Line cooks are responsible for making the final preparations in restaurant kitchens. They operate grills and fryers, prepare dishes, and plate menu items. Line cooks work with precision, efficiency, and consistency to prepare meals to the restaurant’s standard.
Being a line cook can be challenging – keeping calm during dinner rushes while working in hot kitchen environments. In this article, we will discuss what line cooks earn for their work, on average. We also provide some tips on how to increase your salary as a line cook.
How much do line cooks make?
The US national average for line cook earnings – the total pay before taxes – is $21,000 - $38,000 annually.
How Much Do Line Cooks Make? (Average Line Cook Salary Data)
Line cooks earn an average of $21,000 to $38,000 annually. Here’s how we calculated that range:
- Salary.com reports on human resources data from across the US. The median salary for line cooks, based on their data, is $32,213 annually.
- Talent.com compiles the salaries listed in job ads in the US. They also report line cooks’ average salary by state. In Virginia, for example, line cooks earn between $26,325 and $35,100 annually.
- Comparably.com uses self-reported data from employees to calculate salaries. They cite a larger range of salaries for line cooks, between $13,564 and $42,288 annually.
The biggest determining factor of a line cook’s salary is their skills and prior experience. The best way to tell how much you should earn is by asking your coworkers and other line cooks in your area about their wages.
Talking about earnings may seem taboo, but having frank conversations can help you to get an idea of how much your skills and experiences are worth when compared to your peers.
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Factors that Influence Line Cook’s Salary
Line cooks' earnings are determined by their skills and previous experiences. While some line cooks train at culinary schools, many learn the skills on the job. Lots of restaurants have training programs available for people who want to get into the industry.
The more experienced a line cook is, and the less training they require, the more a company will be willing to pay them. Many restaurants require line cooks to work for a trial period – called staging – to prove their skills in the kitchen before they start to work full-time.
Line cooks’ salaries are also influenced by the kind of restaurant where they work. Different restaurants operate with varying profit margins and the profits determine how much they pay their workers.
It’s not always the case, but line cooks that find work in fine dining restaurants can typically earn more than those who work for casual dining establishments.
Line Cooks are Hourly Employees
In most restaurants, line cooks earn hourly wages. That means that their salaries are steady and predictable. But, the hours and shifts that line cooks work might vary based on the needs of the restaurant.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021 line cooks earned a median hourly wage of $14/hour. Wages for line cooks are often competitive in the area where the restaurant is located.
So, a line cook in a busy metropolitan area might expect to earn more than those in towns and rural areas.
Increasing Your Salary as a Line Cook
Line cooks sometimes start their careers by earning culinary certifications. Others start working as prep cooks. But, restaurants will often hire line cooks with little experience and train them for the position.
Because line cooks are hourly employees, many restaurants start line cooks with the same hourly wage as the other line cooks. But, you might negotiate a higher starting wage depending on your skills, certifications, and experience.
Line cooks are one of the lower-ranking positions in restaurant kitchens. If you’re ready for more responsibility (and a higher wage), show the restaurant’s management that you have leadership skills. Perform your job duties efficiently and be on the lookout to take some tasks off of management’s plates.
Be upfront about your ambitions to move into a better-paid position in the kitchen. And, be on the lookout for openings in your restaurant (or in your area). A proactive mindset is necessary for moving up in the restaurant industry.
Negotiating Higher Salary as a Line Cook
Once you’re working as a line cook, being consistent, efficient, and precise in the kitchen can help you to earn raises. The management staff is more likely to give raises to workers who are dependable and punctual. Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise as a line cook.
Be ready to display to management staff that you are meeting or exceeding all of their expectations for your performance. Loyalty can also go a long way–after a year or more, approach the idea of a raise with management with an open mind.
Cook Your Way to Success!
Being a line cook can be challenging, requiring patience and the ability to work under pressure. From this article, you should get an idea of what your skills as a line cook are worth.
Hard work and persistence will help you earn a raise or move into a higher-paid position in the restaurant industry!
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