour
Source: All salary data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are either hourly rates for workers with 5-8 year of experience and do not include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing, or are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.
Wage: $7.25/hour plus tips
Job Description: Drive vehicle over established routes or within an established territory to deliver food, 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 by the ravenous people on the other side of the door. Besides driving those tasty pies to your home, delivery workers may help back at the restaurant with answering phones, slicing pizzas or taking out the trash. Pizza delivery folks rely on tips for a good portion of their income, so remember to tip them.
Wage: $7.85/hour plus tips
Job Description: Perform a variety of food preparation duties other than cooking, such as brewing coffee or slicing vegetables. May also do light-duty cleaning.
Fast food workers chop potatoes, slice lettuce, and place strawberry ice cream in the freezer for your favorite milkshake. They may also clear tables and keep paper towels stocked in the bathroom. There are no specific educational requirements for this job which is why one fifth of all 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.
Battle of the Bulge: Who Pays Best? 1. Arby's: $7.51/hour 2. Burger King: $7.46/hour 3. KFC: $7.38/hour 4. Taco Bell: $7.29/hour
Wage: $7.97/hour 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 quickly and at high volumes, but fast food cooks really have to move. The whole point of fast food is that the customer doesn't expect to wait. While the high speed at which these cooks work is pretty standard, their pay isn't. Depending on where they salt those fries 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.
Battle of the Bulge: Who Pays Best? 1. Arby's: $7.86/hour 2. Taco Bell: $7.74/hour 3. KFC: $7.54/hour 4. Burger King: $7.35/hour
Wage: $8.52/hour 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.
Battle of the Bulge: Who Pays Best? 1. McDonald's: $7.83 2. Arby's: $7.81 3. Taco Bell: $7.68 4. KFC: $7.24 5. Burger King: $7.19
Wage: $9.61/hour 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 pumping hot fudge, 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? A barista's 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.
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 cold. The assistant manager is in the trenches of food preparation, customer service and employee management. They stay on the scene to ensure that business 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.
Battle of the Bulge: Who Pays Best? 1. Arby's: $10.34/hour 2. KFC: $9.93/hour 3. Burger King: $9.64/hour 4. McDonald's: $9.06/hour
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.
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 overall customer satisfaction, sales, profits and developing a strong management team at a number of restaurant locations. They also must know every aspect of the fast food business from milk delivery to garbage pick-up. They balance high-dollar budgets, in many cases. Could buying from a different lettuce producer save millions annually? The director needs to know the answer to this question 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.