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Career Profile: Food Preparation Workers

Perform a variety of food preparation duties other than cooking, such as preparing cold foods and shellfish, slicing meat, and brewing coffee or tea.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 821,200 people employed as food preparation workers in the United States. The median annual salary is $26,100. Entry level employees earn approximately $18,460 per year and senior employees earn approximately $37,000 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Portion and wrap the food, or place it directly on plates for service to patrons.
  • Take and record temperature of food and food storage areas, such as refrigerators and freezers.
  • Prepare a variety of foods, such as meats, vegetables, or desserts, according to customers' orders or supervisors' instructions, following approved procedures.
  • Place food trays over food warmers for immediate service, or store them in refrigerated storage cabinets.
  • Package take-out foods or serve food to customers.
  • Stock cupboards and refrigerators, and tend salad bars and buffet meals.
  • Wash, peel, and cut various foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to prepare for cooking or serving.
  • Carry food supplies, equipment, and utensils to and from storage and work areas.
  • Distribute food to waiters and waitresses to serve to customers.
  • Cut, slice or grind meat, poultry, and seafood to prepare for cooking.
  • Remove trash and clean kitchen garbage containers.
  • Receive and store food supplies, equipment, and utensils in refrigerators, cupboards, and other storage areas.
  • Weigh or measure ingredients.
  • Inform supervisors when equipment is not working properly and when food and supplies are getting low, and order needed items.
  • Assist cooks and kitchen staff with various tasks as needed, and provide cooks with needed items.
  • Add cutlery, napkins, food, and other items to trays on assembly lines in hospitals, cafeterias, airline kitchens, and similar establishments.
  • Use manual or electric appliances to clean, peel, slice, and trim foods.
  • Scrape leftovers from dishes into garbage containers.
  • Load dishes, glasses, and tableware into dishwashing machines.
  • Make special dressings and sauces as condiments for sandwiches.
  • Mix ingredients for green salads, molded fruit salads, vegetable salads, and pasta salads.
  • Operate cash register, handle money, and give correct change.
  • Keep records of the quantities of food used.
  • Vacuum dining area and sweep and mop kitchen floor.
  • Assemble meal trays with foods in accordance with patients' diets.
  • Distribute menus to hospital patients, collect diet sheets, and deliver food trays and snacks to nursing units or directly to patients.
  • Stir and strain soups and sauces.
  • Butcher and clean fowl, fish, poultry, and shellfish to prepare for cooking or serving.
  • Prepare and serve a variety of beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks.
  • Clean and sanitize work areas, equipment, utensils, dishes, or silverware.
  • Store food in designated containers and storage areas to prevent spoilage.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
821,200
Annual Openings:
149,800
Increase in Openings by 2030:
6%
Annual Salary Range:
$18,460 - $37,000
Education Requirements:
Some high school