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Executive chefs are the leaders of restaurant kitchens. They design menus, make relationships with vendors, and set expectations for the kitchen staff. In addition to being adept cooks with knowledge of various cuisines, they must be confident leaders and smart businesspeople.
This article covers our research into the average salaries of executive chefs. Along the way, we will discuss how executive chefs' salaries are calculated and dive into a few tips for negotiating higher earnings.
How Much Do Executive Chefs Make? (Average Executive Chef Salary Data)
Executive chefs earn between $71,000 and $110,000 annually, which is a big range. Some executive chefs can earn much larger salaries. We averaged the reporting between these sources to get those numbers:
- Salary.com reports on salaries from across the US, citing a range between $64,385 and $113,154 for executive chef salaries. The national average is $87,452 annually.
- Talent.com reports executive chef salaries based on states in the US. In Virginia, for example, the range is from $62,500 and $90,000 annually.
- Comparably.com reports that executive chefs earn from $88,000 to $132,000 in the US, for an average of $110,000 annually.
- Chron.com details that the average salary for executive chefs in the US is between $28,370 and $86,990 annually, based on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, they note that celebrity chefs that own and operate multiple restaurants across the country earn much higher salaries.
A great way to determine how much you should earn as an executive chef is by talking to your peers and colleagues in the restaurant industry. Other local executive chefs can give you an idea of how much your job requirements and skills are worth.
It may seem taboo to discuss pay, but it will give you an idea of how much other executive chefs in your area earn.
Interview Questions for a Chef Candidates (Examples)
Hiring a great chef can change the entire dynamic of your restaurant. Here are 10 great questions to ask during a chef interview.
Factors that Influence Executive Chefs’ Salaries
Executive chefs are at the top of the hierarchy in most restaurants, answering only to the business owner (unless, of course, they are also the owner). An executive chef’s skills and experiences determine their salaries, but often their salaries are more dependent on the volume of sales and profit margins of the business.
It’s also not uncommon for executive chefs to be full or part owners of their restaurants, where their salaries can be tied directly to the profits of the business. Being a business owner can be financially rewarding in good years. But, there are also a lot of risks associated with being a business owner – they might be the first ones to take a salary cut when the restaurant isn’t performing well.
Some restaurants employ executive chefs without offering them a stake in the business’s ownership. In that case, their salaries will largely be based on their skills and experiences. Executive chefs are often rewarded with annual bonuses based on their performance.
Executive Chefs Earn Fixed or Variable Salaries
Executive chefs typically work for a salary that is negotiated at the start of employment. While they might be expected to work long hours and fulfill a number of roles in the restaurant, their salary is steady and provides a measure of security.
Executive chefs assume a lot of responsibility for the restaurant’s operations. They have to have the ability to ensure that the restaurant keeps costs down and reduces loss, and create policies and procedures that guide the other workers.
When an executive chef is part of the ownership of the restaurant, though, their salary might not be the same from year to year. Executive chefs that also own and operate the business have to decide how much to pay themselves, factoring in the business's sales, profits, and the financial goals of the restaurant for upcoming quarters.
Career Progression and Increasing Salary as an Executive Chef
Like many restaurant industry employees, executive chefs typically have some culinary education and have to work their way up through the ranks of the restaurant industry. Executive chefs often start their careers as line cooks and prove their skills in the kitchen.
Being efficient in the kitchen and a diligent employee is a good way to show restaurant owners that you are responsible and ready for a promotion. Executive chefs work their way up through the ranks of kitchen management. Being elevated to the rank of executive chef also often requires patience and determination as you wait for a position to come available.
A quicker, if risker, route to becoming an executive chef is through restaurant ownership. Starting your own restaurant by working with other chefs and investors requires you to take on the risk of business ownership. But, it can provide the creative freedom – and earning potential – that you seek.
Negotiating Higher Salary as an Executive Chef
At the top of the hierarchy in the restaurant, there often isn’t much room to move up in the business. But, you can certainly negotiate a higher salary based on your performance and the restaurant’s sales.
Start by optimizing the operations of the restaurant’s kitchen. Work to decrease loss and ingredient costs while ensuring that labor is efficient. That way, the profit margins of the restaurant will increase, and the owner will have more room to increase your salary.
As the executive chef, you should have a good working relationship with the restaurant’s owner. Rely on that close relationship to negotiate a higher salary that is reasonable based on your understanding of the restaurant’s operations and sales. During performance reviews, be sure to mention how you are working to help the business to remain profitable, and show the restaurant’s owner how much time and energy you put into their business, to make a case for increased earnings.
Executive Chefs Work for Executive Pay
Executive chefs are often among the highest-earning employees of a restaurant, and their jobs can be as demanding as they are rewarding. Executive chefs have a lot of responsibility and their earnings are proportionate with their job performance.
Keep honing your skills in leadership and business management to earn a salary that rewards you for your hard work.
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